TROIS RIVIERES, Que. — Despite a few years of absence from the political scene, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe didn't feel like a rookie on Aug. 2 when the marathon 78-day election campaign kicked off.
Instead, the seasoned politician felt like a veteran coming out of retirement after hanging up his skates, still convinced he was at the top of his game.
"I felt like Jacques Plante, who retired before coming back in nets for the 1968-69 season with the St. Louis Blues (for which he won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL's best goaltender)," Duceppe said Sunday in Trois-Rivieres.
The sports-loving Bloc leader used the metaphor during a last official media availability Sunday, where he looked serene on the eve of voting day.
The 68-year-old Duceppe interrupted his political retirement to retake the reins of the struggling Bloc Quebecois at the request of then-leader Mario Beaulieu back in June.
Duceppe said his main battle since his comeback was not to save his political career, but rather to fight toward making Quebec a country.
"I'm leading a fight for Quebec to have people to defend our rights and values in Ottawa," he said to a crowd of about 150 people.
Duceppe, who cherishes the hope of holding the balance of power in a minority government, urged his supporters to make one last push to win over undecided voters and to get the vote out.
There is optimism in the party's inner circle, where there are whispers that the party's nearly 30 per cent support among francophones could send up to 20 MPs to the House of Commons.
The Bloc was left with only two MPs when Parliament was dissolved. Yet despite this feeble representation, Duceppe didn't want to say whether this campaign had been his toughest yet.
While it is far from certain Duceppe will be able to retake his own Montreal riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie from the NDP candidate who defeated him in 2011, Duceppe seemed confident on the eve of the vote.
"We must always respect democracy, but I have confidence we'll win," he said.
The longest campaign in Canada's history was also the first one that Duceppe's wife, Yolande, spent entirely at his side.
This was not a campaign strategy, Duceppe said.
"Yolande is there as a party member," Duceppe said. "In the past, when she was a school principal or teacher, she came to meet me on weekends."
Duceppe also opined that Quebec premier Philippe Couillard was deluding himself about the possibility of one day being able to sign the Constitution.
Couillard has mentioned such a scenario in the past, as long as the seven conditions of the Meech Lake Accord are met.
"Firstly, we've gone beyond the demands of Meech, and secondly, it didn't happen," Duceppe said. "Couillard should ask for what he wants and commit to holding a referendum on the question."
Duceppe's campaign was set to finish in Montreal after stops in Trois-Riveres, Sherbrooke and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu over the weekend.
Julien Arsenault, The Canadian Press