Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe outlined five 'non-negotiable' conditions Saturday that the Conservative minority government must meet in order to secure his party's support.

If not, Duceppe said his party is prepared to vote against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's throne speech.

"We won't back down," he said in French. "We'll be firm and clear."

In early September, Harper decided to delay the opening of the fall session of Parliament by a month. He will go back to the house with a speech from the throne on Oct. 16, setting up the possibility of a fall election if the opposition parties vote against it.

Duceppe outlined the demands in a campaign-like speech in Rimouski, Que., calling for the:

  • Elimination of all federal spending powers in provincial jurisdictions
  • Assistance for workers in the ailing forest industry
  • Continuation of supply management in the agricultural sector
  • Kyoto Protocol to be respected by the Tories
  • Harper government to make a clear commitment to pull out Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan when the current mission ends in February 2009.

Bloc agenda

The list, which was leaked Friday ahead of Duceppe's speech, appears to be a reaction to the party's bruising in byelections earlier this week.

In Monday's Quebec byelections, the Tories took one riding that had been a nationalist stronghold and nearly took another riding they'd lost by 32 percentage points in 2006.

Harper's Quebec lieutenant, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, gloated this week over his party's victory and called the Bloc "useless" in Quebec.

Duceppe has repeatedly threatened to topple the government unless there is a clear mandate to withdraw troops in 2009.

However, since the Tories were elected in January 2006, the Bloc has helped them survive three confidence votes.

Quebec political analyst John Parisella described Duceppe's non-negotiable conditions as "posturing," and said the Bloc leader did not actually believe he would bring down the government.

"If they felt for sure they would be bringing the government down on this, they would be shooting themselves in the foot," he told CTV Newsnet by phone from Montreal.

"It would be political suicide to some extent, because they would lose influence and may even lose any say in how the government is doing. A minority government situation is probably a best-case scenario for the Bloc."

He said the Bloc's main objective of Quebec sovereignty is no longer a central issue for Quebecers, and that the party has entered a slow decline in popularity.

"The whole national question in Quebec ... is not a front-burner issue, and that's where they often make their gains. And if there's a scandal in Ottawa, the Bloc gains," he said. "But right now, the Bloc is declining."

New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair, who won the Montreal riding of Outremont in a byelection last Monday, also said Duceppe was just "chest-thumping."

"I guess he's trying to build up his street cred a little bit in Quebec," Mulcair told The Canadian Press.

He added that Duceppe may be relying on the Liberals to stop any real chance of an election.

"If he paints himself into that corner . . . he's going to have to walk into some paint or he's going to hope that the Liberals under Mr. (Stephane) Dion are going to be feeling so weak that they won't have any stomach for a fight," he said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton would not tell reporters Friday about his plans for a vote on the throne speech, but last Monday he said he was likely to oppose it.

Liberal Leader St�phane Dion has said he won't support a Tory throne speech, even if it were to trigger an election.

A late-August poll for CTV and The Globe and Mail found that support for the Conservatives and Liberals remained stalled over the summer, and tied for support at 33 per cent each.

The survey also found Liberal voters are less committed to their party than Conservative supporters -- an opportunity that the Tories could exploit in an election scenario.

The current standings in the 308-seat Commons:

  • Conservatives, 126
  • Liberals, 96
  • Bloc, 49,
  • NDP, 30;
  • three Independents
  • four vacant.