duceppe-cp-5565713

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe makes a point during a news conference in Montreal on Monday. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe struck back Sunday at Conservative attacks calling the party he leads powerless and suggesting it had not delivered anything to the province.

The Conservatives have launched a "costs of the Bloc" campaign, using former senator and now Conservative candidate Michel Fortier to deliver the message.

"In the past 18 years, the Bloc has footed you with a $350-million bill, but the Bloc always comes to you empty-handed and never delivers any concrete results," Fortier said in a news release Sunday.

Duceppe responded that the money paid for salaries and research budgets and would have been paid no matter which party was in office. 

He also criticized Fortier, who had been appointed to the Senate and had refused to run in byelections. "This attack shows a total lack of respect for Quebecers," he said, because Fortier is denouncing the legitimate and democratic choices Quebecers made by electing Bloc MPs.

Fortier was appointed minister of public works and government services in February 2006, shortly after the Conservatives formed a minority government. He was appointed to the Senate at the time.

He resigned in September to stand as the Tory candidate in Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

Duceppe, returning to a longstanding Bloc complaint, said Ottawa is shortchanging Quebec.

He said the province should get $800 million in additional transfers from Ottawa for higher education, as well as other transfers and "tax room." That's a reference to the idea that if Ottawa cut tax rates, provinces could get more money by raising their rates, without overall taxes increasing.