CAQ pulls off upset in longtime Liberal stronghold

Coalition Avenir Québec's Geneviève Guilbault, who entered the race this month, has won the byelection in the riding of Louis-Hébert, a Quebec City suburb, held by the province's Liberal party since 2003.

Political newcomer Geneviève Guilbault becomes new MNA for Quebec City's Louis-Hébert riding

Coalition Avenir Québec candidate Geneviève Guilbault celebrates her victory with leader François Legault, in a provincial byelection in the riding of Louis-Hébert, Monday, October 2, 2017 in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Coalition Avenir Québec has scored an upset victory in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert, held by the province's Liberal Party since 2003.

The CAQ candidate, Geneviève Guilbault, a former spokesperson for the Quebec coroner's office, won the byelection in landslide, grabbing 51 per cent of the vote. 

She succeeds Liberal Sam Hamad, who resigned in April amid controversy after 14 years in office. 

In her victory speech, Guilbault said, "I'm joining a beautiful family and … the team of change, change that is wished for here in Louis-Hébert, that we will have the chance to embody day after day."

CAQ Leader François Legault, his voice filled with excitement, called Guilbault "the person who tore down a Liberal fortress."

The byelection was viewed as an early test for provincial parties ahead of next fall's general election. Recent opinion polls suggest the CAQ, currently the third party in the National Assembly, could present a threat to the governing Liberals.

In Louis-Hébert, Liberal candidate Ihssane El Ghernati came a distant second with 18 per cent of the vote. Parti Québécois candidate Normand Beauregard was third, with 16 per cent.

Tumultuous campaign

The riding was a Liberal stronghold: Hamad won 49 per cent of the vote in 2014.

The runner-up was the CAQ's candidate, who received 26 per cent of the vote, then the Parti Québécois candidate, with 18 per cent.

The byelection campaign was tumultuous — Liberal Éric Tétrault and the CAQ's Normand Sauvageau, their parties original candidates, were both ousted early in the campaign when past workplace issues came to light about each of them that hadn't been shared with their parties.

They were both replaced by two female candidates. 

Liberal candidate Ihssane El Ghernati lost the byelection in Louis-Hébert Monday night, coming in second with 18 per cent of the vote. (Radio-Canada)

El Ghernati, Hamad's former political aide, became the new Liberal contender. Guilbault, who had planned to run for the CAQ a year from now, jumped into the race while six months pregnant. 

'More victory nights,' promises Couillard

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard admitted it wasn't the result the party was hoping for but stressed his government would respond to the issues Louis-Hébert voters communicated to his party's candidate.

With the provincial election a year away, Couillard also reiterated his party's wish to continue its mandate. 

"There will be more nights, more victory nights, more happy mornings, where together we're going to win with Quebec what we will have deserved by our strong efforts and profound engagement," he said.

"You will be a part of the Liberal caucus," Couillard told El Ghernati. "Believe me."

The campaign began a month ago and included 10 candidates vying for the position.

Quebec's director general of elections (DGEQ) reported voter turnout was 53 per cent. There were 45,000 registered voters in the district.

Prior to his resignation, Hamad had been frozen out of cabinet for a year after emails from his office staff led to ethical concerns.

with files from La Presse Canadienne