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From an angry Quebec electorate, an unmistakable message Add to ...

Quebeckers were in a defiant mood in last Monday's election. Voters thumbed their noses at the political establishment and turned to the NDP, the one major party they had never voted for before, making it the province's political voice in Ottawa and propelling the party to Official Opposition status.

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It didn't matter for voters where the NDP candidates came from, or whether they had ever set foot in the riding, knocked on their doors, talked to them or even spoke their language. It wasn't even a clash any more of sovereigntists versus federalists, Quebec versus Ottawa.

All that mattered was that Jack Layton's NDP represented something novel, something different, triggering a wave of support such as the party has never before experienced. Mr. Layton was perceived as sympathetic and unpretentious. The man people refer to simply as "Jack" appeared to embody the spirit of renewal voters were desperate to embrace.

"We voted for change, we voted for Jack," said Michel Caron, 50, an unemployed furniture-maker from the small town of Louiseville in the riding of Berthier-Maskinongé, northeast of Montreal. "The other parties offered nothing for us, nothing for the little guy. So we followed the wave, we turned to Jack, who simply went about his business, looked positive, and spoke to our values."

Mr. Caron's wife, Chantal Gaudreault, 52, a commercial painter who was also recently unemployed, said the couple had voted for the Bloc Québécois in the past but felt that the debate over Quebec sovereignty was going nowhere and the NDP seemed like a logical choice.

"We had nothing to lose and frankly we didn't think the Bloc could do anything for us," Ms. Gaudreault said. "People wanted Jack and we didn't care whether our candidate spoke French or whether she even campaigned here. That's how strong we felt about wanting change.'

Ms. Gaudreault was referring to newly minted NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who was has not been seen in the Berthier-Maskinongé riding either before or after her stunning victory on Monday.

Ms. Brosseau, 26, who lives in Gatineau, is not unlike several of the 58 NDP candidates elected in Quebec on Monday. She is a political neophyte who won without campaigning.

The challenge facing the party, according to NDP Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair, will be to ensure that the party's federalist, social-democratic platform becomes an integral part of the province's political fabric that will help carry the party to even greater heights in the next campaign four years from now.

By voting NDP, Quebeckers may be giving federalism one last chance, Mr. Mulcair said.

"This election is a message for radical change, something all parties will need to assess," said Martin Trudel, 41, who teaches at an elementary school in the village of Maskinongé.

For Mr. Trudel, who voted Liberal, cynicism about politics, economic uncertainty caused by unemployment and the unresolved debate over Quebec sovereignty were just some of the reasons behind the thirst for change.

"Negativism was a factor. People voted individually, followed a wave and voted for candidates with no ties to the community. They were certainly fed up and wanted something positive," he said.

"Collectively what they got was a surprising result, something no one expected."

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