The Parti Quebecois has elected Jean-Francois Lisée as its new leader. 

Lisée began his victory speech by promising a PQ government would fighting pipelines from the most polluting source of oil in the world from going across 60 percent of Quebec's rivers.

"This will be a govermnent that protects our language, that teaches our history," he said.

"The Parti Quebecois, our party, was reinvigorated by this campaign... We are preparing to win our next victory, the election in 2018," said Lisée.

Being gracious in victory, but recognizing that barely half of PQ members chose him, Lisée reached out to his opponents.

"Imagine for an instant, the energy of the organizations of Cloutier, Hivon, Ouellet, and Plamondon combined," said Lisée.

He saved his ire for the current Liberal party, Premier Philippe Couillard, and numerous dubious ethical lapses.

"The Liberals' days are numbered," said Lisée.

"They need a long stay in the opposition benches. A stay in ethics detox. We need a changing of the guard."

Then he moved onto the raison d'etre of the Parti Quebecois: the independence of Quebec.

"We have not set a date for our Quebexit, but we have proposed the same destination as we always have, and we will get there," said Lisée. 

Minutes later, he said there will be a referendum after 2022, during a second PQ mandate.  

He also promised a $15 minimum wage, an end to First past the post voting, and to redraw the electoral map in order to retire federalist politicians.

"Rarely has any idea been pronounced dead as much as the Parti Quebecois and the separatist movement," said Lisée.

"We are still here!"

Half an hour into his speech, Lisée spoke in English, and said anglophones have been trapped by the Liberals for decades. 

"Better an inept, unethical, bumbling Liberal government than the separatist PQ was their basic message," said Lisée. 

"Well what if we got out of this trap for a change? What if we agreed to have a full term of just clean, honest, green, dynamic government? Yes, as a sovereigntist party we will keep working towards our goal. But as a government we will rebuild what this awful Liberal team is spoiling, but that we all hold so dear: this corner of North America that is unique is so many ways and that thrives on that uniqueness, creativity, joie de vivre." 

Third leader in two years

Lisée is the third leader of Quebec's opposition party since 2015.

He has a law degree and a master's in communications from Université du Quebec à Montreal.

He served as international relations minister between 2012 and 2014 and served as advisers to former premiers Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard in the 1990s.

On the first ballot, Lisée won 47.03% of the votes, with Cloutier getting 29.66%, Ouellet getting 16.46%, and Plamondon getting 6.84%.

On the second ballot, Lisée picked up 50.63% of the votes.

The race to become PQ leader was launched in May when Pierre Karl Peladeau suddenly stepped down, less than a year after being chosen as party leader.

Initially five candidates came forward, with Cloutier being the first to gain support from members of the PQ caucus, and having the most support among elected MNAs until the end of the campaign.

Veronique Hivon was another candidate who was popular among her fellow MNAs, but she was forced to drop out of the race in mid-August because of complications from an ear infection.

She came down with labyrinthitis, an inflammation of the inner ear that causes nausea, dizziness, and can be very debilitating.

Her absence from the race, and from the National Assembly was missed, even on Friday night when interim leader Sylvain Gaudreault wished for her return.

"We can't wait to have you back with us," he said to warm applause. 

Her decision to end her run meant five MNAs were free to choose a new person to support, and many of them came out in favour of the man who until then had been the dark horse candidate, Jean-Francois Lisée.

Lisée notably dropped out of the leadership race in 2015 saying that the PQ had to have "its PKP moment."

Consolidating sovereignist parties

Lisee reached across the aisle to Quebec Solidaire, saying the two parties should work together to defeat the Liberals. 

However, Quebec Solidaire MNA Francoise David said her party has no wish to delay a referenedum and the two parties are far apart on identity issues. David recalled a recent conversation she had with Lisee.

"We talked about immigration, burkinis, the end of Ramadan and the way he did it polarized, divided the population and always the Muslim minority feels attacked," she said. 

For his part, Couillard wasted no time in taking aim at his new opponent.

While in Iceland, the premier called Lisee's win a victory for "the nationalism of exclusion."

Couillard said Lisee's campaign statements regarding limiting immigration made it clear he supports a "closed nationalism" that has some ideological parallels to European right-wing populist parties.

Divisive campaign

But this year Lisée focussed on language and a promise to delay the pursuit of separation, returning to the "good government" focus of the PQ in the years following the 1995 referendum.

He said that the PQ needed to focus on responsible leadership in order to unite Quebecers against the Liberal party, and only hold a referendum after winning a second election.

But Lisée also focussed on immigration and assimilation, harking back to the popular Charter of Values by saying that Quebec needed to have "the best immigration possible."

Comments about identity drew criticism from many, but also proved popular.

With Hivon out of the race, polls showed Lisée neck and neck with Cloutier, and showed that Lisée might be the only PQ candidate who could defeat Philippe Couillard, and possibly win a referendum on independence.

Martine Ouellet was the only leadership candidate to promise an independence referendum in the first mandate of a PQ government, and even though separation is Article 1 of the PQ programme, her position failed to gain strong support.

"Of course I'm disappointed and of course you're seeing that in my face," she said. "I think that's clear. I think it's just normal as a human being, when we receive these kinds of results, to have emotion about it."

Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon was the only non-elected candidate in the race. Throughout the campaign he promised a new way of looking at the PQ, and said the party had to reach out and be inclusive of all Quebecers.

54,992 people cast ballots over the past three days, or 75.09 percent of the party.

That's a slight increase over 2015's coronation of Pierre Karl Peladeau, but far below the turnout that chose Andre Boisclair as party leader in 2005. When Boisclair stepped down in 2007, only Pauline Marois ran to become leader and was thus acclaimed.

In 2005 the PQ had about 130,000 members. Interim party leader Gaudreault said that today the party has 73,296 members.

- With files from The Canadian Press