MONTREAL --Philippe Couillard is the new leader of the Quebec Liberal Party.

At 2:53 p.m Sunday the results were announced at the leadership vote in Verdun, giving Raymond Bachand 19.5 percent, Pierre Moreau 22 percent and the rest going to Couillard.

Couillard, a former health minister, attracted around 58.5 percent, enough to allow him to succeed Jean Charest as party leader without need for a second-ballot.

Couillard called for party unity in a seven minute speech, his first address as Liberal leader.

 “Whether you are a federalist in your heart or in your head, you have your place here regardless of your accent, you’re a Quebecer if your heart is here.”

He blasted the Parti Quebecois as a 40-year-old party with old ideas that have divided citizens and blocked progress and undermined investment in infrastructure, hospital system, universities and research. 

"Now it's our time to offer another path," he said.

In his final speech prior to the vote, Couillard, already tipped as the favourite would – said that unlike his two rivals - he would seek to have Quebec ratify the Canadian constitution.

He also stressed economic stability.

“We Liberals know that prosperity goes hand in hand with the affirmation of our identity and freedom of our choices,” he said. “Success commands respect.”

Couillard, 55, also promised to reform the tax system and inject more investment into the knowledge economy.

Bachand, who appeared disappointed with his third-place result, was the first to speak after the results were announced. In his brief comments, he said that Quebec is in good position now to replace the PQ government.

Second-place finisher Pierre Moreau appeared more upbeat as he took the stage to make his comments.

“For me, the race ended a few minutes ago, but the work begins today, a work of unity, with a great leader,” said Pierre Moreau to a big cheer.

In their final speeches prior to the vote, all three promised to renew the party following their defeat last September and each took shots at PQ Premier Pauline Marois, blaming the government for breaking promises and putting Quebec on the wrong track.

Party members voted up until 1:30 p.m. and results had been expected to roll in at about at 2 p.m., with a second round to take place later if none of the three receives a majority in the first vote, which was to be decided by 2,636 party delegates, one third of whom are 25-year-old or younger.

This is the sixth vote in the party’s history and there has never yet been a second ballot.

Former Finance Minister Raymond Bachand had emphasized his qualities as leader of matters relating to the economy, unity and stability.

Bachand, 65, attacked the Marois government of creating division and harming the economy, sending jobs to the rest of Canada.

“I believe that our future belongs to the majority and not just noisy minorities,” he said.

On the question of Quebec's place in Canada, Bachand, a former PQ party member said that he believes that constitutional debate is no longer necessary.

“The political debate must now focus not on who we want to be, but on what we want to do,” he said. “Only prosperity allows greater solidarity.”

Former Transport Minister Pierre Moreau promised to revive Jean Charest’s flagship project, the Northern Plan.

“During the race, analysts have said my style was too similar to that of Jean Charest,” he said. “Mr. Charest, I do not know what you think but I took it as a compliment.”

Moreau, 55, who spoke more English in his speech than his two rivals, recalled that his father and uncle took part in the Second World War to support Canada. Both men were believed in both Quebec and Canada, he said.

“Our membership in this country is not based on the language we speak or the color of our skin but on our shared values,” he said to applause.

-With a file from The Canadian Press