As Liberal Jacques Cartier supporters watched election results roll in Tuesday night, one thing was clear: federalists spoke loud and clear in the riding, which encompasses Pointe Claire, Beaconsfield, Baie d’Urfe, Ste. Anne de Bellevue and Senneville. Liberal incumbent Geoff Kelley, who has held the riding since he was first elected in 1994, was re-elected with nearly three-quarters of the vote, besting his closest challenger, Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) candidate Paola Hawa, by more than 13,000 votes.
Green Party candidate Alex Tyrrell rounded out the top three in the Jacques Cartier race, affirming the West Island’s rejection of separation, with no separatist party garnering more than three per cent of the vote.
With the Parti Quebecois winning 56 seats to grab minority power in the National Assembly – most of which came from the Quebec regions that so often decide Quebec elections – the Libs fell to official-opposition status with 50 seats, while the CAQ grabbed 19, giving Francois Legault’s party the balance of power in Quebec City.
With a PQ minority, Liberal supporters breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of the PQ calling a snap referendum.
Kelley said the result affirmed the Liberal Party’s values as the defenders of federalism in the province.
“As the national anthem says ‘we’ll stand on guard for thee,’” Kelley said. “We’ve made it very clear that we think Quebec’s future is in Canada. We will be vigilant. We feel the diversity and inclusiveness that we have seen in this campaign indicates that there are many different types of Quebecers and that the Liberal Party is a party of inclusiveness,” he said.
Kelley also hammered home the strong level of voting interest that marked this campaign, contrary to what some had qualified as anglo apathy.
“I was encouraged by the high voter turnout,” Kelley said. “I think it was a clear statement that voters cared very much about this campaign,” he said. Turnout in the riding was about 75 per cent, markedly up from the 53 per cent of voters that cast ballots in the last provincial election, in 2008.
About 50 observers spent time at Kelley’s campaign office, including community leaders such as Pointe Claire mayor Bill McMurchie, Ste. Anne de Bellevue mayor Francis Deroo, Lester B. Pearson School Board chairman Suanne Stein Day, former West Island Chamber of Commerce presidents Joanne Photiades and J. David Pecho and Venturing Out Beyond our Cancer (VOBOC) founder Doreen Edward.
Stein Day said the CAQ’s inability to grab even a single seat on Montreal Island may have had something to do with their proposal to rid the province of elected school commissions – something that made English voters very nervous in the days leading up to the election.
“I think a lot of francophone voters rejected them for the same reasons,” Stein Day said. “(The idea) was never really fully explained, and when it was explained, it was in very conflicting terms,” said the Ste. Anne de Bellevue resident, adding the notion of having bureaucrats in charge of local schooling, with no accountability to the populace, proved unpopular.
Pointe Claire mayor Bill McMurchie said a PQ minority government wouldn’t have much impact on how his city is run, despite the fact that the last time the PQ was in power, the party enacted the now-reversed (in most local municipalities) and unpopular forced municipal mergers that created the mega-city.
“We obviously have preferences, but we’ve lived with the PQ before. (Their election) is an indication that there is still a substantial population that believes in separation from Canada. But believing that and implementing it are two different things altogether,” he said.
With 148 of 149 polls reporting, Kelley had taken 72.79 per cent of the vote, while Hawa, a sitting Ste. Anne de Bellevue city councillor, took 15.04 per cent, a strong showing for her first provincial campaign. Tyrrell was third with 4.60 per cent, followed by the PQ’s Olivier Gendreau (3.51 per cent), Quebec Solidaire’s Francois-Xavier Charlebois (2.61 per cent), independent Francis Juneau (0.57 per cent), Option Nationale Raphael Hebert (0.39 per cent) and Quebec Citizens Union candidate Agnes Mina Barti (0.26 per cent).