LISTEN: It's time for healing, premier-designate Couillard says

Angelica Montgomery/CJAD

To former neurosurgeon Philippe Couillard, making sovereignty the ballot-box question in the Quebec election campaign was a no-brainer.

The Liberal leader, who was fighting his first campaign as his party's chief, made it clear he would confront the Parti Quebecois' independence agenda head on.

He was accused of fearmongering by his opponents but his strategy paid off with a majority Liberal government on Monday night and the worst electoral defeat ever for the PQ.

Couillard, a popular health minister in Jean Charest's government until 2008, presented himself as a uniter when he addressed ecstatic Liberal supporters late Monday evening.

"We are all Quebecers,'' he said in his victory speech in his Roberval riding, which he captured from the PQ. "We should all focus on what brings us together.

"Let us say together, with passion, we're all proud of being Quebecers. My friends, division is over. Reconciliation begins.''

Couillard said he accepted the victory with "serenity and humility'' and promised to govern with integrity and transparency.

While Couillard's campaign was built on stoking fears of a sovereignty referendum, his election to the province's top job raises the question of whether he will follow through on a clearly stated interest in being the Quebec premier who signs the 1982 Constitution.

He raised the issue early in the campaign but quickly downplayed it when questions arose about how he would accomplish this and what demands he would make.

Couillard then treated it as an almost incidental matter, saying creating jobs would be his priority.

Previous Quebec premiers have ducked the Constitution issue, especially since the failures of the Meech Lake constitutional accord in the 1980s and the Charlottetown agreement a few years later rekindled sovereigntist fervour to bring the Yes side within a whisker of winning the 1995 referendum.

No federal leaders have shown any enthusiasm in engaging Couillard on the Constitution.

The PQ likely won't be pressing him on his plans for it either as it grapples with an eventual leadership race.

Leave a comment:

· Subscribe to comments
Be the first to comment here. You DO NOT need to be a member to comment.

Share this article: