LEVIS, Que. — A confident Yves-Francois Blanchet brought his Bloc Quebecois campaign to the Quebec City area Tuesday, hoping his party’s recent momentum will lead to a breakthrough in the provincial capital.
Speaking at a shipyard in the riding of former Conservative cabinet minister Steven Blaney, Blanchet argued that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have done little to advance the area’s interests.
He took aim at his political opponents — and at critics who say his party lacks real ideas.
“Have the Conservatives served you so well?” he asked. “Did you get your share? Did you get real achievements?”
With the exception of two Liberal MPs, the Quebec City region is represented in the House of Commons solely by Conservatives. The incumbents in the Bloc’s sights include such heavyweights as Blaney and Liberal cabinet minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
The Bloc held just 10 seats at dissolution, but a recent poll suggests the party is now running a close second to the Liberals in the province, hitting the 30 per cent support mark while Conservative support has dipped.
Blanchet spoke in Levis at the Davie Shipyard, whose management has clashed with both Conservative and Liberal governments over the years over not receiving what it sees as its rightful share of federal contracts.
On Tuesday, he called on the next prime minister to commit to including Davie as the third yard in Canada’s national shipbuilding strategy — in addition to Seaspan in Vancouver and Irving in Halifax — and to commit to giving it a contract to build a second supply ship for the Canadian navy.
In 2017, the Davie shipyard was forced to lay off nearly 400 workers due to what it said was a lack of work after the federal government declined to commission the second ship. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper for awarding shipbuilding contracts to Vancouver and Halifax while leaving out Quebec’s capital.
On Tuesday, the Bloc leader took aim at both Trudeau and Harper, accusing the former Conservative government of deploying a shipbuilding strategy that worked to the detriment of Quebec, and the Liberals of doing little to fix the problem.
According to the Bloc, Davie has received only $2 billion in federal contracts under the current shipbuilding strategy, while Irving and Seaspan have received $75 billion and $25 billion, respectively.
He suggested the best outcome for Davie in next week’s federal election would be a minority government with the Bloc holding the balance of power.
“We can imagine the best scenario for Davie, for Levis, for all the economic nationalism files, is a minority government,” he said. “People will make that decision between now and Oct. 21, but if it happens I think we’re the best chance for Davie to have its share of the contracts.”
Blanchet’s words drew a swift response from the local Liberal candidate, who said in a statement that despite his words, the Bloc leader “can’t do anything to help Davie’s workers.”
Laurence Harvey pointed out that the Liberal government had confirmed contracts for the construction of two ferries and the refit of three frigates, and reopened the shipbuilding strategy to include a third shipyard.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who was also campaigning in Quebec City on Tuesday, said he had “no lessons to learn” from the Bloc leader. He said the former Conservative government had been the one to give Davie the contract for the first supply ship. As prime minister, he said he would be in favour of a second ship.
Scheer, whose party held 11 seats in Quebec at dissolution, also repeated his claim that Blanchet’s true goal once elected would be a referendum on Quebec sovereignty.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2019.
Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press