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Quebec Votes 2003


Overall Election Results
Party Elected Leading Total Pop. Vote %
LIB 76 0 76 45.92%
PQ 45 0 45 33.21%
ADQ 4 0 4 18.24%
OTH 0 0 0 2.63%
Last Updated Tue Apr 15 12:00:00 EDT 2003 125 seats

Liberal's decisive win: both protest and mandate

Montreal - "It's not only Quebec that is starting to change tonight, it is Canada," Jean Charest declared on election night, after voters handed his Liberals a decisive victory.

The Liberals took 76 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly. The PQ won 45 seats, while the ADQ only grabbed four.

Charest becomes the province's 29th premier, and only the second Liberal premier elected since 1970.

"Quebecers have given us their confidence … we will live up to it," Charest told a cheering audience of supporters at his headquarters in Sherbrooke during his victory speech.

Charest welcomed what he called a "mandate for change and a mandate for renewal."

But that mandate was also a rejection of Bernard Landry and his Parti Québécois, in power the last nine years.

During the election, Landry played down sovereignty and health care, considered obstacles to wooing soft voters who traditionally swing between the Liberals and PQ. (Quebec's health system has had an embattled image over the past years.)

Instead, Landry's team tried to make the campaign about other things, such as responsible government. Landry also focussed his sights on something new, reconciling family life with work.

While this strategy of looking to the future had life at the start of the election campaign, it was overtaken by the sovereignty issue during the televised leaders' debate—a past that exploded the PQ plan.

The day of the debate, while campaigning for the PQ, former premier Jacques Parizeau restated his infamous remarks that blamed the loss of the 1995 referendum on "money and the ethnic vote."

It resulted in a controversy that forced Parizeau to stop his campaigning for the PQ.

With sovereignty topping the agenda, the ADQ continued to slide in the polls, having a hard time convincing soft voters to buy in to its fiscally conservative agenda. As well, Charest successfully argued that a vote for the ADQ was really a way to keep the PQ in office.

Mario Dumont's party was reduced to four seats in the assembly.

The Liberal road map

Charest's Liberals have an ambitious plan that's by no means simple to implement.

The election victory means the 44-year-old Liberal leader will have to make good on his promise to fix the province's health-care system, his party's top priority throughout the election campaign.

The Liberal remedy calls for investing more than $7 billion into health within five years.

The money is earmarked for hiring more doctors and nurses, and eliminating waiting times in hospital emergency rooms.

The province's schools are also big winners, with the Liberals planning to increase annual spending to $12.79 billion from $11.1 billion over a six-year period.

A good portion of the education money will go to extending classroom time in the primary grades—increasing the amount of physical education and English language instruction.

The education and health portfolios are the only two departments scheduled for increases. Otherwise, Charest plans to freeze spending in the public service.

One of the Liberal's bigger challenges will be cutting personal income taxes by $15 billion over five years. Charest says such tax relief would bring the province's tax burden in line with the rest of Canada.

But Charest will have to proceed with caution, delivering tax cuts without touching popular social programs, such as $5-a-day child care.

The Liberals do plan to reduce taxes for families with children, but the PQ loss means the idea of a four-day work week for young families is off the agenda.

And then there's the question of undoing the mergers of the province's largest municipalities.

Charest said he would allow referendums on the issue where opposition is sizeable enough to warrant it. Charest says he supports the idea of merged cities, but that his promise is about consultation and democracy.

The Liberal victory in Quebec will also change the landscape of federal politics. "It is not only Quebec that is starting to change tonight, it is Canada," Charest said Monday.

He told Quebecers that his government will take a major role in the provinces' fight for more money from the federal government, saying that "Quebec's leadership will make Canada a stronger place."


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