The Bloc Québécois has close relation with the Parti Québécois (PQ, whose members are known as "Péquistes"), the provincial party that advocates the independence of Quebec from Canadian Confederation, but the two are not linked organizationally. Members and supporters of the Bloc Québécois are known as "Bloquistes" [blɑˈkist(s)]. The party itself is sometimes known as the "BQ". English-speaking Canadians commonly refer to the BQ as "the Bloc".
The Bloc Québécois is supported by a wide range of voters in Quebec, from large sections of organized labour to more conservative rural voters.
The Bloc is a rare example of a major Western party that advocates the separation of a region critical to national politics. The Bloc is currently the third largest party in the Canadian House of Commons.
The initial coalition that led to the Bloc was led by Lucien Bouchard, who had been federal Minister of the Environment until he was fired by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (as pointed out in The Secret Mulroney Tapes). He was joined by several of his fellow Tories, such as Nic Leblanc, Louis Plamondon, Benoît Tremblay, Gilbert Chartrand, and François Gérin, along with several Liberals, notably Gilles Rocheleau and Jean Lapierre. The first Bloquiste candidate to be elected was Gilles Duceppe, then a union organizer, in a by-election for the Montreal riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie on August 13, 1990 . He ran as an independent, since the Bloc had not been registered as a federal party yet.
A "tripartite agreement" mapping out the plan for accession to independence was written and signed by the leaders of the Parti Québécois, the Bloc Québécois and the Action démocratique du Québec on June 12 1995. It revived René Lévesque's notion that the referendum should be followed by the negotiating of an association agreement between an independent Quebec and the rest of Canada. This provision was inspired by Bouchard. Parizeau had previously wanted a vote simply on independence. The difference became moot when 50.6% of voters taking part in the referendum rejected the sovereignty plan. An overwhelming "Non" vote in Montreal tipped the balance.
Gilles Duceppe announced on May 11 2007 that he would run in the Parti Québécois leadership race to replace André Boisclair, who resigned on May 8 2007 after the poor performance in the March election in Quebec and internal dissent forced him to step down. However, in a surprise move, Duceppe announced the next day that he was withdrawing from the race, and that he would support Pauline Marois who had also announced her intention to run. All this action has led to some speculation regarding the leadership of the party.
In the 2000 election, the Bloc dropped further to 38 seats, despite polling a larger percentage of the vote than at the previous election. One factor was the forced merger of several major Quebec cities, such as Montreal, Quebec City and Hull/Gatineau. The merger was very unpopular in those areas, resulting in Liberal wins in several of the merged areas. This was still more than the number of seats the Liberals had won in Quebec. However, the Liberals went on to win several subsequent by-elections during the life of the resulting Parliament, until the Liberals had held the majority of Quebec's seats in the Commons for the first time since 1984. From then to the subsequent election, the Bloc continued to denounce the federal government's interventions in what the Bloc saw as exclusively provincial jurisdictions. The Bloc credits its actions for the uncovering of what has since become the sponsorship scandal. Among other things, the Bloc supported the Kyoto Accord, gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization, and opposed Canadian participation in the War in Iraq in 2003.
For the 2004 election the Bloc adopted the slogan Un parti propre au Québec, a play on words that can be translated either as "A party belonging to Quebec" (or simply, "a party proper to Quebec") or as "A clean party in Quebec". The Bloc won 54 seats in the House of Commons, tying its previous record from the 1993 campaign. For the 2006 election, the Bloc used the slogan Heureusement, ici, c'est le Bloc! ("Thankfully, here, it's the Bloc!"). The Bloc were expected to easily win more than 60 seats at the start of the campaign, and they did in fact take six seats from the Liberals. However, the unexpected resurgence of the Conservatives in parts of Quebec, particularly in and around Quebec City, led to the Bloc losing eight seats to the Tories. Coupled with an additional loss to an independent candidate, the Bloc recorded a net loss of three seats compared to the last campaign.
Speculation has been ongoing about the possibility of the Bloc forming alliances with other opposition parties or with an eventual minority government. Duceppe, whose leadership was confirmed after the election, has stated that the Bloc will continue to co-operate with other opposition parties or with the government when interests are found to be in common, but insists that the Bloc will never participate in a federal government.
On May 2 2006, a poll revealed that for the first time, the Conservatives were ahead of the Bloc in the Quebec's vote intention (34% against 31%). Duceppe announced the Bloc would support Stephen Harper's budget the very same day. But in October polls showed that the Bloc was up to mid forties whereas the Conservatives fell into the teens behind Liberals in their poll numbers in Quebec.
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