NDP practically sweeps Quebec en route to official opposition status
An NDP wave was expected to hit Quebec during the 2011 federal election, but it did far more than that.
It drowned the province in a sea of orange.
The surge in NDP support and that of its leader Jack Layton in the province all but snuffed out the Bloc Québécois completely, stealing seats in staunch sovereigntist ridings and leaving Gilles Duceppe's party on life support.
In fact, Duceppe himself was soundly defeated in his own riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie by NDP candidate Hélène Laverdière – a picture that perfectly encapsulates the seismic shift that took place in Quebec in Monday night's election.
"Two weeks ago we were starting to feel the wind of change," Laverdière told CTV Montreal's Stephane Giroux. "Jack was leading a great campaign nationally, and I can tell you on the ground, we could feel it too."
In a stunning upsurge, the NDP won 58 out of 75 seats in Quebec, building on the lone seat Thomas Mulcair held in Outremont.
"It's been four years (of) nonstop tireless work, with the help of Jack Layton and the party, giving us the resources necessary to get this amazing result," said Mulcair.
Ridings as staunchly sovereigntist as Hochelaga in the east end of Montreal and as strongly Liberal as Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine in the west end each turned to the NDP.
NDP candidate Isabelle Morin, who defeated longtime Liberal incumbent Marlene Jennings in Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine, said she is packing her bags to move into the riding she has been elected to represent.
"I live in Outremont now, but I will move to Lachine in a few weeks," said the 27-year-old French teacher.
Meanwhile, Jennings was gracious in defeat.
"I wish to congratulate Mme. Morin on her victory. I hope she has a great deal of success in Ottawa and I hope the people in the riding will support her as they supported me over many years," Jennings said in her concession speech.
The NDP gained 10 seats in Montreal, three seats in Laval, five seats on the South Shore, seven seats in the Quebec City region and four seats in the Eastern Townships.
CTV Montreal's Catherine Sherriffs was at the Rialto Theatre, which appropriately enough served as the headquarters for the dramatic surge for Quebec's NDP candidates, and she called the atmosphere there "absolutely electric."
The NDP's Tyrone Benskin was among the crowd, celebrating his victory over Bloc Quebecois incumbent Thierry St. Cyr in the riding Jeanne-Le Ber.
"It's overwhelming because the people of Jeanne Le Ber have chosen to give confidence to a new person in politics," said Benskin, who is a well-known actor and musician.
Hundreds of party volunteers were cheering as NDP candidate after candidate flashed across the screen to be declared winners in their ridings.
Mulcair was working the crowd and encouraging them to get all the celebrating out of their system, because the hard work was to begin Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the Bloc lost 44 seats and is now down to just four seats in the province.
Duceppe announced his resignation as Bloc Québécois Leader in the wake of the devastating result, putting some pressure on Layton to deliver on the promises he made to Quebecers during the campaign that helped lead to this groundswell of NDP support.
And as Duceppe left the stage, he finished his final speech as Bloc leader with these words: "Every nation finds the strength to fully affirm itself. And fully affirming itself, for Quebec, means a free country."
Major losses for the Liberals
The embattled Liberal Party did not fare much better than the Bloc, losing ridings it had held for years in what used to be the Liberal fortress of the island of Montreal.
Liberals Massimo Pacetti (St-Leonard-St-Michel), Stephane Dion (St-Laurent-Cartierville), Justin Trudeau (Papineau), Irwin Cotler (Mount-Royal), Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis) and Denis Coderre (Bourassa) all held on to their seats.
"Every great party goes through times of crisis, times of reflection," Trudeau said after his victory. "I think we're going through it right now."
Trudeau said while he had hoped more voters would cast their ballots in favour of the Liberals, he's happy they opted for another federalist party.
"Quebecers massively said, ‘You know what? It's not enough to stand and criticize Canada anymore through the Bloc – it's time to participate again in a national party," said Trudeau.
Meanwhile, star Liberal MP Marc Garneau was embroiled in a very tight race in Westmount-Ville-Marie against the NDP's Joanne Corbeil, and it initially appeared that he would be defeated. In the end, he beat his opponent by just 658 votes.
Smith doesn't deliver for Conservatives
In Lac-Saint-Louis, Conservative candidate Larry Smith came in third place behind the Liberal and the NDP candidates.
The former Alouettes president was touted as a star candidate for the Tories, after resigning from his post as a Senator to be able to run in the West Island riding.
Liberal Francis Scarpaleggia got just over 34 percent of votes; NDP candidate Alain Ackad ended with 30 percent; and Larry Smith finished with 28.5 percent.
Following his defeat, Smith remarked that Jack Layton will now face the challenge of whipping his plethora of rookie MPs into shape.
"This is similar to Mario Dumont getting elected with the number of members he did," said Smith, referring to the 2007 Quebec provincial election, in which the ADQ stunned political observers by garnering a record number of seats in the National Assembly.
Quebec City area
Meanwhile, over in Quebec City a Conservative fortress was crumbling even while the party celebrated a majority government through the rest of the country.
CTV Montreal's Quebec City Bureau Chief Kai Nagata was stationed at the Conservative headquarters for cabinet minister Josée Verner, where he spoke to the party's organizational director for the province Ghislain Maltais.
He said the Conservatives had up to 400 volunteers per riding in the Quebec City area to maintain the party's strong presence in and around the provincial capital.
High-profile Conservative MPs Maxime Bernier in the Beauce and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant Christian Paradis also managed to hold on to their seats, but Verner lost hers in Louis-Saint-Laurent.
"We brought a billion dollars into the Quebec City region, without raising your taxes," Verner, the former Intergovernmental affairs minister, said in French as about 100 supporters chanted her name. "We accept the fact that for the next four years, the region of Quebec will have no power."
In Beauport-Limoilou, defeated incumbent Sylvie Boucher was left in tears after losing in a landslide to NDP candidate Raymond Côté, who was running for a third time.
"I lost my job," Boucher told Nagata. "I gave everything I had to my riding. But people have decided they want something new."
Another defeated Conservative, Pierre Paul-Hus in Louis-Hébert, rued the fact that his party's considerable machine in the region could get him no more than a third-place finish in his riding, one that was snatched by the NDP web that stretched across the province.
"It is really unbelievable," he said. "Today, I'm not proud to be a Quebecer."
The Conservatives lone remaining seats in the capital region are on the suburban south shore of the city, with Quebec City proper going all the way left to the NDP.
So it made the Conservative fortress of Quebec City no different from the rest of the province, one taken over by an NDP wave of support that also crushed the Liberals and Bloc Québécois underneath it.