Coalition Avenir Québec will form a majority government in Quebec, according to a CBC News projection — issued just 33 minutes after polls closed across the province.
“We did it!” CAQ candidate Geneviève Guilbeault exclaimed, beaming, as news of the majority was broadcast on a giant screen behind her at the party’s Quebec City headquarters.
“We have been working so hard, for so much time,” said Guilbeault, the candidate for Louis-Hébert, who may become deputy premier under CAQ Leader François Legault.
“This is finally happening, this big change for all Quebecers,” Guilbeault told CBC News.
The CAQ needs 63 seats for a majority. As of 9 p.m., ET it was leading or elected in 78 ridings. The Liberals were leading or elected in 31.
Appetite for change
The right-of-centre party, which promises to lower taxes, privatize some aspects of the health-care system, and cut the number of immigrants, capitalized on an appetite for change among Quebec voters.
The party, founded in 2011, was the favourite heading into the campaign, thought Legault stumbled badly at times, particularly when pressed to explain his party’s immigration policy.
But he regained momentum in the final week of the campaign, much of which he spent in the regions outside Montreal, where he enjoys broad support among key francophone voters.
The Liberals, led by Philippe Couillard, campaigned on their strong economic record and a promise to improve the everyday lives of Quebecers.
But they were subject to criticism for the deep cuts to education and health care made in the first two years of their mandate as they wrestled to balance the budget.
Scant talk of sovereignty
For the first time in decades, the question of whether Quebec should become independent didn’t figure prominently in the campaign.
Either the federalist Liberals or the pro-independence Parti Québécois have held power in the province since the defeat of Union Nationale in 1970.
But with support for sovereignty waning, the PQ, led by Jean-François Lisée, said it would put off holding a referendum until a second mandate.
The PQ lost votes to another sovereigntist party, the smaller, left-wing Québec Solidaire, led by two popular “co-spokespeople,” Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
The Parti Québécois and Québec Solidaire were tied with eight seats each as of 9 p.m.
Québec Solidaire’s platform, which includes a series of bold environmental proposals, is particularly popular among young voters.
When the election was called, the Liberals held 68 seats, the PQ held 28, the CAQ 21 and Québec Solidaire three, along with five independents in the province’s 125-seat National Assembly.