After last night Philippe Couillard can no longer be called the "ghost of the legislature."
The Quebec Liberal Party leader cruised to victory last night in a by-election in the Montreal riding of Outremont, winning with over 55 percent of the vote.
"We received a small storm Quebecoise last night, a snow storm, but there was also a 'Liberal' one that blew into Montreal," Couillard said before about 200 supporters following the announcement of his victory.
The Liberals also emerged victorious in a second by election—this one in Viau where David Heurtel won with about 60 percent of the vote.
Both ridings are traditionally Liberal strongholds, and in Outremont the Parti Quebecois and the Coalition for Quebec's Future did not field any candidates. Outremont has not been represented by a non-PLQ minister since the riding was first drawn in 1966.
Couillard has taken heat for not holding elected office since becoming PLQ leader earlier this year in March—sometimes being referred to as the "ghost of the legislature" by his political opponents.
Outremont became available after former Liberal finance minister Raymond Bachand resigned following a failed leadership bid.
Viau became vacant when Liberal incumbent Emmanuel Dubourg resigned to run successfully for the federal Liberals to replace former MP Denis Coderre, now mayor of Montreal.
The Liberal wins give Couillard's party 50 members in the 125-seat national assembly, four behind the PQ. The Coalition has 18, while the leftist Quebec solidaire has two. There is one Independent.
He won't serve in the legislature until next February but already Couillard has turned his attention to the next election -- widely speculated to be called in the spring.
"When the next election is called, Quebeckers will have a clear choice, this time again [like tonight] the choice will be crystal clear," he said.
Couillard says the major concern for his party is the economy and that won't change now that he has been elected to public office, but he added the PLQ will continue to oppose the Parti Quebecois' Charter of Quebec Values.
Last month, Couillard said the proposed ban on religious symbols in public affairs would only pass "over my dead body."
—With files from the Canadian Press.