The leadership of the Bloc Québécois is uncertain once again as Gilles Duceppe – who came out of retirement to try to revive the party's flagging fortunes – lost in Laurier–Sainte–Marie.
"Certainly, these are not the results we were hoping for, but we really led a great campaign," Duceppe told a crowd of supporters as they chanted "'Duceppe."
This marks the leader's second straight defeat in the riding in which he built his political career, losing once again to the NDP incumbent, Hélène Laverdière.
With 126 out of 230 polls counted, Laverdière had 36 per cent of the vote, compared to Duceppe's 29 per cent.
- Live Blog: Follow the election in Quebec
- Federal election 2015: Polls close in Quebec
- Canada Votes 2015
9 gains from NDP
The Bloc was elected 10 ridings.
Nine of the 10 ridings were gains from the NDP. Ridings that were swept in the Orange Wave in 2011 now voted for the Bloc, including:
- La Pointe-de-l'Île (where former Bloc leader Mario Beaulieu won)
- Pierre-Boucher-Les Patriotes-Verchères
"We thought we almost disappeared but we are more present than we were before. We came a long way," Duceppe said, reiterating his stance on sovereignty.
"I think we're better off being a country in the world than a province in Canada," he said as the crowd cheered.
"We clearly stated our convictions, in our hearts, in our minds...I tell you now, and all these youths who invested in the BQ...I came back for you youngsters. And I count on you for the next steps."
Duceppe, an MP for 21 years and leader of the Bloc for 14, resigned after the dire 2011 election results — when the party was reduced to just four seats from 47 at dissolution.
Swept away by the Orange Wave, Duceppe lost Laurier–Sainte-Marie to Laverdière by about 5,000 votes.
Things got worse for the party when Mario Beaulieu, a hardline separatist, was named new leader of the party. Two MPs quit to sit as independents.
Another Bloc MP, Maria Mourani was expelled from the party in 2013 after she criticized the Parti Québécois's proposed secular charter — a plan to bar civil servants, even daycare workers and teachers, from wearing overt religious symbols while on the job. Mourani sat as an independent before crossing the floor in 2014 to sit as a New Democrat. This time, she ran under the NDP banner.
Heading into this election with just two seats in the House of Commons, the party enticed Duceppe back from retirement in June, just weeks before the Aug. 2 election call, when the Bloc was slumped in the polls and in disarray.
Political analysts predicted Duceppe's return would be a game-changer, at the expense of the NDP in Quebec.
At 68, Duceppe is the oldest of the federal party leaders. However, he showed Quebecers he still had the physical stamina for the job — pedalling around Quebec early in the campaign with Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau.
Midway through the campaign, with the Bloc stalled in the polls, an editorial cartoon showed the wheels having fallen off the Bloc's tandem bike.
Then came the niqab issue — and a targeted attack against NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's position backing a woman's right to cover her face while taking the Canadian citizenship oath.
More than any other, that issue may have soured the NDP's popularity in Quebec.
However, it was not enough to revive the Bloc Québécois, which needs 12 seats to attain official party status in Parliament. Duceppe's defeat makes the Bloc's future even more uncertain.