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Quebec: Liberals lose ground

Globe and Mail Update

Quebec voters punished the Liberal Party in Quebec Monday, as the ruling Grits felt the fallout of the sponsorship scandal.

The Liberals Party lost seats it worked hard to win over the past decade in Quebec, as the Bloc regained its record 54 seats.

The Liberals, meanwhile, hold 21 of 75 seats in the province. The NDP and Conservative Parties failed to gain any ground.

The Bloc had 49.3 per cent of the popular vote, compared with the Liberals at 33.5 per cent.

"This is a beautiful victory," said Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe Monday night. "I would like to congratulate all the candidates, men and women, people of convictions who fought this fight with us. . . . Because this is democracy. This is democracy in action. . . . There has been a very clear message that was said tonight. The Bloc is the only team with whom Quebeckers, men and women, have confidence to defend their own interests in Ottawa."

He added, "It is the fourth federal election, consecutive, where the Bloc is winning a majority in Quebec, and this is significant."

But Mr. Duceppe did not comment on whether sovereignty would figure in Quebec's future.

Mr. Duceppe won in the Laurier riding and Liberal Leader Paul Martin won in LaSalle-Emard.

The Bloc's Roger Clavet beat Heritage Minister Helene Scherrer in the Liberal stronghold of Louis-Hebert.

In 2000, the Bloc suffered losses in Beauharnois-Salaberry when incumbent MP Daniel Turp lost to former provincial Liberal member of National Assembly Serge Marcil and another former provincial Liberal MNA, Georges Farrah, defeated a Bloc candidate in the Gaspé region.

But the Bloc's Raynald Blais defeated Mr. Farrah in the 2004 election and the Bloc's Alain Boire beat Liberal Serge Marcil in Beauharnois-Salaberry.

Pierre Paradis, former Liberal cabinet minister who ran as a Tory in this election, lost to the Bloc's Gérard Asselin in Manicouagan.

However, the Bloc's Martine Carriere lost to Liberal Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew in Papineau.

Although Mr. Duceppe has not publicly declared his support for one party over the other, the Liberals have speculated that the Bloc would have used the Tories' leadership as reason to separate if the Tories were to win Monday's vote.

Party Québécois Leader Bernard Landry's said a Bloc landslide would pave the way for a referendum on sovereignty in 2009, but Mr. Duceppe vehemently denied these claims, maintaining that he was not bringing sovereignty to the table during his campaign. The Party Québécois holds 45 of the national assembly's 125 seats. I

n his speech Monday night, Mr. Duceppe thanked his "friend Bernard Landry" and "Mr. Parizeau".

There was been speculation during the campaign that the Liberal Party neglected Quebec to win Ontario supporters — the province that was seen as the main electoral battleground. The Liberal strategy in Quebec was to persuade voters that the party was the lesser evil, now that it is obvious the Liberal party will not win a majority in the province.

During the French-language debate, Liberal Leader Paul Martin warned Quebec voters that a vote for the Bloc Quebecois means support for the Tories while Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe attacked Mr. Martin over the sponsorship scandal, insisting that it is time to judge the Liberals for the sponsorship scandal.

In 1993, the Liberals held 19 seats which increased to 26 in 1997 and 36 in 2000. During the Bloc's first election in 1993, they won 54 seats, and the numbers fell to 44 in 1997. In 2000, the Bloc won 38 seats, barely a majority, compared with 35 Liberal seats and one Conservative. At dissolution, the Liberals had a majority advantage with 37 seats, 33 Bloc seats, four independent, and one vacant spot.

The contest between the Liberals and the Bloc in 2000 was to gather as many of the 800,000 votes that went to the Tories in 1997 under former Tory leader Jean Charest.

According to Elections Canada's preliminary results of voter turnout in Quebec was the lowest on record in 2000 at 63.4 per cent.

In the 2000 federal election, the biggest margin of victory was 39,098 by Liberals in riding of Lac-Saint-Louise in Quebec and the smallest margin of victory was 34 by Bloc in Laval Centre.

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