What Quebec wants from a Liberal minority government and a resurgent Bloc

The province's premier and the mayor of Quebec's biggest city celebrated the outcome of Monday's election for very different reasons — both signalling it could help further their own goals.

Premier François Legault, Mayor Valérie Plante embrace election results — but for different reasons

Quebec Premier François Legault gives his perspective on the federal election results as Sonia Lebel, the minister responsible for Canadian relations, looks on. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

The province's premier and the mayor of Quebec's biggest city celebrated the outcome of Monday's election for very different reasons — both signalling it could help further their own goals.

It remains to be seen, however, how a Liberal minority government will play out in Quebec, where the NDP was reduced to a single seat while the Bloc Québécois stormed back to a position of influence.

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault offered muted congratulations to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before stressing that the revival of the Bloc, which more than tripled its seat count, shows the growing importance of Quebec nationalism — rather than a renewed interest in sovereignty.

"I think it's important to recognize that different societies, they want to protect what they are," he told reporters in Quebec City.

"That was part of the message Quebecers sent last night."

Legault said he was pleased, too, that Trudeau "heard the message" from Quebecers after losing five seats in the province, ending up with 35 of the 78 Quebec ridings.

"I hope in the next months to work with Mr. Trudeau and his team to advance the interests of Quebecers, and also those of Canadians," he said.

During the campaign, Legault laid out several demands, including granting Quebec further controls over immigration, language and tax collection.

In particular, the premier said Tuesday, the result shows the importance of respecting Quebec's jurisdiction on Bill 21, the province's religious symbols law.

"The message is clear. If you want more support next time, support Bill 21," said Legault.

Advancing Montreal's interests

At a news conference in Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante outlined a very different set of priorities.

She said she sees the election results as an opportunity to push forward issues — such as mobility, housing and transit — that matter to Montrealers. 

"I always work with people. My goal is about making sure Montreal continues to evolve, continues to be this powerful engine within the province of Quebec."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she is a person who unites others, and she is willing to work with the federal parties to advance the interests of Montreal. (Radio-Canada)

While Bloc's baby blue colours much of the electoral map outside the city, the Liberals took 16 of 18 seats of Montreal, giving the party an even stronger hold on the island.

Both the Liberals and NDP, which now only hold one seat in Montreal but could hold sway in the minority parliament, said they would support Plante's Pink line Metro project.

Her hopes for another Metro line have so far been met with resistance from Legault's CAQ government which, like the Bloc, is more popular in areas outside the urban centre.

Plante said she intends to seize the opportunity to discuss the new Metro line with the Liberals, as well as other public transit projects that would serve the northern and eastern parts of the city.

Plante also said she wants Quebec and Ottawa to hash out an agreement to fund more social and affordable housing. Her administration has pledged to build 12,000 affordable social housing units in the city by 2021.

Plante said she looks forward to meeting Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet "to see how we can better connect on some issues."

She wouldn't elaborate on which ones, however, saying she will give him a chance to celebrate first.

A fine line

While both Plante and Legault said they viewed the result positively, it remains to be seen whether Quebec and Montreal will benefit from the Liberals' slim victory.

Concordia political science Prof. Guy Lachapelle said Trudeau will need to "rebuild the confidence of Quebec voters."

That means working with the Bloc, he said. 

"I think Mr. Blanchet is a pragmatic person," he said. "I think he wants Parliament to work, and he wants Parliament to work in the benefit of Quebec."

But Lachapelle cautioned the Trudeau government will need to be careful not to further alienate Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are now a sea of Conservative blue after Monday's election.

"There's a give-and-take here," he said, adding that the "strong regional identities" in the election result will "have to be translated into political realities" in the next Parliament.

Speaking Tuesday, Blanchet reiterated his goal: defend the province's interests in Ottawa.

"We are not responsible to make Canada work. But we have a responsibility to make Parliament work," he said.

Watch Legault explain how Bill 21 affected the outcome of the election:

Legault says Quebec voters weighed secularism against sovereignty

3 years ago
Duration 0:23
With Quebec now largely split between the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois, Premier François Legault says Quebecers had to either prioritize their support of secularism or their support of federalism.


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