A historic Quebec election that returned the Parti Québécois to power ended in tragedy Tuesday when a gunman killed one person and wounded another, then tried to start a fire at the Montreal venue where PQ Leader Pauline Marois was celebrating her minority mandate.
Police said a suspect entered a vestibule at the back of the Metropolis nightclub and fired shots, wounding two people critically. The suspect then started a fire and ran away on foot.
One shooting victim, a 45-year-old man, died at the scene. At a 6 a.m. press conference Wednesday, Montreal police said the second shooting victim, 27, was no longer in danger. Ambulance services reported another person is in hospital suffering from shock.
Montreal police spokesmen said they have arrested a 62-year-old man from Quebec, but not Montreal, who spoke French with an accent. The suspect has not been identified. Police have opened a homicide investigation and have seized two firearms. Sureté du Québec spokesman Guy Lapointe says police cannot rule out that Ms. Marois was the intended target.
“The English are waking up, the English are waking up ... It's payback ... Yeah, yeah, that’s enough,” the man said as police officers led him away in handcuffs. The suspect, a heavyset, bespectacled man, wore a balaclava, shorts and what appeared to be a bathrobe.
[Editor's note: Comments were originally open on this story. However we have now closed comments for legal reasons following the arrest of a man after people were shot and a fire was set outside the PQ victory celebration. Readers can still access comments posted earlier by clicking here.]
Ms. Marois was in the middle of her victory speech, after narrowly defeating Jean Charest’s Liberals by a handful of seats and about one percentage point in the popular vote, when several plainclothes police officers from her security detail suddenly burst on stage and pulled her away, shouting "Go with us, madam!" She later returned and spoke to the crowd.
Earlier, Ms. Marois had acknowledged the ambivalence of Quebec voters in giving her a narrow minority mandate.
"We will respect that choice by governing with all the other elected lawmakers. We'll make the necessary compromises to make the state work ... We'll govern in a responsible way."
Ms. Marois, who had been severely criticized for campaigning on identity and language themes, had some conciliatory words for Quebec's anglophone and native communities, speaking of their shared history and, in a rare move for her, speaking in English to say their rights would be respected.
However, she struck a tougher stance towards the rest of Canada.
"As a nation, we want to take ourselves the decisions that affect us. We want a country. And we'll have it."
Liberal Leader Jean Charest, the outgoing premier, lost in his riding, for the first time in a 28-year career that began when he was elected to Parliament on this day in 1984.
"The results of this election speaks to the fact the future of Quebec lies within Canada," he said. He also quipped that, "I want to thank the activists of the Liberal party who once again proved the polls wrong."
In his concession speech, Mr. Charest boasted that his party "will leave the house in good order."
Mr. Charest predicted that the Liberals would bounce back. Pointing an index up, he noted that there was "one percentage point in the popular vote between us (and the PQ)."
He made no comments about his political future. A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday.
In a statement issued early Wednesday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office, he said: “We are disturbed by this violence and our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.”
Earlier, Mr. Harper congratulated Ms. Marois — then delivered a pointed barb aimed at the independence project. “We don’t believe Quebeckers want to reopen the old constitutional quarrels of the past,” he said in a statement.
“Our government will remain focused on jobs, economic growth and good economic management. We believe economic issues and jobs are also the priority of Quebeckers. In that sense, we will continue working with the Government of Quebec on those common objectives.”