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Bloc Québécois to prioritize compensation for dairy farmers, Blanchet says

When the House of Commons resumes sitting, the Bloc Québécois will push the new government to deliver on aid it promised to dairy farmers, party leader Yves-François Blanchet said Thursday.

Bloc leader also says his MPs will be on their best behaviour in the House

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet presides over his party's first caucus meeting following the federal election. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The Bloc Québécois will push the new government to deliver on aid it promised to dairy farmers when the House of Commons resumes sitting, party leader Yves-François Blanchet said Thursday.

The Liberal government allocated $1.75 billion in compensation for dairy producers before the election. The money was to help offset financial losses from two free trade agreements that opened domestic markets to more competition.

Under the eight-year plan, $345 million was to be doled out by the end of the year. A farmer with 80 dairy cows was expecting around $28,000 by January.

Blanchet said he expects there will be a new session of Parliament in either November or December, given that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to swear in a new cabinet on Nov. 20.

Speaking at his party's first caucus meeting after the election, Blanchet said making sure those cheques get delivered on time will be the Bloc's priority.

"These entrepreneurs are under enormous pressure," Blanchet said at a news conference in Quebec City. Around half of Canada's 11,000 dairy producers are in Quebec.

The compensation money was earmarked in the March budget. In all, $2.15 billion was set aside for farmers in supply-managed industries, such as eggs, dairy and poultry.

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) made it easier for foreign agricultural producers to sell their products in Canada.

Best behaviour for Bloc MPs

The Bloc Québécois caucus meeting was held in a Quebec City hotel near the provincial legislature. The location, Blanchet said, was symbolic, as he wants his party to be a voice in Ottawa for the National Assembly.

Under Blanchet's leadership, the Bloc more than tripled its seat count in the House of Commons, going from 10 to 32 in Monday's election. The Liberals lost five seats in Quebec; 35 of their 157 seats are in the province.

Earlier on Thursday, Blanchet met with Quebec's intergovernmental affairs minister, Sonia LeBel. According to a report by La Presse Canadienne, the Bloc leader had been hoping to meet with Premier François Legault.

But Legault's office replied that the premier's first meeting would be with Trudeau instead. "We're going negotiate government-to-government," LeBel told reporters Thursday.

Many political observers in Quebec attributed the Bloc's gains in the election to Blanchet having copied ​​​​​​Legault's nationalist rhetoric.

Premier Francois Legault with Canadian Relations Minister Sonia LeBel on the day following the election. A media report suggested Blanchet wanted to meet with Legault as early as today. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The Bloc remains a sovereigntist party, Blanchet said Thursday, but he also said that because it campaigned on a nationalist platform, it doesn't have a mandate to use its parliamentary work to drum up support for sovereignty.

He said he was open to working with the minority Liberal government and suggested the Liberals had a "moral obligation" to make the current Parliament last until the next fixed election date in 2023.

Blanchet also promised his party would behave with "dignity" while in the House of Commons.

"Don't expect Bloc MPs to yell in Parliament, or bang on their desks or throw insults around," he said.

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