Yahoo! Exclusive: Former BQ leader Gilles Duceppe ‘not impressed’ with Justin Trudeau

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Former Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe spoke to Yahoo! Canada News Tuesday about the future of the sovereignty debate in Quebec and about the NDP 'Orange Crush' that essentially ended his political career — at least for the time being.

He also weighed in on current premier Pauline Marois and Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau; Duceppe is one Quebecer who isn't enamored with the Liberal leadership front runner.

Here are some excerpts from his interview with Yahoo! Canada:

Y! Canada: Looking back at the 2011 election, what happened to the Bloc Quebcois?  Why were they defeated so handily?

Duceppe: It was surprising. Two weeks before the election we had a 20 point lead on all of the 3 parties [in Quebec]. When we had the French debate, that was my best ever.

But the thing is, people didn't want Harper to be in power.  And they knew that the Bloc wouldn't be in power — of course — and they thought Layton was to be the prime minister.

And then two weeks before [the election] a poll was published in La Presse and a lot of newspapers in Quebec — which was not a scientific poll. But it was making Layton prime minister.

And then everything changed completely.  I think we made an error not attacking the NDP enough and people felt comfortable to vote for them saying that, well, 'they're not so bad, the Bloc is not attacking them and Layton could become prime minister.'

But now the NDP will be faced with real challenges. A lot of the [candidates] of the NDP were sovereignist. On the first day [of the campaign] they defined themselves as sovereignists. The last day they were federalists.

... It's quite curious for a federalist party.  They say one thing in Canada and one thing in Quebec.

Y! Canada: Is the sovereignty issue still alive and well in Quebec?

Duceppe: It's always there.

Since 1995, it hasn't changed. We have 40 per cent of the people supporting sovereignty, 40 per cent supporting federalism, and 20 per cent going from one [side] to the other depending on the context.

Y! Canada: When do you think Quebec will have another referendum on sovereignty? Will it be in the next 5 years?

Duceppe: I hope so.

In 1989, if someone said that sovereignty would be an issue in the coming year, people would [not have believed him]. But a year later, Meech Lake happened and failed and [support for] sovereignty was around 65 per cent. [It changed] in one year!

I think it's the same situation [now] but the thing is, not making a decision one way or another — that's unhealthy for Quebec.

Y! Canada: How will a Justin Trudeau-led federal Liberal party fair in Quebec?

Duceppe: We'll see what he has to say.

The last poll was good for him but I remember that Stéphane Dion was ahead of us by 15 points when he was elected leader of the Liberal party. And we all know what happened.

I think [Trudeau] made a bad declaration saying that we shouldn't talk about language [because] it's an old debate … If he thinks the language debate is an old debate he should remember that Trudeau-ism is an old thing also.

He is very charismatic, he's a nice guy but we don't know what he's thinking on a lot of issues.

I was not impressed during the time I was in Ottawa when he was taking positions on a certain number of things.

Y! Canada: Let's talk about provincial politics in Quebec. How long do you think Pauline Marois' government in Quebec will last?

Duceppe: I think they're okay until spring 2014.

The Liberals obviously don't want an election now. They don't have a leader and we're hearing about the [Corruption inquiry] almost everyday.

It's not very good for them to run on such a record. They don't want to be rushed, they have need to re-establish themselves as a respectable party and have to redefine their orientation.

Y! Canada: Is Premier Marois going to have to steer away from sovereignty issues while she has a minority?

Duceppe: I think she will say: 'well we're a sovereignist party. This is what we could do if we were a majority. And, if we were a country we could do this, this, this and that. Since we're not, we're proposing less.'

They will have to find ways to comfort the sovereigntists while respecting the [will of the electorate] in the last election.

Y! Canada: What are you up to these days? What keeps you busy?

Duceppe: I have a weekly [column] in the Journal De Montreal and Journal De Quebec, and am also on TVA, which is the most-watched TV station in Quebec.

[I also sit] on a few administrative boards. One is for my family's company. My father was an actor, and we have the most important theatre company in Montreal.

Y! Canada: Do you miss politics at all? Can we expect to see you back in the political sphere at some point?

Duceppe: We never know what could happen.

You know, in politics, a lot of things happen not surprisingly but unexpectedly.  As a matter of fact, what happened in the Middle East [last year], it was not surprising, it was not expected though.

It's like that in life, it's like that in politics also.