For the past 16 months, the Bloc has largely been the party of two files. It has championed the unconditional rise of the Canada Health Transfer (CHT), from 22 to 35%; and it has hounded the government on issues pertaining to the protection of the French language, in Quebec and within federal institutions. However, this has not translated into any significant momentum.
While the BQ is well-positioned to keep most of its seats (and could even contend for a few more), it is likely that it has already reached its ceiling. Indeed, the provincial government, led by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), has proven that one can defend Quebec’s interests without promoting Quebec’s independence. As much as the Bloc had pledged its ideological proximity with the CAQ, it knows deep down that Premier Legault is wary of resurrecting a currently moribund sovereigntist movement.
The Bloc is mainly seeking two things:
Prevent a majority
The Bloc’s relevance and influence is more evident in a minority government setting.
Win additional seats, with a focus on the Quebec City area
The Bloc senses the CPC’s low momentum across Quebec and will want to take advantage of it.
The Bloc Québécois's strengths
- Nationalist bona fides: Most Quebecers’ allegiances lie more with their home province than with Canada. As such, even non-separatists feel comfortable with voting for a party that has a Quebec-only approach.
- Yves-François Blanchet: He is witty, charismatic and a media darling.
The Bloc Québécois's challenges
- Quebec’s lack of appetite for sovereignty: Support for Quebec’s independence has dwindled over the past decade, and now sits at under 30%. This handicaps the Bloc at the onset.
- Yves-François Blanchet: The BQ is essentially a one-man party: Blanchet overshadows the rest of his caucus. His volcanic temperament can at times be off-putting. He also had to deal with allegations tied to his former life as a music manager: he has become a target that can single-handedly hurt his party’s fortunes.
- Candidate vetting: Over the last campaigns, various Bloc candidates were swept aside after their past had been unearthed.
X-factor for the Bloc Québécois
- Yves-François Blanchet’s temperament: Can he successfully connect again with Quebec voters and secure their trust to hold the Liberals to account? And, for Quebec, where does he fill a gap that Justin Trudeau or François Legault can’t address?
——— Tiéoulé Traoré is a former Director, Government Relations at NATIONAL Public Relations