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Action Démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont waves to a subdued gathering of supporters after his speech Monday at election night headquarters in Rivière-du-Loup, Que. ((Clement Allard/Canadian Press))

Action Démocratique du Québec Leader Mario Dumont is resigning as head of the party he founded after suffering a crushing defeat in Monday's provincial election.

The ADQ party, which Dumont launched in 1994, is poised to take only seven seats, compared with 41 in the last provincial election.

"I accept this verdict," Dumont, 38, said about 2½ hours after polls closed Monday night. "I take responsibility for this defeat.

"It's with a lot of passion that I've been serving Quebec for 14 years. The time has come for me to turn the page."

The ADQ, which didn't even have official party status before 2007, roared into the election in March of that year, winning an unexpected 41 seats and taking the title of Official Opposition from the Parti Québécois.

ADQ candidates unseated Parti Québécois legislators and Liberal cabinet ministers that year, ultimately denying Liberal Leader Jean Charest the majority government he had been seeking.

Lost party status

By being reduced to seven seats in the Quebec national assembly, the ADQ once again falls beneath the 12-seat threshold needed to be an official party. Losing that status, the ADQ no longer has a variety of privileges that come with the designation.

The other party leaders were quick to thank Dumont on Monday night for his hard-fought campaign and for his contribution to Quebec politics.

Liberal Leader Jean Charest said Dumont waged "an election campaign with determination."

"I'd like to pay him homage for his exceptional force of character," Charest said in French. "Political life is very demanding, especially when you have young children."

Dumont has made a "remarkable contribution to [Quebec's] political life," Charest said.

In addressing her supporters, PQ Leader Pauline Marois took a moment to send a message to Dumont.

"He is living through a hard time right now. I should know and understand," she said in French. 

Marois and Dumont have always shared a passion for "defending Quebecers" and "history will recognize Mr. Dumont's contributions" to political life, she said.

Humiliating blow

After the ADQ's meteoric rise in the 2007 campaign, cracks began to show. Dumont saw his popularity sag as critics accused the ADQ of being nothing more than a one-man show with little substance.

In October, the party suffered a humiliating blow when two Action Démocratique legislators — André Riedl and Pierre Michel Auger— crossed the floor to the Liberals, saying Dumont had betrayed them as leader. The departure left the ADQ with 39 seats going into Monday's vote, compared with 48 for the Liberals and 36 for the PQ.

Over the course of the 4½-week election campaign, polls predicted the ADQ was about to fall, and by Nov. 9 former ADQ star candidate Jocelyn Dumais was musing publicly that the party was on the verge of collapse. A week later, Dumont was publicly apologizing that his party was not blossoming into the top-notch Opposition he wanted it to be.