MONTREAL – Relegated four years ago to a handful of seats around the island of Montreal, the federal Liberals roared through Quebec on Monday night as the Grit brand appeared to re-establish its credibility in the province.
Justin Trudeau’s party was elected or leading in just under two-thirds of the province’s 78 ridings, leaving its three rivals far behind.
The big loser of the night in Quebec was the NDP, which won 59 out of 75 seats in 2011, but was struggling to hit double digits this time around amid
the negative publicity that engulfed it on the contentious niqab issue.
The Conservatives maintained their foothold in and around Quebec City and picked up at least three extra ridings in the area.
Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois, which won four seats in 2011, appeared poised to possibly double that total as it fought desperately to reach the magic number of 12, which would grant it official party status in the Commons.
The first Quebec riding called for the Liberals, who won just seven seats in the province in 2011, was Gaspesie-Les Iles-de-la-Madeleine, where Diane Lebouthillier beat the incumbent NDP MP, Philip Toone.
Trudeau, meanwhile, romped to victory in his riding of Papineau and his party also fared well in western Quebec as well as in the Eastern Townships ridings south of Montreal down to the U.S. border.
Trudeau will have several big names to choose from as his new Quebec lieutenant.
Pablo Rodriguez, who had helped lead the party in Quebec even though he lost his east-Montreal seat in 2011, regained it Monday.
Trudeau’s friend, Melanie Joly, a well-known name in Montreal after she came second in the city’s 2013 mayoral race, also won her seat against Maria Mourani, the former Bloc MP.
Stephen Harper’s Tories fared very strongly in the Quebec City area, with Steven Blaney, Jacques Gourde, Maxime Bernier and highly touted recruit Gerard Deltell all winning.
Harper’s Quebec lieutenant, Denis Lebel, was involved in a tight race, as was Alain Rayes, a popular small-town mayor in central Quebec.
The NDP was hoping it would be seen by Quebecers as best-positioned to beat the Conservatives but the party dropped in the polls as the Liberals surged across the country, including in Quebec and Trudeau took up the mantle of the party of change.
Mulcair’s main platform promise of providing one million subsidized daycare spaces across the country seemed to have fallen flat in the province that has had the cheapest daycare in the country for years.
While the Bloc did better than 2011, Duceppe was involved in a tight three-way race with the Liberals’ Christine Poirier and the NDP’s Helene
Laverdiere, who ended his 21-year reign in the Montreal riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie four years ago.
Mario Beaulieu, the arch-nationalist who stepped aside as party leader to give room to Duceppe in the summer, was also leading.