Pauline Marois loses seat, Parti Québécois loses power
An emotional Marois announces that she will step down as party leader
This is not the result that Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois expected when she triggered Quebec's provincial election back on March 5.
Marois lost her seat in the riding of Charlevoix-Côte-de-Beaupré to Liberal opponent Caroline Simard.
The race saw them swap the lead several times Monday night, but when the final ballots were counted, Simard had defeated the premier by almost 800 votes.
The Liberal candidate took 35 per cent of the popular vote. The PQ leader won 33 per cent and Coalition Avenir Québec candidate Ian Latrémouille captured 26 per cent.
Hers was one of the few tight races between her party and the Liberals, who walked away with a resounding majority in the National Assembly.
An emotional Marois said she was "saddened" by the result and announced that she would step down as party leader.
"We had so much to offer, so much to accomplish for Quebecers," she said. "We are very proud of our 18 months as government. In that short period, we did a lot of good and great things."
Election call a calculated gamble
The Parti Québécois's decision to call an election for April 7 was a gamble from the start.
Riding a wave of popular support for its proposed secular charter, there was widespread confidence in PQ ranks that they had the numbers to win the majority they failed to secure in 2012.
The PQ took 54 out of 125 seats in Quebec's National Assembly in 2012.
The controversial proposed legislation, which would bar public-sector workers from wearing overt religious symbols, is popular outside urban centres such as Montreal or Quebec City. However, it has been met with fierce opposition by some school boards, health-care institutions and municipalities.
- SPECIAL REPORT: Quebec's secular 'values' charter
- THE CURRENT: Will the proposed secular charter help or hurt Quebec?
- ANALYSIS: The political steamroller that is Quebec's charter of values
However, Marois insisted the main reason she was sending Quebecers to the polls was the opposition to her government’s budget by the Liberals and CAQ.
Both parties said the budget reflected the PQ's skewed priorities, namely its preoccupation with identity issues such as secularism over the province’s economic health.
The PQ called their budget “responsible” and “reasonable,” and said it addressed Quebec’s needs.
- Quebec government to table budget ahead of looming election
- Parti Québécois budget aimed at triggering election, opposition says
Marois moved to buttress the PQ’s economic credentials with the recruitment of businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau, owner of the Quebecor empire, as the PQ’s candidate in Saint-Jérôme.
The strategy quickly went awry with Péladeau’s unguarded comments about his desire to build an independent Quebec for his children.
- Pierre Karl Péladeau to run for PQ in Saint-Jérôme
- ANALYSIS: For the PQ, the two-edged sword that is Pierre Karl Péladeau
Rather than bringing attention to the PQ’s economic platform and strengths, Péladeau’s arrival instead brought the issue of sovereignty to the fore.
The resulting situation went counter to traditional PQ election strategy, which usually works to limit talk of sovereignty in order to avoid scaring off potential supporters.
Marois added to her party’s woes by openly discussing her vision of what an independent Quebec would look like.
- ANALYSIS: Quebec sovereignty talk masks an inconvenient truth
- Pauline Marois says independent Quebec would have no borders or tolls
- Pauling Marois regrets talking sovereignty during campaign
Talk of a PQ majority quickly evaporated as the Liberals and CAQ stoked fears that Marois would call a referendum on sovereignty if elected.
Marois later admitted that the focus on sovereignty was a regrettable development.