Quebec has its first federalist government in nine years after Jean Charest's Liberals swept to power in yesterday's provincial election.
Campaigning on promises to fix an ailing health-care system and set aside constitutional squabbles, the Liberals delivered a crushing blow to Quebec sovereigntists' hopes of holding a third referendum in the coming years.
For Mr. Charest, 44, it was mission accomplished, if somewhat belatedly. He will lead a majority government five years after arriving from federal politics as the one anointed to defeat the PQ, at that time led by Lucien Bouchard.
Mr. Charest, who was re-elected in Sherbrooke, used his victory speech to advise Canadians outside Quebec that a Liberal government will not be a pushover in federal-provincial relations.
"Our first mission will always be to defend Quebec's interests in Canada," he said. "The federal government now has a counterpart whose leadership will contribute to improve the Canadian federation. I say to my counterparts that we must resolve, in a spirit of co-operation, common issues such as the fiscal imbalance. Leadership makes a difference, and Quebec's leadership will make Canada a stronger place."