MONTREAL — The Bloc Quebecois’ 18-year hold on federal politics in Quebec came to a brutal and stunning end Monday night at the hands of an NDP that crushed its opponents in the province.
So stark was the Bloc’s fall from grace that even leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat to a little-known NDP candidate in Montreal.
The NDP even had the gall to win more ridings than the 54 the Bloc took in its best performance in 2004.
The sovereigntist party, which won 49 seats in 2008, was reduced to fewer than five seats this time around.
The Bloc had won a majority of Quebec’s 75 seats in every federal election since 1993.
But this time it ran up against an NDP that managed to touch a nerve with Quebec voters.
The party caught fire in Quebec in the final weeks of the campaign, but even the polls didn’t predict the scope of its victory.
Supporters crammed into a Montreal theatre to follow the results, almost shaking the building with ovations for every NDP victory in the province.
“Dear friends it is indeed with honour and enthusiasm that we take up the challenge of building a Canada that reflects our common values while accepting our respective visions,” Thomas Mulcair, the party’s Quebec lieutenant, told an ebullient crowd.
“The NDP listened and understood your deep desire to do things differently in Ottawa, (to) put workers and their families at the forefront.”
The Bloc wasn’t the only party getting a drubbing by the NDP.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Lawrence Cannon lost his seat in Pontiac to the NDP’s Mathieu Ravignat.
A number of prominent Conservatives also trailed the NDP, notably in the Quebec City region.
The Tories provoked much ire there with its decision not to fund a new NHL-style arena.
Both Josee Verner and Sylvie Boucher — the two Conservatives most closely with the arena question — had uphill fights to keep their seats.
And the once-proud Liberals were further decimated, electing only a handful of MPs. One of the survivors was Justin Trudeau.
NDP support pushed past the 40 per cent mark, compared with 12.2 per cent in 2008.
The Bloc campaigned hard in the last week of the election to rally its sovereigntist supporters, hoping to forestall a drubbing at the hands of the NDP.
The NDP’s growth is attributed to two main factors — a leader popular with Quebecers and a pugnacious deputy leader who has worked tirelessly to turn the party from a curiosity to a viable option.
Mulcair, a former provincial cabinet minister, delivered a surprising blow to the Liberals in 2007 when he grabbed their longtime fortress of Outremont in a byelection.
That was to become a beachhead. Mulcair seemingly never turns down a media appearance, and that visibility has paid dividends. The party was polling in the low 20s going into the election.
But force of character alone cannot explain the scale of the NDP’s sudden surge.
Under Mulcair’s tutelage, the party crafted Quebec friendly policies, such as expanding the province’s language laws to federally regulated institutions.
The party has also mused about creating “winning conditions” that would allow the province to finally sign the Constitution.