QUEBEC CITY – Liberal MNA Rita de Santis walked into her party’s first caucus meeting since Monday’s election feeling great.
“I’m feeling fantastic,” she said.
The Liberals won 70 seats on Monday, enough to form a majority government and issue a knock-out blow to the Parti Québécois.
“Quebecers didn’t want a third referendum. It was very very clear in my riding,” said Liberal MNA Christine St-Pierre.
“It’s sad we had to live through that period of division. Now it’s time for reconciliation,” added Fabre MNA Gilles Ouimet.
Many are new faces, and possible cabinet ministers. No one will say, though, which portfolio they long for.
“This will be Mr. Couillard’s decision,” said Nelligan MNA Martin Coiteux.
“He has a very good team.”
Geoffrey Kelley from the Montreal riding of Jacques-Cartier was elected for a seventh time.
“It’s a nice headache to have,” he said. “Of all the problems you can have in life, as premier-designate you get to form the next conseil des ministres.”
Liberal leader Philippe Couillard received a hero’s welcome at the meeting, while across the street, public-sector unions were drawing battle lines.
“He’ll find us in his path,” CSQ President Louise Chabot told reporters.
They fear austerity measures announced by the Liberals and the CAQ will affect the quality of public services. Couillard promised to streamline the education department and abolish regional agencies.
“He’ll not only have to deal with unions,” added SFPQ President Lucie Martineau, “he’ll have to explain to people living in the regions why they’re losing their jobs.”
That tone is exactly what Couillard is hoping will change.
“I’m not looking for confrontation, I want to collaborate with everyone including unions,” he said.
The Premier-elect will soon have to make some tough decisions. But he plans on keeping a low profile for the next two weeks, until the transition with the PQ is complete and his Liberal government is sworn-in.