Liveblogging the Quebec election returns

Charest wins a majority. Dumont resigns.


7:58 p.m.
Paul Journet, over at Cyberpresse, plugged in the last poll numbers in HKDP’s election predictor and all three polls (CROP, Léger and Angus-Reid) show the ADQ taking an absolutely massive hit. In fact, none of them have Dumont getting back to the Naitonal Assembly with more than 2 seats. I doubt they’ll do that poorly–though I’ve predicted single digits–but Dumont better be praying he gets at least 20 per cent, otherwise the ADQ loses official party status and all the funding that comes with it.

8:10 p.m.
If the last election is any guide, one of the more interesting races might be in Jean Charest’s own riding of Sherbrooke. I doubt it will be as close as it was in 2007, but it sure would provide a bit of drama if it was.

8:15 p.m.
TVA just called it for Charest. No kidding.

8:16 p.m.
It’s still early, but the PQ is at 35% in popular vote. Marois has got to be happy with getting anything over 30% after last year’s record low of 29%. She just might save her job if she gets a decent share of the vote. Actually, scratch that. They’ll probably be calling for her head before the night’s over. (Although it hardly means they’ll get it.)

8:21 p.m.
Rad-Can just ran a shot of Marois watching the results. She’s definitely not looking like someone who expects to win.

8:25 p.m.
I was just forwarded a reader e-mail that suggested Charest should announce he’s running for the federal Liberal leadership in his victory speech. Ha! The federal Liberals will have to earn that one.

8:30 p.m.
They’re leading in two ridings–and I don’t expect to see it last–but how long does Québec solidaire stick with its fluffy program if it strikes out again tonight?

8:32 p.m.
A quick update: Libs up in 60 ridings, PQ in 42, ADQ in 7. (63 seats are needed for a majority.)

8:35 p.m.
Rad-Can calls a Liberal majority.

8:36 p.m.
No one’s mentioned the turnout yet, but I suspect it was low, if only because a friend in Montreal described today’s weather as “colder than a witch’s….”

8:44 p.m.
The Liberals are at 71, the PQ 46 at the ADQ at 6. It’s really looking like 2003 all over again, when it went 76/45/4. Charest’s challenge: making sure 2009 is nothing like 2004.

8:45 p.m.
The ADQ is about to lose its House Leader, Sebastien Proulx, in Trois-Rivières. Will there be any good news for Dumont tonight?

8:49 p.m.
One of the things that appears to have disappeared tonight–and has otherwise been a staple of Quebec politics for a long time–is the protest vote. Marois, for all intents and purposes, ran on her capacity to govern rather than her capacity to separate. Combined with the evaporation of Dumont’s vote share, it seems to signal that government issues rather than backlash politics will dictate provincial politics for the next little while. Of course, all that can change if Charest gets back onboard the “re-engineering the state” train.

8:56 p.m.
The PQ is holding steady at the 35% mark.

9:01 p.m.
I know Rad-Can called it a majority already, but the Liberals are only at 62 seats right now, one short of a majority.

9:07 p.m.
Françoise David has officially lost in Gouin. Québec solidaire still has Amir Khadir in Mercier, but they just can’t seem to make much of a dent.

9:08 p.m.
The ADQ are getting their butts handed to them by the Liberals in Quebec City, but the PQ appears to be making the most of Dumont’s collapse. They’re up pretty much everywhere in the province.

9:15 p.m.
The PQ’s Agnes Maltais is the first one to cite the chaos in Ottawa as a reason for tonight’s results. I’d been waiting for that excuse to come out.

9:18 p.m.
Gilles Taillon, the only star candidate for the ADQ, has just announced he won’t run again after getting spanked by a Liberal in Benoit Pelletier’s old seat in the Outaouais. In 2007, Taillon won by 13,000 votes in another riding. But he decided to run in a safe Liberal riding this time around. Pretty obvious he wanted off good ship Dumont, no?

9:24 p.m.
It’s still early, but Charest has about an 800-vote lead in Sherbrooke.

9:27 p.m.
It might be far-fetched to consider this scenario, but if Charest doesn’t get a majority, he’s staring down a pretty hefty opposition. The PQ will get a second wind after a solid turnout, and the ADQ will be aching to make itself relevant again, perhaps by angling to bring down the government.

9:32 p.m.
For what it’s worth, Khadir appears to be holding on to his lead over Daniel Turp in Mercier.

9:37 p.m.
The popular vote is tightening between the Liberals and the PQ. The Liberals are at 41% and the PQ is at 37%, but keep in mind that Quebec’s electoral map favours the PQ. (Lucien Bouchard got a majority in 1998 even though Charest took the popular vote.)

9:41 p.m.
I can’t re-emphasize this enough, but the Liberals are far from being in the clear. According to Michel Auger at Rad-Can, there are 6 ridings with a less than 200 vote difference right now and the Liberals are only leading in 63 ridings, the bare minimum for a majority.

9:45 p.m.
It’ll be hard to gauge before all the results are in, but the PQ’s results appear to be better than anyone had predicted. If they come out as official opposition in a minority government, at least some of the blame has to be laid at the federal Conservatives’ feet for stoking the sovereignist fires in the province.

9:51 p.m.
I had a really compelling chat earlier today with a veteran of past Liberal governments. He warned me that Charest was hardly assured of a majority. At the time, I blew it off as pre-election jitters, but I’m starting to think I totally overlooked just how fragile Charest’s support was.

9:58 p.m.
You gotta love the fact Bill Clennett, the guy best known for getting choked by Jean Chrétien at a rally in 1996, gets a shout-out from Françoise David for getting 9% of the vote in an Outaouais riding.

10:00 p.m.
Amir Khadir has just defeated Daniel Turp in Mercier to become the first Québec solidaire MNA in history. I’ll toast that.

10:05 p.m.
Okay, so Khadir’s speech isn’t exactly Obama-esque. I’m sure he broke some cardinal rule about the cliché-to-verb ratio in a single paragraph.

10:10 p.m.
Dumont says he just offered Charest his collaboration in the National Assembly.

10:13 p.m.
Charest is leading in 66 ridings now.

10:15 p.m.
Dumont just resigned as leader!

10:19 p.m.
Of course, whenever any party goes from 41 to 7 seats, the future’s not looking bright. But without Dumont, there just isn’t much to the ADQ. He’s had a (relatively) good run, but he’s always been hampered by the risible quality of his entourage. Take him out of the equation, and only the entourage is left. Good night, ADQ.

10:21 p.m.
Here’s an interesting idea: If the ADQ folds, how hard should Charest go after their MNAs to bolster his (majority?) government? Those 6 or 7 MNAs will be mighty useful to both sides of the National Assembly.

10:24 p.m.
With Dumont’s exit, have Quebec politics effectively been normalized? By ‘normal’, I mean a situation in which every major party competes to actually govern rather than revolutionize the government. When you consider that Charest has backed off his “re-engineering of the state,” Marois has ditched the notion of a referendum, and Dumont is calling it a day and likely taking his party with him, provincial politics in Quebec appear to have just gotten kinda… boring.

10:31 p.m.
The party numbers haven’t shifted in a while: Libs still at 66 and PQ still at 51.

10:45 p.m.
It’s looking like things are about to get in the hands of the ballot re-counters, so I’ll wrap things up from my end. I have to say, I never expected Dumont to step down as leader, just as I didn’t expect the PQ to get to 50 seats. The real story, though, is that Charest rolled the dice on a majority and won. The Liberals made significant gains in traditional PQ stomping grounds in the province’s resource regions (Abbitibi, northern Quebec) and that will likely stabilize the government as it stares down a recession. Given that those are the areas likely to be hardest hit in the financial crisis, the Liberals needed to make gains there to ensure their legitimacy. Still, Marois and the PQ are in a strong position and will be able to act as the opposition the ADQ never became.

Good night, everyone.

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