MONTREAL — Federal health transfers to the provinces are the most urgent political issue facing the country, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Wednesday as he called on the prime minister to convene a health summit with the premiers as soon as possible.
Blanchet made the comments during his first news conference since Monday's election, which brought no significant changes to the distribution of seats in the House of Commons and gave Justin Trudeau's Liberals another minority government.
The Bloc leader, whose party is elected or leading in 34 of Quebec's 78 ridings, also called for the House of Commons to be rapidly reconvened. Elections Canada had said it expects most of the 850,000 mail-in votes that were not counted Monday night to be tallied by the end of Wednesday.
“The fact we do not yet know what the final result of the election is should not prevent us from taking action," Blanchet told reporters in Montreal. "There are important issues, and we want to move immediately."
The Bloc leader noted premiers have asked Ottawa for an immediate $28-billion injection into their struggling health-care systems. They have also demanded the federal government raise its share of funding for provinces' health-care costs to 35 per cent from 22 per cent.
Blanchet said he has spoken to Quebec Premier François Legault and Ontario Premier Doug Ford since the election, and he said both told him health-care funding from Ottawa is a priority.
The federal government shouldn't attach any conditions to that money either, Blanchet said, adding that the election results have shown Trudeau does not have a mandate to "persist in his desire to encroach on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces in matters of health, on matters of infrastructure, as in all kinds of matters."
Blanchet added that Monday's results also indicated voters think a minority Parliament can function properly and they expect leaders to work together.
After a campaign in which he had hoped the Bloc would capture as many as 40 seats, Blanchet did not seem too disappointed to have fallen short. "Is it the victory that we were hoping for? Not entirely, no. Is it a victory? Yes," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.
Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press