Prime Minister Stephen Harper has warmly welcomed the election of a majority Liberal government in Quebec, showing no regret as the sovereigntist Parti Québécois went down to defeat.
The election results constitute the best-case scenario for the federal government, which was ready for all eventualities at the outset, including a PQ majority that could have sparked a new round of constitutional battles.
The Harper government decided to stay out of the campaign, hoping Quebec voters would decide by themselves to return to a federalist government.
“The results clearly demonstrate that Quebeckers have rejected the idea of a referendum and want a government that will be focused on the economy and job creation,” Mr. Harper said in a statement on Monday night. “We look forward to working with the new government of Quebec on those priorities.”
The Prime Minister went on to thank PQ Leader Pauline Marois “for her public service.”
Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard did not promise to re-open the Constitution during the campaign, meaning the federal government and the other provinces are not under any pressure to enter into a thorny round of negotiations on the matter with his government.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair – a former Quebec Liberal minister – offered his congratulations to his former colleague.
“The NDP has taken note of the people’s desire to end the old quarrels, and the new premier can count on us to promote Quebec’s interests in Ottawa, as part of our effort to build a more just and prosperous Canada for all,” Mr. Mulcair said in a statement.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau applauded the province for voting against a third referendum, and for defeating the proposed charter of values, which would have banned government workers from wearing overt religious symbols.
“As I have said since last summer, I had the utmost confidence that Quebec voters would reject the negative, divisive politics of Ms. Marois’ proposed plan,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement. “I am proud that my fellow Quebeckers have chosen unity and acceptance as we move forward together.”
At the start of the campaign, the major federal parties opted mainly to watch the election from the sidelines to avoid giving any fuel to the sovereigntist movement. Mr. Harper made calls to other party leaders and premiers across the country to get them to adopt a position of non-interference.