And, while the national equalization program does send $8 billion to Quebec from other provinces every single year, the Bloc is unhappy with changes to the formula that have favoured Ontario.
As a matter of fact, the Bloc actually calculates its list of demands for Quebec at $16 billion — but it will settle for only one-third that amount in the upcoming budget.
"The next budget will be a veritable test for Stephen Harper," Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said in a statement.
"If the Harper government refuses to do justice to Quebecers, the Bloc will vote against this budget. If this causes a federal election, we're ready for it.
"As always, the Bloc Quebecois will be standing up (for Quebec)."
And that's what it's all about. The Bloc will take everything it can get, and really, who can blame them? The problem is that there is no way that the government is going to listen or do anything about it.
Simple as that. You can bet that Mr. Harper has already done the math that he can't spend enough in Quebec to get his majority there, and so he'll call Mr. Duceppe's bluff.
If I were Mr. Harper, though, I would not only leave absolutely no impression that Mr. Duceppe was listened to or that any part of his demands were being met, and then in the resultant campaign, make it clear to Quebec that the only way ANY requests in the future would be met is if they were funneled through a Conservative (government) MP. I would also make sure that there are spending cuts in the budget - and deep ones - and then point out on the campaign trail that in the midst of fiscal austerity, all the Bloc could think of was to demand more. That in the midst of a bout of federal belt tightening, the demands of the Bloc were not only going to be ignored, but they were out of line with any plans the Conservatives would have.
The point here is simple. The Conservatives aren't going to lose government by saying "no" to Quebec, especially if they return to the same measures they were taking in the fall of 2008. The Conservatives MAY have a lot to gain by not only saying no, but putting Canada on a plan to reach surpluses faster than previously projected.