On a historic night, celebrants at a party for the Coalition Avenir Québec cheered loudly when their leader was announced as new premier of the province. A prolonged ovation followed just ten minutes later, when the party’s majority government status was added to the merriment.
Along the waterfront in Lachine, attendees at the party had gathered inside the Club Chasse et Peche to watch the results as polls closed. Gathered in the large, brightly lit reception room were six candidates from the CAQ, campaign volunteers, and invited guests. The event was hosted by CAQ de l’ouest de Montréal, and the mood had already been one of upbeat optimism as the evening got underway at 8 p.m. Candidates mingled, beer and soft drinks were flowing, guests were glued to the large-screen television on one wall, and cheerful conversation buzzed in the air. A chef cooked Belgian waffles on a cart just outside the door, and the scent wafted into the room as guests enjoyed the delicacy,
Nathalie Dansereau, CAQ candidate for N.D.G., watched the televised returns with profound interest. As the results announcing the majority government flashed across the screen, she jumped up from her seat and ran over to where the crowd was celebrating. There were group hugs throughout, and cheering laughter drowned out the broadcaster.
Dansereau returned to the table, her cheeks flushed, her smile wide, apologizing for leaving the conversation.
“I don’t know who won in my riding,” she said, “but I don’t care.”
She quickly corrected herself.
“I mean, I do care, but it doesn’t really matter because we are a team and tonight the people gave us a chance to prove ourselves.”
Dansereau reflected on the results, shaking her head as reality began to sink in.
“We have a majority, and that means we have the time to implement what we really want to do, without looking behind us for another election. And we made history!”
She put her face in her hands, breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and looked up at the ceiling.
“Oh wow,” she said softly.
It was important for her to watch results from specific ridings.
“We know we will win more seats outside of Montreal,” she explained, “but it’s really important for Montreal to show us confidence too. Montreal is very unique and usually sticks together.”
In fact, two Montreal districts, Pointe-aux-Trembles and Bourget, elected CAQ. This, according to Mohammed Sherbaz, was key.
“We made a stand to say it’s time for us to be heard,” said Sherbaz, Director of Communications for the CAQ in D’Arcy McGee. “We’ve opened the doors.”
Sherbaz was on his way to other celebration events, but had begun his evening with this gathering. He greeted and congratulated campaign workers, candidates, and attendees, and was in high demand as an executive with the party.
“Everyone here is a big part of this win,” he said, “even if they didn’t get elected in their riding.”
As Dansereau mingled with fellow candidates, party-goers were eager to share their joy.
“For the first time, a referendum [on separation] was not the topic,” said Louis-Philippe Boulanger, former candidate and current volunteer. “It was about a desire for change.”
When asked about how he felt going into election night, he grinned.
“I was not optimistic,” he admitted. “Even in my wildest predictions, I didn’t think a majority would happen. And now, we have the chance to talk about ideas.”
A large cheer interrupted Boulanger; the announcer on television had just declared that Jean-François Lisée, leader of the Parti Québecois, had lost his race. Boos then rose as Liberal Gaetan Barrette was announced as the winner of his.
Boulanger, however, was not deterred. He continued to smile, looking around at the celebration, taking it all in.
“We can finally express the vision of the party and work to make it happen.” He raised his cup in a toast. “I will definitely not be sleeping tonight,” he declared.
Bernard Blancher, Director of Operations for the CAQ de l’ouest de Montréal, asked for attention from the crowd. He thanked everyone for coming, acknowledged the work of the volunteers, and introduced the six candidates whom he had assembled beside him. Though none of them had won their races, they all smiled happily as they addressed the crowd.
As each spoke in turn, they acknowledged togetherness and collaboration. Teamwork was a word repeated frequently.
Dansereau circulated, talking with new friends, volunteers who had helped her campaign, and other candidates.
In the end, she had not won her riding; incumbent Kathleen Weil had retained her seat in the now-official opposition party, but Dansereau was still positive.
“I’m just so happy,” Dansereau smiled. “I will stay on, and help the party in whatever ways I can. And who knows? Maybe I will run again in four years.”