Bloc leader open to toppling Tories

BOIS-DE-FILION, Que. - The Bloc Quebecois expressed willingness Wednesday to topple the Tory government if it failed to deliver on its priorities.

BOIS-DE-FILION, Que. - The Bloc Quebecois expressed willingness Wednesday to topple the Tory government if it failed to deliver on its priorities.

Leader Gilles Duceppe was non-committal when asked whether he'd help the Liberals bring down the Harper government in a non-confidence vote month.

But as he stood surrounded by posters stamped with the election-style slogan "Debout" - meaning Stand Up - Duceppe said he won't shy away from triggering a campaign if need be. He says he'll be guided by one constant principle in each parliamentary vote: Is this good for Quebec?

"Our position was never to ask whether or not we want elections," Duceppe told a news conference.

"We vote on the value of a proposal. If it's good for Quebec, we vote for it."

He dismissed the government's repeated assertion that Canadians don't want another election. Duceppe turned that Tory talking point on its head.

He said regular citizens might not want an election but, when the stakes are explained to them, they'd rather see the Harper government defeated.

Duceppe used Employment Insurance as an example. The Tories have expressed willingness to enrich EI but, so far, have rejected opposition proposals for making the system more generous and uniform across the country.

"When I see jobless people and ask, 'Should I accept the unacceptable to avoid elections,' they say, 'No, no, no - help us,' " Duceppe said.

He offered some examples of things he won't accept from the Tories.

The non-starters include a plan to create a national securities regulator, a refusal to apply Quebec's French-only language law in federal institutions in the province, and what he describes as an absence of help for the forestry industry compared with the mountains of federal cash heaped on Ontario's auto sector.

"We're considering each issue at its own value - if it's good for Quebec, if it goes in the interests of Quebec, then we're supporting it and otherwise we're opposing it and facing the consequences, whether it means an election or not," Duceppe said.

"We're putting Quebec's interests before the party's interest."

But, citing a legendary baseball-playing wag, Duceppe said he's not averse to an election, either.

"I'm a Yogi Berra fan," Duceppe quipped, "I don't make any predictions, especially those concerning the future. But I'm telling you that we're ready."

He offered a preview Wednesday of the approach he'll take in the next campaign.

With the Liberals riding relatively high in the province and the Tories now a distant third, Duceppe turned around every question about the Harper government and used his response to blast both the Conservative leader and the Liberal one.

He argued, for example, that Michael Ignatieff is no better than Stephen Harper when it comes to defending the French language. The Liberals also oppose Bloc efforts to apply the Quebec language law in federal institutions, like the post office.

Duceppe argued that - with that kind of attitude - his opponents' recognition of a Quebecois nation was meaningless.

"A nation for them is just something symbolic with no measures," he said.

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