QUEBEC — Coalition for Quebec’s Future captured the riding of Louis-Hebert in a provincial byelection on Monday, wresting away what was once considered a safe Liberal seat and a Quebec City-area stronghold for the governing party since 2003.
Former provincial coroner’s office spokeswoman Genevieve Guilbault cruised to victory in the riding for the third-place Coalition party, grabbing just over 51 percent of vote — a more than 7,400 vote majority.
Guilbault, 34, is a former Liberal political attache who became a known face to Quebecers as she appeared daily on television during tragedies like the Lac-Megantic rail disaster in 2013 and L’Isle Verte seniors’ home fire in 2014.
The newest member of the provincial legislature is also 27 weeks pregnant.
The byelection was considered an important test for the governing Liberals in a riding they’d held for 14 years with comfortable majorities, especially with the next provincial election around the corner in 2018.
Experts weighed in that with the parties mired in minority territory in the polls, the byelection was a chance for the leaders to gauge their support.
Voters in the riding were forced to the polls after the seat was left vacant following the departure of longtime Liberal Sam Hamad in April.
Ex-Hamad political attache Ihssane El Ghernati finished in second place for the Liberals with 18 per cent of the vote and Parti Quebecois candidate Norman Beauregard ended just behind in third spot with 16 per cent.
The campaign was chaotic from the outset, with both the Liberal and Coalition original candidates dropping out within hours of each other over allegations of psychological harassment dating back to their former jobs.
The result leaves the governing Liberals with 68 of the 125 seats in the legislature, compared with 28 for the PQ, 21 for the Coalition, and three for Quebec solidaire. There are five Independent members.
The byelection was a record 15th in Quebec since the last provincial election in April 2014 — the highest number during a mandate in more than 30 years.