After one of the nastiest election campaigns the province has seen in decades, the results in the Quebec election are in.
In a win that could signify a devastating blow to the sovereignty movement, Philippe Couillard has led the Quebec Liberal Party to a majority government in the Quebec election.
Complete coverage of the 2014 Quebec provincial election
Couillard emerged victorious in his riding of Roberval with nearly 60 per cent of the vote. He was a comfortable winner over Parti Quebecois incumbent Denis Trottier, who had held the riding since the 2007.
Couillard was running in the riding where his home is located, in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region north of Quebec City.
Following blunders, PQ knocked out of office
Throughout the 33-day campaign, mudslinging over ethics and questions over Quebec sovereignty and identity dominated the political discourse.
Incumbent Pauline Marois, whose Parti Quebecois formed a minority government in 2012, was seeking a majority government this time around.
When the campaign kicked off 33 days ago, the leader of the PQ was extremely confident she could secure a majority. But the PQ were knocked out of office just 18 months after coming to power.
Marois had hoped to capitalize on identity politics, as the party did in 2012, however she later said she regretted answering questions about sovereignty throughout the campaign.
When asked Saturday if she could change one aspect of her election campaign, the premier said she likely “wouldn’t answer questions about sovereignty, given that the key issue remains the choice of a government, a strong government.”
The pro-independence party will now have to face the grim reality that its dream of a sovereign Quebec is now politically toxic.
WATCH: Justin Trudeau says the Liberal victory shows Quebec has “pushed away the politics of division”
CAQ leader François Legault – who won his riding of L’Assomption – urged voters fed up with the Liberals and the PQ to give his party a chance. Legault’s popularity surged following strong performances during the leaders’ debates.
“There’s a real choice, there’s a real alternative, finally, after 40 years, to revive Quebec,” said Legault in Quebec City.
Legault promised to set the issue of sovereignty aside and focus on the economy. And while he is also in favour of a secular charter, he said it wouldn’t go as far as the PQ’s proposed Charter of Values.
Marois had tried to use her charter, which would prohibit public servants from wearing religious garb, to scare up support. On Saturday in the riding of Nicolet-Becancour, Marois shouted to the crowd, “No PQ, no Charter.”
The controversy surrounding the proposed charter may be remembered as one in a string of blunders the PQ made during the campaign.
The most notable blunder began with a fist pump.
When the PQ announced their star candidate, Pierre Karl Peladeau, the former president and CEO of Quebecor Media Inc. thrust his fist into the air and vowed to make Quebec a country.
“That had not been the narrative that the PQ was entering the election on. In fact they knew that wasn’t the winning card, and Peladeau undercut them,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
Couillard pounced and repeatedly told voters during the campaign that they were choosing between his Liberals or another referendum on Quebec sovereignty.
In the end, Peladeau won his seat in Saint-Jerome. Marois, for her part, lost in her Charlevoix-Cote-de-Beaupres riding to Liberal candidate Caroline Simard.
Françoise David, co-leader for Quebec Solidaire, kept her Montreal-area seat of Gouin. Andres Fontecilla, however, was denied a seat in the Assemblée Nationale, losing to Liberal incumbent Gerry Sklavounos in Laurier-Dorion.
With files from The Canadian Press