Quebecers don't buy into constitutional truce offered by CAQ
Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault speaks to reporters during an election campaign stop in Becancour, Que., on Sunday Sept. 2, 2012. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
REPENTIGNY, Que. -- A new nationalist party in Quebec that roared out of the gates at the start of the election campaign sputtered to a third-place finish on Tuesday night.
The promise of a 10-year constitutional truce with Ottawa was not enough to convince voters to take a chance on the Coalition for Quebec's Future, a party that is not yet one-year old.
It is headed by former sovereigntist and millionaire businessman Francois Legault, who in the final days of the campaign insisted his party was the only option for those who wanted a strong nationalist government but no sovereignty referendum.
The Coalition party had set its sights on at least the Opposition as polls suggested it was winning over disaffected Liberal voters.
Prominent anglophone media outlets even threw their support behind the party, saying it represented a needed change from the Liberals and provided more stability than the PQ.
Though the Coalition looked set to more than double its seat count -- from nine to 20 -- it still fell well short of expectations.
One candidate said it was difficult to counter the Liberal lock on the federalist vote, which it has been able to count on for decades.
"The challenges I faced on the ground were just reflex votes, and votes out of fear," said Paola Hawa, a CAQ candidate in the Montreal riding of Jacques Cartier, which the Liberals won with a crushing majority.
"The Liberals did an excellent job of putting fear into people."
At campaign headquarters in Legault's riding just east of Montreal, only occasional cheers erupted from what was otherwise a subdued crowd.
Coalition supporters didn't quite fill a reception hall in a community centre in Repentigny.
But they did have a few things to cheers about.
Star candidate Jacques Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief, managed to win his riding just north of Montreal.
It was his surprise candidacy that electrified the early days of the Coalition's campaign.
Legault was involved in a tight race in his own riding of L'Assomption.