Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik April 08, 2014 - 6:48 am

Liberals capture Nunavik as they sweep to victory in April 7 Quebec election

Kuujjuaq resident Jean Boucher wins in Ungava, first Liberal victory in riding's history

SARAH ROGERS
Liberal Jean Boucher won in Ungava with 43 per cent of voter support. (FILE PHOTO)
Liberal Jean Boucher won in Ungava with 43 per cent of voter support. (FILE PHOTO)

Quebecers sent a clear message to the province’s outgoing Parti Québécois government April 7 by electing a new Liberal majority government.

And, in one of many election night upsets, the riding of Ungava, which includes Nunavik, went to Liberal Jean Boucher.

The riding has been a PQ stronghold since 1981; its current PQ MNA, Luc Ferland, has held the riding since 2007.

But Boucher, who has called Kuujjuaq home since 2007, won Ungava easily with 43 per cent of the vote over Ferland’s 33 per cent.

The Coalition Avenir Québec, which ran Salluit candidate Michael Cameron, finished in third place in Ungava with 16 per cent.

Voter turnout was up in Ungava to 41 per cent from the 2012 provincial election, when only 31 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

In his first campaign as leader, Liberal leader Philippe Couillard led his party to victory, winning 70 seats in Quebec’s National Assembly, just 18 months after the PQ formed a minority government in September 2012.

PQ leader and outgoing Quebec premier Pauline Marois lost her seat in the process, while her party fell from 54 to 30 seats.

The Coalition Avenir Québec ended the night with 22 seats — up four from 2012 — while Québec Solidaire gained one seat for a total of three.

The PQ started the campaign strong, with hopes of growing their minority government into a majority.

But while early campaign polls were in the PQ’s favour, party support seemed to slip away when talk of a potential third referendum on sovereignty began to emerge.

The PQ’s controversial Charter of Values, which sought to bring “neutrality and reserve” to the public sector, including a ban on the wearing of certain religious symbols by public employees, may have hurt the party even more.

In the final weeks of the campaign, the Quebec Liberals won steady support with promises to bring the debt-ridden province back to economic stability.

Ungava’s new MNA has said he will focus on housing — including an equitable rent scale for Nunavik’s social housing tenants — and a renewed look at development in Quebec’s North.

In a March, interview with Nunatsiaq News, Boucher said the Liberal party plans to re-launch its Plan Nord “to maximize benefits for those who live in the North.”

A lawyer by profession, Boucher started his career with Habitat Métis du Nord, a not-for-profit organization in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region that provides public housing to Aboriginal people living off-reserve.

He came to Nunavik in 2007 to work for the Kativik Regional Government’s legal department.

Soon after Boucher moved to a position as director of client services with the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, where he stayed until his decision to run for the Liberals earlier this year.

CAQ candidate Michael Cameron — the first Inuk candidate to run in a Quebec election — said he’s proud of his third-place finish April 7.

“I’m happy with the result,” Cameron said, adding that, although he didn’t win, he was happy to see a new Liberal government replace the PQ.

“I’m proud of where I am, and I’m hoping it inspires other First Nations and Inuit youth to go into politics, and show them that Aboriginal people can have a say in shaping the future of Quebec.”

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