Shots were fired halfway through Pauline Marois’ victory speech on Tuesday after it was announced that her party, the Parti Québécois (PQ), won a plurality of seats in the National Assembly. The results brought an end to nine years of Jean Charest’s Liberal government, one of the longest in the history of the province.
One person was killed and another injured after an attempt to stop a lone gunman from entering Metropolis, where the PQ victory party was taking place.
After being whisked away by her bodyguards, Marois went back on stage to reassure the audience.
“This is what it’s like to be a female head of state,” she said in French.
The gunman later tried to set fire to the building. Inside the building, attendees were told that a sound grenade had gone off and were urged to remain calm. Most supporters were unaware of the events that were unfolding nearby, while others left prematurely because of a strong burning odor, similar to gasoline.
Tough road ahead
Marois’ government faces several challenges, including a staggering debt and stiff opposition in Parliament. While the PQ has vowed to repeal the tuition hikes through a ministerial decree, most of its campaign promises are likely to be difficult to pass through the National Assembly because of its electoral minority.
Relations between Ottawa and Quebec are expected to sour as well. The PQ has said that it would demand additional powers from the federal government, including greater control over immigration and culture.
Bernard Drainville, a PQ member of the National Assembly, told The Daily in French, “We will do everything we can to be respected. We have our values, our interests. With a PQ government, Quebecers will be respected. And we will use every means to achieve that.”
The PQ’s victory and the election of the first female premier in Quebec marked an important shift in the province’s politics, and members of the PQ were quick to point out its historical significance.
“I’d like to remind you that in 1940, women gained the right to vote in Quebec,” the announcer said in French. “Sixty years later, we have the first woman premier in Quebec.”
A small victory
Members of Québec solidaire (QS), a small progressive separatist party, also celebrated the election results. Françoise David, the QS candidate in Gouin, defeated PQ incumbent Nicolas Girard and increased the party’s representation in the National Assembly from one to two.
Their election night event was held at the Olympia Theatre in downtown Montreal and featured speakers such as actor and event emcee Paul Ahmarani and rock singer Dan Bigras. The atmosphere was charged with excitement as the relatively young crowd alternated between cheers of “debout” and a chorus of boos as results came in.
“I was dreaming of this opportunity for a long time. We will work with a lot more power, a lot more impact, especially that we now have a minority government, so each party, each MNA [Member of the National Assembly] will count in the balance of power,” said QS co-spokesperson Amir Khadir.
David added that the lack of a PQ majority would give her party the opportunity to “have a dialogue” and “put our ideas on the table.”
Disappointment for CAQ
Results for the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) were more disappointing, however. While the party won 27 per cent of the popular vote, it only gained 19 seats.
In his concession speech, CAQ leader François Legault said that he was ready to work with the PQ government.
“Marois will not be able to do everything she wants,” he said in French. “We will work with her if she is ready to make the necessary changes in Quebec.”
The end of an era
For the Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ), Jean Charest’s loss in his home riding of Sherbrooke signified the end of an era.
At the PLQ’s Montreal headquarters, the crowd grew quiet as it was officially announced that the former premier had lost his seat.
Supporters continued celebrating through the night, however, as the final results of the PLQ proved better than those projected by the major opinion polls.
“We have been here for 145 years, so I think that we are going to be there for the next 145 years,” said Anson Duran, the PLQ candidate who lost to Françoise David in Gouin.
“We are the party that has always had the ability to have new faces, and you can see that there are new faces and a lot of young candidates,” he added.
Despite its nine years in power and a controversial record, the PLQ won fifty seats.
“There’s always [the want for change], and after nine years it’s just a natural feeling that some people have,” Duran said. “We’ll see what the next few years have to offer, and hopefully we can get back on our feet as soon as possible.”
Some students vow to continue their struggle
Away from the various party headquarters, approximately 200 demonstrators gathered at Place Emilie-Gamelin – a familiar rallying point from last spring’s nightly student marches – to protest the elections, whatever their results.
“Every candidate, every party is in one way or another at the service of capital,” said one demonstrator into a microphone immediately before the crowd marched out of the park brandishing a banner that read in French, “We don’t vote…we fight!”
The march followed a spontaneous route south east of the square, and a heavy police presence followed.
The Cinéma du Peuple, a film collective formed at Occupy Montreal last fall, set up a large tent and projected coverage of the elections alongside popular videos made about the protests.
According to volunteer Paul Bode, their projections were not necessarily meant to protest the elections but rather “to give people access to this information in a public space.”
The Facebook event created to publicize the event was titled “Leurs elections, on s’en calisse!”
The SPVM reported no arrests and no injuries.
—with files from Lola Duffort, Annie Shiel, and Juan Camilo Velásquez