The Parti Québécois lost Quebec’s election on April 7 – and it deserved to. A year and a half into its term, having passed a law setting a four-year fixed-term electoral cycle (see box), the minority PQ government dissolved the National Assembly. Facing an untested new Liberal leader and buoyed by polls in its favour, the party convinced itself that a majority was in sight.
As a minority government it proved competent, in part because it could not get the more extreme parts of its program, on further English-language restrictions and on the undiluted Charter of Values, through the National Assembly. In calling the election, however, the PQ mistakenly interpreted its popularity as a moderate minority government as an endorsement for moving forward on these policies and, just possibly, for putting a referendum on sovereignty back on the agenda. Trying to win a mandate as a majority government that would act on these matters simply played into the hands of the Liberals, whose new leader, Philippe Couillard, proved able to take advantage of the opportunity handed to him.