Lisee steps down as PQ leader after worst defeat in decades
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, October 1, 2018 11:40PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 2, 2018 12:32AM EDT
MONTREAL -- The Parti Quebecois, the standard-bearer of Quebec independence for close to 50 years, suffered one of the worst defeats in its history Monday as the Coalition Avenir Quebec romped to a majority government.
Among the PQ casualties was Jean-Francois Lisee, who lost his Montreal-area riding of Rosemont and stepped down as leader of the sovereigntist party.
"The verdict in Rosemont also puts an end to the best job I've ever had, leader of the Parti Quebecois," Lisee told supporters.
As the evening drew to a close, the party was elected or leading in just nine seats -- the lowest seat total since its first two elections in 1970 and 1973, when it won seven and six seats respectively under party founder Rene Levesque. Its 17 per cent share of the popular vote is its worst result ever.
While the few candidates who won their seats vowed to fight for their constituents, it remains unclear where the party will go from here.
Lisee said the PQ is needed to fight battles for justice, the environment, secularism and the French language."As long as Quebec is not a country, Quebec will need the Parti Quebecois," Lisee said.
The party was the official Opposition going into the current campaign with 28 of 125 legislature seats, but it is left with a handful of seats in eastern Quebec and a few candidates surrounded by Coalition blue in others.
The party was at risk of being completely shut out on the island of Montreal, and it fell short of the dozen seats or 20 per cent of the popular vote needed to give it official party status.
Shellshocked party supporters cheered as the party announced the names of their few victorious candidates, among them deputy PQ leader Veronique Hivon.
Lisee said he knew from the outset it would be a tough slog as the party took fire from all sides: from the surging Coalition for nationalist voters and from Quebec solidaire for the sovereigntist vote.
There was no respite for Lisee in his own riding, which he lost to former Montreal political journalist turned Quebec solidaire star candidate Vincent Marissal.
For those left to carry the PQ mantle, it is time for reflection.
"I think we'll have to take some time," said Catherine Fournier, re-elected in a suburban region south of Montreal. "We have a majority (Coalition) government right now, so the biggest error would be to go too fast."
She said the party needs to "have a good talk about our future -- for sure we have one. I strongly believe in our values, our progressive ideas for Quebec's future and sovereignty."
Fournier said she couldn't rule out Quebec solidaire being a part of the PQ's future after its strong showing on Monday.
Before the campaign, Quebec solidaire rejected an alliance with the Parti Quebecois, something Lisee said weakened the sovereigntist forces. The two parties spent resources battling each other in ridings instead of working together, which Lisee said might have brought a very different result.
Monday's result was the second straight disappointing showing for the PQ, following up on a 2014 campaign that saw them go from being on the cusp of a majority government to finishing a distant second.
The party has had two leaders since Pauline Marois lost in 2014 -- Quebecor mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau and Lisee, who was elected to the post in October 2016.
PQ president Gabrielle Lemieux said Monday night the party was proud of its campaign and said there will be plenty of time dig into the results.
"We had an opportunity in this campaign to present our ideas and that was the most important thing for us," Lemieux said.