QUEBEC — Liberal members of the legislature were nervous and anxious Tuesday, one day after a humiliating byelection defeat in a Quebec City-area riding considered safe for the party.
Coalition for Quebec's Future (CAQ), won more than 51 per cent of the vote in Louis-Hebert, compared to 19 per cent for the Liberals, leading many in the governing party to wonder what kind of message voters were trying to send.
"It's a real slap in the face," said Patrick Huot, whose riding is next door to one vacated by Sam Hamad, triggering the byelection.
The government needs to quickly put together a "game plan" leading into the 2018 fall election, he added.
Government House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier said Monday's result is "a real thunderclap."
He said such a significant loss means the party needs to deeply analyze what happened and not "play it down."
Former provincial coroner's office spokeswoman Genevieve Guilbault cruised to victory in the riding for the third-place Coalition party, grabbing a majority of more than 7,400 votes.
In 2014, Hamad won the riding with almost 50 per cent of the votes.
CAQ Leader Francois Legault was beaming in the legislature Tuesday, and said voters soundly rejected the Liberals.
Starting now, "anything is possible" for the CAQ, he said.
Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee said the message of Monday night is clear: "The Liberals need to go."
His party, however, received 16 per cent of the vote, good for third place and two percentage points less than it received in 2014.
The result leaves the governing Liberals with 68 of the 125 seats in the legislature, compared with 28 for the PQ, 21 for the Coalition, and three for Quebec solidaire. There are five Independent members.
The byelection was a record 15th in Quebec since the last provincial election in April 2014 — the highest number during a mandate in more than 30 years.
The Canadian Press