MONTREAL — The Bloc Quebecois is asking Quebecers to look back and remember all that the party brought them during its years in Ottawa.
In an effort to bring supporters back to his embattled party, leader Gilles Duceppe told a Montreal news conference Monday that Quebecers have been largely ignored since his party was almost swept out of the province in 2011 by the NDP.
He defended his call for nostalgia by noting how other parties have evoked the past in recent weeks.
"I think we're doing exactly the very same thing the other parties are doing," Duceppe said at a Montreal park, surrounded by past MPs and current Bloc candidates.
He said former prime minister Paul Martin campaigned with Justin Trudeau last week and said the NDP's Tom Mulcair has often referred to former leader Jack Layton who died shortly after the 2011 election.
"Always Jack, Jack, Jack," Duceppe said. "If it's possible for them to remember what they did in the past, I think it's also possible for us."
Duceppe noted the Bloc was able gain concessions from both majority and minority governments.
He said his party pressured the federal government for stricter laws on organized crime and the laundering of proceeds of crime; raised awareness on revelations that led to the sponsorship scandal; pushed for improvements to guaranteed income supplements for seniors and tabled a motion to defend the supply management system for farmers.
The NDP dismissed Duceppe's comments Monday and reminded the Bloc leader they've also done a lot: decreasing the tax rate for small-and-medium businesses; ending the production and exportation of asbestos and establishing a mechanism to prevent drug shortages.
Duceppe suggests the NDP, currently leading in the polls in Quebec, is exactly where the Bloc was in 2011 before the dramatic collapse that saw the New Democrats claim the majority of the province's then-75 seats. This time, there are 78 seats at play.
The Bloc leader says people he's spoken to are parking their votes with the NDP in an effort to get rid of the Conservatives.
The real difference between majority and minority government for the Conservative is in the rest of Canada, Duceppe said, adding the Conservatives were a minority government when the Bloc held more sway in Ottawa.
"Why should we do their job, the job they just can't do in Canada?," Duceppe asked. "Why should Quebecers forget who they are just to help the rest of Canada get Harper out of the job?"
He says there is plenty of time left in the campaign to convince Bloc voters to return, despite going into the campaign with just two seats and handcuffed by lagging numbers at the polls.
"The most important thing in democracy is having people represented by men and women thinking what they're thinking, voting they way they want to vote themselves," Duceppe said.
Duceppe says Bloc's electoral platform will be introduced next week.