Poll losses for Quebec separatists

Quebec is likely to remain part of Canada for some time to come after the province's separatist movement suffered heavy losses in regional elections.

Poll losses for Quebec separatists

Quebec is likely to remainpart of Canadafor some time to come after the province's separatist movement suffered heavylosses in regional elections.


A surprising showing for Action Democratique (ADQ), aconservative movement seeking more autonomy for the region in a federal Canada,pushed the Parti Qeubecois (PQ) into third place on Monday.




Jean Charest, the region's Liberal premier, won re-electionbut will now be forced to lead the province's first minority government since1878.


The unexpected results mean a third referendum on separationfrom Ottawa isunlikely after votes against independence in 1980 and 1995.



With most of the votes counted early on Tuesday the Liberals had candidateselected or leading in 48 of the 125 parliamentary seats up for grabs, followedby 41 for the ADQ and 36 for the PQ.

No separation soon

In terms of popular support, the Liberals were at 33 per cent, followed by theADQ at 31 per cent and the PQ at 28 per cent, the separatist party's worstshowing since 1973.

Nearly six million of the French-speaking province's 7.5 millionpeople were eligible to vote.

The poor results are a severe blow for the PQ's 40-year-old leader, AndreBoisclair who had campaigned for a referendum on separation.

The strong performance of the ADQ, led by the 36-year-old Marie Dumont, cameas a surprise to his supporters as well as many political pundits who hadpreviously written his party off as a one-man show.

Prior to the election, the Liberals held 72 seats, the Parti Quebecois45 seats and the ADQ five seats. One member was independent and two seats werevacant.

The ADQ's surge in the final days of the month-long election campaign saw itrise from just five seats in the parliament dissolved last monthand take down several Liberal cabinet ministers.

Tax cuts

Dumont will now enter the legislature as the official head of the oppositionand his movement's conservative economic and social platform is expected tohave a major impact on the new minority Liberal government's policies,especially on reining in Quebec's generous social programmes.

"The results of today's election mark the beginning of a new era for Quebec. It means thereis a will to modernise the Quebec model,"Dumont told his supporters on Monday night in his home constituency ofRiviere-du-loup around 440 km northeast of Montreal.

Dumont's election campaign focused on appealing to Quebec's highly-taxed middle-class withpromises of cutting the tax burden and reducing the government's role insociety.

He also sought to utilise voters' apathy with the 40-year politicalstruggle between the separatist Parti Quebecois and the Liberals, who staunchlysupport Canadian unity.

Federal boost

"We are all surprised. There really is an ADQ wave," Josee Legault, apolitical columnist, told the CBC French network.

Speaking to supporters in Sherbrooke, east ofMontreal,Charest said the election result was historic and a "severe judgment"for both the Liberals and the PQ.

"Quebecers want us to continue to manage Quebec, but with a strong opposition,"he said.

Boisclair said it was clear that Quebecvoters wanted change, but the PQ would keep the minority Liberal government andADQ under "high surveillance".

"The flame is not as strong as we had hoped for... but we are stillmillions of Quebecers who want to make Quebeca country," Boisclair said.

Dumont's success could augur well for Stephen Harper, Canada's conservative prime minister, whois looking to gather more support in Quebecwith the aim of turning his own minority government into a majority.

On the other hand his earlier decision recognising Quebecas a "nation" within Canadacould reinforce the ADQ's call for greater autonomy.


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