This opinion piece is part of a broader week-long MJPS Online series on voting intentions. Check here for other components of the series. The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of the editor, the McGill Journal of Political Studies, or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Oh, the heresy of writing a short article for a McGill publication about my reasons for supporting the Bloc Québecois in the upcoming federal election.
I myself am surprised to see the words “I will vote Bloc Québecois” flow from my keyboard and onto the screen. In October of last year – immediately following the historic setback of the Parti Québecois (PQ) at the provincial level – I assumed the inevitable demise of the Bloc Québecois (BQ) would be yet another blow to the Quebec separatist movement. After the disastrous leadership of Martine Ouellet, and a bizarre 2015 campaign led by a back-from-the-dead Gilles Duceppe – who tried to vanquish niqabs – I did not think that the Bloc would ever spark my interest again.
In early 2019, however, after Yves-François Blanchet became leader, a redefinition of what it means to support the Bloc Québecois transpired. Instead of strongly pushing identity politics, Mr. Blanchet – who was an Environment Minister under the Marois PQ government – has made the environment a central theme of his campaign.
Unlikely Champions of the Environment
Mr. Blanchet and his party have proposed some of the greenest policies Québec could both dream of and desperately needs. From environmental sovereignty to a ban on neonicotinoids, the Bloc’s platform has plenty of interesting proposals for the environment.
Among them is the idea of Green Equalization. The proposal modifies the idea of a carbon tax to incentivize provincial governments towards limiting emissions. Provinces exceeding the national average would be taxed, while those falling under it would be rewarded. To make the proposal more palatable, it would mandate that every dollar divvied out would only cut 90 cents off of a province’s equalization payment. In this manner, provinces with lower carbon emissions would significantly profit from progressive environmental policies.
Furthermore, the BQ has proposed a “zero-emission law,” forcing car manufacturers to sell a minimum amount of electric cars as opposed to traditional vehicles. The Bloc would also strive to end subsidization of oil companies.
But of course, the BQ has not lost its nationalist core. Its main demand – more provincial autonomy while Québec patiently awaits its independence – is still present. The Bloc wants to represent Québec around the world and, most importantly, advocate for the right of self-determination for Québecers. With this in mind, the Bloc is still very much a pro-independence party.
As for my support of Québec independence, a plethora of factors weigh in: from historical, to economic, to cultural. Among the many factors, the inability of the Canadian petro state to act wilfully against climate change is central to my support. Combined with the sheer potential of Québec to become a renewable energy superpower, my support of independence is clear.
I think it’s important to qualify that my support of the Bloc is not a blind embrace of all its positions. Its defense of Bill 21, for instance, is disappointing. In practice, the party’s proposed single tax form would not be as miraculous as the party pretends it to be. Further, the Bloc continues to actively oppose Energy East, an energy project that was defeated in 2017. At the same time, the party maintains a nuanced position on the construction of a liquified gas pipeline that would run through the Saguenay River, leaving many environmentalists scratching their heads.
But, most importantly, what stands in the way of a strong Bloc Québécois is the enduring question about its role in the current political landscape. For most voters who would consider voting Bloc – even if not firm sovereigntists – the party is a useless blob that will never attain power to begin with.
With the race between the two main parties as tight as ever, the electoral significance of the Bloc could re-emerge. In some scenarios, the Bloc could even determine the balance of power. Projected to win around 18 seats as of October 5th (possibly more than the NDP and Greens combined), the Bloc could strike a deal with a minority government to push two of its main priorities into the governments’ agenda: protecting the environment, and Québec’s place in the confederation. For me, this is a valuable reason to consider voting Bloc this election.
Overall, with Québecers as unsatisfied by Justin Trudeau’s government as they are repelled by Andrew Scheer’s social positions and lack of charisma, the BQ could re-emerge as an important political player in the province. While many analysts see Ontario as the key to this election, we would all be wise not to underestimate the importance of the Bloc and the province it seeks to represent.
Edited by Lewie Haar.
This opinion piece is part of a broader week-long MJPS Online series on voting intentions. Check here for other components of the series. For general information on how to vote in this month’s federal election, see this resource from Elections Canada. If you’re a university student, you can vote on campus. Find out how here.
The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of the editor, the McGill Journal of Political Studies, or the Political Science Students’ Association. Questions regarding this series can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.