POLITICS
04/07/2014 11:15 EDT | Updated 04/07/2014 11:59 EDT

Justin Trudeau On Quebec Election: Voters Said No To A Third Referendum

Not surprisingly, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is thrilled by the results of the Quebec election.

The province's Liberal leader, Philippe Couillard, scored a massive victory over Pauline Marois and ousted the Parti Quebecois from power on Monday night. Trudeau said in a statement that the votes show Quebecers are focused on the economy and jobs.

“As I have said since last summer, I had the utmost confidence that Quebec voters would reject the negative, divisive politics of Mme. Marois' proposed plan," Trudeau said in the press release.

“Today, Quebecers voted for a better economy, instead of a third referendum, by electing Philippe Couillard as their new Premier."

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also extended his congratulations to Couillard.

"Having sat alongside Mr. Couillard in cabinet, I can attest to his competence and his commitment to Quebec and its institutions," Mulcair said in a statement.

The threat of another referendum on sovereignty, which seemed like a foregone conclusion at the start in the campaign when Marois was leading in the polls, created nervous shivers around Parliament Hill.

Shortly after the campaign began, Harper consulted with the other party leaders, and together they appeared to agree that they should studiously keep out of the election in order to avoid giving Marois any extra anti-Ottawa ammunition.

But some observers say it would be a mistake for the federal parties to let their guard down, and confuse the Parti Quebecois defeat with a fatal blow to the sovereignty movement.

Robert Asselin, associate director of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, said the election was more a rejection of the negativity of the Parti Quebecois' campaign, which used its controversial values charter as a wedge issue.

"There's important work for the federal parties to recaptivate Quebecers in the Canadian federation,'' said Asselin.

"For four elections, Quebecers voted massively for the Bloc (Quebecois). The last time they voted NDP; that was a party that presented itself as sympathetic to Quebec nationalists, so there's a lot of work to be done among the federal parties to convince Quebecers to re-embark with Canada."

The moment might be right, with Couillard in Quebec City, for the feds to consider becoming more actively engaged with the province, said Graham Fox, president of the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy.

That would include a more collaborative approach to Senate reform, once the Supreme Court renders its opinion on how to go about it. Other outreach could include solidifying more administrative agreements on policy issues - working, for instance, on the Champlain Bridge.

"Anyone who is leading a political party in Ottawa would be wise, instead of waiting for the next possibility of a showdown, (to) take this opportunity to be prepared and find more lasting solutions to our constitutional problems,'' said Fox.

- With files from The Canadian Press

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