Ontario and Quebec keep Liberals in power and Conservatives out – CBC.ca

Ontario and Quebec keep Liberals in power and Conservatives out - CBC.ca
Yves-François Blanchet heads to Parliament as leader of resurgent Bloc Québécois
Named leader of his party less than a year ago, when the Bloc Québécois was on the verge of extinction, Yves-François Blanchet handily won his riding of Beloeil-Chambly on Monday night and saw his party take about a third of the popular vote in Quebec.

When Blanchet, 54, threw his name into the hat last November to lead the Bloc, he had no competition. There was no leadership convention, no fanfare. The party sent out a brief statement last January, declaring him leader by default.

Jody Wilson-Raybould appears poised to win a tight race to keep her Vancouver seat. Ms. Wilson-Raybould was elected as a Liberal in 2015 and served for three years as Mr. Trudeaus attorney-general, but resigned from cabinet during the SNC-Lavalin affair and was kicked out of the Liberal caucus.

Under those circumstances, political watchers could be forgiven for not predicting a change in the Bloc's fortunes any time soon.

He may not have been on many people's radar, but in Quebec, Blanchet is a known quantity. He's been a pundit, a provincial cabinet minister and the manager of a rock star.

Peoples Party Leader Maxime Bernier, who participated in the official leaders debates, failed to win the Quebec seat that he and his father had represented for years as Conservatives.

Blanchet was born in Drummondville in 1965, at the height of Quebec's Quiet Revolution. He was just three years old when René Lévesque, a former Liberal cabinet minister, created the Parti Québécois.

The Conservatives, under Andrew Scheer, made some gains in regions around the country, but fell short of taking power themselves. They may win the popular vote by a slim margin.

By the time he was 14, Blanchet had figured out a way to become a card-carrying PQ member — even though the party didn't sell memberships to anyone under 18.

Blanchet said Lévesque's leadership left a permanent mark on him. To this day, whenever he refers to the PQ founder, he uses the honorific "monsieur."

The NDP lost all their Quebec seats save for Alexandre Boulerice in Montreal. The party regained a seat in Atlantic Canada, through Jack Harris in St. Johns East.

After graduating from Université de Montréal with a degree in history and anthropology, Blanchet took a job working for the PQ's youth wing. In 1990, he started working in the music industry. He discovered rocker Éric Lapointe, the biggest-selling male artist in Quebec history, managing Lapointe's career for 20 years. 

Formed in 1991, the Bloc was a voice at the federal level for Quebec separatists. But in 2011, the party suffered a devastating loss under the leadership of Gilles Duceppe, giving up nearly all 50 of the seats it held at dissolution, with the bulk of the lost seats going to the NDP in what was dubbed the Orange Wave. With only four elected members out of the provinces then-75 spots, the Bloc lost its status as a "recognized party" for the first time in its history.

Blanchet presided over ADISQ, the Quebec industry association for music, film and television, for three years, before he was elected to represent the PQ in the provincial riding of Drummond in 2008.

As a member of the PQ caucus, Blanchet earned a nickname that he's tried hard to shake during his first campaign as a party leader: Goon. 

The partys Guy Bernatchez battled with Liberal incumbent Diane Lebouthillier in the riding of Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine. At one point, the two candidates were separated by less than 100 votes. Lebouthillier, a cabinet minister in the previous government narrowly won by only a few hundred votes at last count.

The name apparently came from one of his colleagues when he emerged as a forceful defender of former premier and PQ leader Pauline Marois during the challenge to Marois's leadership in 2011.

Despite disapproving the secularism law, most party leaders were reluctant to weigh in too much on the bill during the campaign for fear of alienating the valuable and voter-rich province. Trudeau was the only candidate who would not rule out the possibility of intervening on the bill at a later stage.

When the PQ was elected in 2012, Marois named Blanchet to her cabinet, first as party whip and then as environment minister.

Expectations were low for the Bloc Québécois heading into these elections. But with support for the NDP eroding in the province, a number of seats were in contention with party leaders all vying to win over Quebec voters. The NDP is expected to lose all but one of its seats in the province.

Blanchet has said he and Marois were not that close, but he was loyal to her. She appointed him to her cabinet even though he had been convicted in 2010 for having been found drunk behind the wheel of his car two years earlier.

The vehicle had been parked — Blanchet has always maintained he never planned to drive. Nonetheless, he accepted the DUI "with humility," Marois said. 

Blanchet spent the campaign insisting the Bloc is a progressive party. But it's not clear how it can be that while also serving as the voice of a legislature dominated by a party devoted to tax cuts, trimming the civil service and lowering immigration levels.

Blanchet's frequent spats with journalists during his time at the National Assembly only cemented his reputation as a man with a temper. 

And when the Journal de Montréal exposed four candidates for having made Islamophobic comments, Blanchet's decision to keep those candidates on despite their remarks was widely condemned, even by pundits normally sympathetic to the party. 

He has done his best over the course of the 2019 federal election to put that reputation to rest, saying repeatedly that his defensiveness was due to the political realities at the time.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

His partner of seven years, Nancy Déziel, told Radio-Canada that Blanchet's occasionally terse reactions spring from his passion for his work.

In his speech to supporters in Montreal, Blanchet implicitly acknowledged the bargain he struck to ensure the Bloc's revival: shelve talk of sovereignty and trade it for the more palatable rhetoric of nationalism.

It was the new, smiling Bloc leader that Canadians saw during the leaders' debates. While Scheer and Trudeau traded barbs and interrupted each other, the Bloc leader seemed almost collegial, in contrast.

But even as support for independence faltered after 1995 and founder Lucien Bouchard left the party he founded to become Quebec's premier, the Bloc remained a major presence in the House of Commons.

Two years after the Marois government's defeat in 2014, Blanchet became the voice of sovereignist Quebecers on the popular daily Radio-Canada TV show Les Ex, which analyzes social, political and economic issues. 

On Quebecers' television screens every afternoon, Blanchet became a familiar face. In a recent interview with Radio-Canada, he said his time on Les Ex also made him more familiar with how the media works  — and helped him feel at ease in front of cameras.

"I have some good memories of the media world," he said."I'm in a comfortable space … and now I can make the odd rascally comment."

With disappointing results in Atlantic Canada — the Conservatives captured just four seats — and underwhelming performances in Quebec, the significant gains the Conservatives made in Western Canada were not nearly enough. The GTA was always the most important place for Scheer to make gains if he was to win this election. It didn't happen. Instead, the Conservative share of the vote dropped by about five points in the region.

Blanchet didn't run in the 2018 provincial election. The Parti Québécois suffered a historic defeat in that race — reduced to 10 seats, it lost official party status.

With the PQ in disarray and the Bloc near extinction, running for the leadership of the Bloc Québécois was a risk it appeared no serious politician was willing to take.

"Promoting Quebec's interests in Ottawa or promoting Quebec's independence in Quebec City: it's not the flavour du jour," he told Radio-Canada as he was weighing his decision to take over the Bloc. 

Blanchet has not talked much about separating from Canada in this campaign, except when forced to by his opponents. 

The party held its two seats on Vancouver Island but wasn't able to make the hoped-for gains in the region. A win in Fredericton looks more like an exception — the result of the increased popularity of the Green brand in Atlantic Canada following provincial breakthroughs in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, along with a collapse of the NDP vote in these two provinces.

Instead, he has latched onto the Coalition Avenir Québec provincial government's brand of nationalism — and he says in Parliament, he will do what he has always done: defend Quebec's interests.

"We are people who are convinced that one day Quebec will take on the attributes of sovereignty," Blanchet said on the final day of the campaign. 

"But that's not the mandate of this election. We've been saying it for five weeks."

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.