Pauline Marois resigns as PQ leader after crushing defeat
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, April 7, 2014 11:23PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 7, 2014 11:55PM EDT
Pauline Marois resigned as leader of the Parti Quebecois after the party suffered a crushing defeat Monday night.
She also lost her own seat in Charlevoix-Cote-de-Beaupre to Liberal opponent Caroline Simard in a tight race.
Speaking to supporters at PQ headquarters, Marois said despite the loss, she was “very proud” of the 18 months in which the PQ formed government.
“Tonight you’ll understand that under the circumstances, I will quit my duties,” she said, adding she will help to ensure an orderly transition of office.
Marois added she was grateful to Quebecers for her time in public office.
“You put your trust in me in so many occasions and you allowed me to serve for all these years.”
Marois said her only regret is not having been able to “reinforce the presence of French everywhere.”
“For 400 years, we’ve been speaking our beautiful language in North America,” she said. “At the beginning, we were just a few hundred, and through all the challenges and obstacles, we have held on.
“Let us never forget all the struggles we went through. We have to continue, we have to hang on, we have to persevere and defend and promote our French language everywhere.”
Marois also suggested that the PQ’s fight for Quebec independence was far from over.
“I am deeply convinced that we have everything to gain by making our own decisions,” she said.
Marois swept into power in the fall of 2012, as the once-dominant Quebec Liberal Party struggled amid widespread allegations of corruption.
Defeating long-time Premier Jean Charest and his Quebec Liberals with a minority government, Marois promised to cut taxes and protect from a perceived threat against French culture by tightening language laws.
But Marois’ 18 months in office proved tumultuous.
Without a majority mandate, Marois -- Quebec’s first female premier -- was forced to navigate her party through a series of controversies and contentious plans, including re-igniting the push toward Quebec independence and introducing a controversial bill to regulate religious identity.
Only months after her election, Marois encouraged her party to make a push for independence at a time when poll numbers showed support for Quebec sovereignty was on the decline.
Then last fall, the PQ sparked a national debate on identity and religious accommodation when they announced they would put forth legislation restricting religious symbols in certain places.
If passed, the bill, which became known as the Charter of Quebec Values, would among other things prohibit Quebec’s public employees from donning religious clothing and symbols in the workplace. Though there was some support for the legislation in Quebec, opponents both in and out of the province expressed outrage, calling it discriminatory for religious minorities.
Other bizarre incidents and gaffes marked Marois’ time as premier, including when a gunman attempted to storm her 2012 election-night victory celebration. A worker was killed and a stagehand injured in the melee. The suspect in the incident is scheduled to go to criminal trial next year on several charges, including first-degree murder.
Just months after the 2012 election, Daniel Breton, the PQ’s environment minister, stepped down after a scandal over fraud and non-payment of taxes.
The Marois government was also derided after an Italian restaurant owner was told by an inspector that there was too much Italian on the menu. The incident became known as “Pastagate.”
After dissolving government in early March, Marois’ campaign quickly went on the defensive over her support out the gate for a referendum on Quebec’s independence.
Marois attempted to shift the focus away from matters of sovereignty, saying that as premier, she would only call a referendum on the matter when Quebecers were prepared for one.
But polls showed the damage was already done, with the matter of independence remaining top of mind for many Quebec voters as they headed to the ballot box.
A one-time social worker, Marois has served as an MNA since 1981. She was Opposition leader from 2008 until her election as premier in 2012.