Nineteen months after they were ousted from power, the Liberals in Quebec will form the province’s next majority government.
The Liberals took 70 seats in the 125 seat National Assembly, the Parti Québécois 30, the Coalition Avenir Québec 22 and Québec Solidaire three.
The Liberals entered this election campaign as the official opposition, but battled back from a public backlash and integrity questions that saw the province elect its first Parti Québécois minority government in the fall of 2012.
The election itself, called early by the PQ with majority hopes in sight, was a gamble from the start – and it’s one the party lost.
Pauline Marois, who lost her own seat in her Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré riding, stepped down as party leader during an emotional concession speech in front of her supporters.
It was a clear message from Quebec voters that economic stability was more important than lingering questions about the party’s integrity. And, that the population didn’t want the divisive politics that emerged as a result of the PQ’s proposed secular values charter.
At his victory rally in his home riding of Roberval, Couillard promised that he would serve as the premier of all Quebecers.
“We should all focus on what brings us together. What unites us makes us stronger. Let us say together with passion, ‘Nous sommes tous fier d’être Québécois.'”
This was the party’s first election with Couillard at the helm. The former MNA briefly left politics before returning to the party’s leadership race in 2013,,
Capitalizing on PQ missteps around the referendum and cultural issues, the former neurosurgeon and his team convinced Quebecers that the “vraies affaires,” or real issues, that mattered most to the province were the economy and jobs.
The Liberals took an early lead in the popular vote, with about 41 per cent, a gain of 10 percentage points over 2012.
”I respect this democratic choice, but I do hope that you will join our party in growing numbers in the months and the years to come to build a real alternative to the Liberals,” Legault told supporters gathered in Repentigny.
“We need you to build a stronger and more prosperous Quebec, which includes all its citizens.”
More than a million Quebecers cast votes in the advance polls.
The election was a resounding defeat to the Parti Québécois, led by Pauline Marois, who promoted the Charter of Values, and other legislation designed to address the question of “reasonable accommodation” of religious beliefs, and promote “neutrality” in the government. The Charter of Values proposed limiting the wearing of “conspicuous” religious symbols in government settings, including yarmulkas, turbans, or hijabs, and would make it mandatory to have one’s face uncovered when providing or receiving a state service.
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