The day following his majority win in Quebec, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe calmed concerns that a vote for the Bloc would not mean a vote for sovereignty.
“I would have liked that to be the case, but it wasn't,” he said Tuesday morning.
He said the balance of power will be held by the Bloc, NDP, and Tories, the three opposition parties. He has already spoken to Prime Minister Paul Martin and told him that the Bloc will work with the government “issue by issue.”
Mr. Duceppe was the first of the major party leaders to speak to reporters Tuesday. NDP Leader Jack Layton and Mr. Martin are also scheduled to speak today. Mr. Harper has not scheduled a press conference.
The Liberals was handed a minority government with 135 seats. The Tories took 99, the Bloc Québécois won 54 and the NDP gained 19. The NDP came a few seats short of denying the Bloc the kingmaker status some had thought it was poised to gain after Monday night's election.
This is Canada's first minority government since Joe Clark's Tories rule for six months in 1979.
Mr. Duceppe said he will represent Quebec's interests in the House of Commons, with great respect for Canada.
A respect, he said, “That will [also] exist when we will be a sovereign country.”
He said representing all Quebeckers is “our duty, our mandate...at the same time we are not stopping at being a sovereign party, of course.”
A referendum on sovereignty is at least two to four years away, he said.
“We can't have a referendum in Quebec as long as the Parti Québécois is not in power.
The Bloc matched its first electoral showing in 1993, with 54 seats in Quebec. The Liberals won 21 seats in the province and the Conservatives and NDP failed to win any.