The polls have closed across the Nation of Quebec.
The campaign started as a truly unpredictable three-way race. It wasn’t hard to imagine a scenario where Jean Charest ran against the students and won. Francois Legault offered a real alternative to Quebecers who were sick of the traditional parties who have offered Quebecers nothing but referendums, corruption, and bad government for as long as many can remember.
In the end, Pauline Marois appears set to stumble over the finish line. Most projections have the PQ on the brink of a majority, so it’s possible a few hundred votes could decide whether or not Marois has carte blanche to implement the most extreme elements of her platform and call another referendum…or if she’ll be punted in favour of a CAQ-Liberal coalition. Hell, with some polls showing her lead at a mere 4-5 points, the spectre of another “Alberta Surprise” should not be discounted.
I’ll be providing updates below throughout the evening.
8:21 pm: PQ lead with 20 seats, followed by the Liberals at 14 and the CAQ at 9. But the popular vote is close for all three parties, and only one of those 20 PQ seats is in a riding they didn’t win last time.
8:28 pm: And the Liberals pull ahead 26-21, with Charest up by 2 votes. I think we can all agree this is the David Bertschi bump!
8:41 pm: Neck and neck – safe to say, we’re heading for a minority…potentially one where the PQ win the most seats, but lose the popular vote. It might be up to Legault to play kingmaker.
9:02 pm: PQ will take it, as Marois becomes the first female Premier in Quebec history. The Charest Liberals become the first incumbent government in Canada to be defeated since the Shawn Graham Liberals went down two years ago.
9:44 pm: Looking at the west end of Montreal, it’s abundantly clear the anglos stayed loyal to the Liberals.
10:09 pm: There are still a few ridings left to call, but the PQ + QS total will be less than a majority, which means Marois’ more extreme policies are off the table. That may actually be good news for her, the same way a minority government let Harper placate his far right base. Charest appears to be heading to defeat in Sherbrooke, but he leaves his party in far better shape than most projected. I’ll follow up with a full post-game analysis tomorrow morning, but the good news is the disaster scenario has been averted.