MONTREAL – The Liberal Party won Quebec’s legislative elections Monday, in a crushing defeat for the main separatist party and major setback for the cause of independence in the French-speaking province.
Official results Monday showed the Liberals, staunch supporters of Canadian unity, won or were leading the race in about 75 of the National Assembly’s 125 seats, outstripping the separatist Parti Quebecois.
Those results will allow the Liberals to form a majority government, less than 18 months after voters had booted the party from power for the first time in nine years.
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, who led a minority government, called the snap elections last month in the hopes of securing a majority for her PQ party. But the campaign stirred up speculation that a PQ majority would ultimately lead to another referendum on independence from Canada, an idea that has lacked support in recent years.
Fears of a referendum galvanized supporters of the Liberals.
Marois had tried to mute talk of another referendum on independence. She had hoped instead to make the election about the PQ’s proposed “charter of values,” a controversial but popular law that would ban public employees from wearing Muslim headscarves and other overt religious symbols.
But the strategy backfired early in the campaign when one PQ candidate, multi-millionaire media baron Pierre Karl Peladeau, burst onto the scene with a fist-pumping declaration of his commitment to “make Quebec a country.”
Peladeau congratulated Liberal leader and new premier Philippe Couillard.