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Politics Quebec Liberals look forward to ‘new tone’ from Ottawa with Trudeau win

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard reacts to the election of a Liberal majority government October 20, 2015 at the Quebec legislature.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Quebec's Liberal establishment is rejoicing at the election of Justin Trudeau's party, anticipating that a long list of the province's priorities will now be settled favourably. They're also celebrating what they see as the continued decline of the separatist movement.

After 20 years of casting protest votes for the Bloc Québécois and NDP against past Liberal and Conservative governments, the province has landed again on the winning side. Quebec will send 40 Liberal MPs to Ottawa out of a possible 78, including the next prime minister.

Noting Quebeckers will now have a much bigger say in Ottawa, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard hailed the dawn of a new era in federal-provincial relations.

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Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

"Today, more than ever, Quebec is back in a position of strength as a partner and leader in the federation," Mr. Couillard told reporters at the Quebec National Assembly. "Quebec is back at the decision-making table, drawn along by its youth who turned toward the future."

The Premier said he looks forward to Mr. Trudeau "setting a new tone" on key issues such as climate change and federal transfers.

While the separatist Bloc improved its seat count to 10, largely thanks to vote splits between federalist parties, it still falls short of official-party status, and its share of the popular vote slipped more than three percentage points from 2011 to 19.3 per cent.

"It seems obvious to me we are witnessing the slow decline of the sovereigntist movement," Mr. Couillard said.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat and said he will decide his future after a party meeting Thursday. "It is better to have more members than less, but obviously it's a disappointment not to have enough members to be an official party and to be defeated in my own riding," Mr. Duceppe said.

He and Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau, who had invested his own time and party resources in the Bloc campaign, both acknowledged disappointment at the result. Both said the vote had nothing to do with separatism and everything to do with a widespread desire to stop the Conservatives under Stephen Harper from forming another government.

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"The people wanted to fire the government of Stephen Harper. In 2011, they tried to do it by voting massively for the NDP, and this year, they succeeded by voting Liberal," Mr. Péladeau told reporters in Quebec City.

Meanwhile, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, himself a former Liberal cabinet minister, rattled off a shopping list of issues he anticipates will now get a more sympathetic hearing in Ottawa, including the city's plans to establish supervised-injection sites, its opposition to tolls on the Champlain Bridge, the restoration of home-mail delivery and funding for Radio-Canada, which is headquartered in the city.

"Montreal is back," Mr. Coderre said. "You now have a party in charge that is interested in settling issues rather than making political gain."

The city is also looking for help paying for public transit and other infrastructure projects.

Mr. Coderre was in a scrap with the Conservative government during the federal election campaign over the city's plan to dump eight billion litres of sewage into the St. Lawrence River to repair a 30-kilometre-long sewer conduit. The Conservatives blocked the plan and named a panel to evaluate it.

Mr. Coderre appeared confident the issue will be resolved within the one-month window for repairs that closes in November the city's experts had set.

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"We'll complete this work in concert rather than in confrontation," Mr. Coderre said.

The province should finally enjoy some stability no matter how relations between Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal evolve. Minority governments have led to five federal elections in 11 years and four provincial elections in the past eight years. Corruption scandals have left Montreal with three mayors in as many years.

The likely next election scenarios will have Mr. Coderre seek a new mandate in late 2017, Mr. Couillard in 2018 and Mr. Trudeau in 2019.

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