A new party
The Coalition Avenir Quebec, a party formed in 2011 by former PQ cabinet minister François Legault wins Quebec’s election Monday taking 74 of the province’s 125 seats. This represents the first time a party other than the Liberals or the Parti Québécois have won an election since the fall of the Union Nationale in 1970.
The incumbent Liberals under Philippe Couillard lose their majority of 70 seats dropping down to 32. The majority of seats retained by the Liberals are in Montreal, with Couillard holding his riding of Roberval in the Lac-St-Jean region.
The CAQ – who held 22 seats before the election – was able to attain majority status by winning ridings in francophone majority areas. These seats were mostly located in Quebec city and its surroundings as well as in the suburbs of Montreal and Quebec’s regions. This included a historic breakthrough in the Parti Québécois stronghold of Chicoutimi, a riding held by the party since 1973.
Surprising Quebec Solidaire breakthrough
For analysts, the most surprising development was Quebec Solidaire outpacing the Parti Québécois in seat count. Arriving in the election with 3 seats, Quebec Solidaire was able to capture 10 seats, with four seats outside of Montreal. The Parti Québécois won 9 seats.
This included surprising victories in Quebec city, where Quebec Solidaire was able to capture the ridings of Taschereau and Jean-Lesage. This proves that Quebec Solidaire is no longer a party relegated to Montreal and has finally become a serious contender for power.
The end for the PQ?
The PQ – who held 28 seats before the election – dropped down to 9. PQ leader Jean-François Lisée lost his riding of Rosemont to Quebec Solidaire’s Vincent Marissal (a former journalist for La Presse and ex-federal Liberal party job-seeker). He has since resigned as leader of the party.
This represents an important moral and electoral blow for the PQ, who has seen its fortunes decline since the 1995 referendum. The loss represents the fact that the question of Quebec sovereignty has been side-stepped as an issue among others, while the left-right cleavage becomes the primary divider among Quebecers.
Jean-François Lisée notably made it a priority to attack Quebec Solidaire leader Manon Massé during the last stretch of the campaign. Many saw this offensive as too little too late. The end result was that Quebec Solidaire won the moral high ground over the PQ among left-wing voters.
The Parti Québécois, like the Bloc Québécois, is headed towards electoral oblivion. As Journal de Montréal writer Mathieu Bock-Côté has widely written, this period represents “an end of cycle” in Quebec history. With the CAQ, Quebec voters have turned away from the national question; grudgingly accepting the slumber of provincialism.