In a long night riddled with clichés, local MP Marc Garneau managed to snatch victory from the jaws of apparent defeat by slipping past NDP candidate Joanne Corbeil — even after conceding to her in a brief speech at his campaign office.
As the results came in from across the riding and a wave of NDP support swept seat after seat in Quebec, Garneau found himself facing defeat from Corbeil.
The scene at Garneau’s campaign headquarters on Monday night was hardly celebratory as about 40 long-faced spectators and campaign workers watched the election results roll in on a large screen at the back of the room.
“It’s so, so close,” one woman was overheard saying nervously.
The crowded storefront office on Sherbrooke Street was mostly silent as riding after riding was called for the NDP — while Westmount remained too close to call.
There was tepid applause from the crowd when party leader Michael Ignatieff’s photo flashed across the screen, as Ignatieff led the party to its worst-ever showing in a federal election, losing his own seat in the process. Big applause was reserved for results from formerly-held Bloc Québécois ridings. After dominating Quebec politics since 1993, the Bloc was reduced to four seats in the province, with leader Gilles Duceppe losing his own riding to the NDP. The news that Duceppe was resigning also got big cheers from the crowd.
Corbeil declared elected
By 11:30 p.m., with most ridings in the province decided, Westmount remained a neck-and-neck race between Garneau and Corbeil. Just after midnight, Corbeil was declared the winner, despite the fact that several local polls had yet to report.
Garneau entered the room shortly thereafter, followed by his family. Facing the prospect of his second defeat in federal politics — he failed to recapture Vaudreuil-Soulanges from the Bloc in 2006 — Garneau took the time to work the room, hugging and shaking hands with his campaign workers.
Many supporters were in tears.
“I think the Liberal party had a great platform, and we presented it to Canadians,” said Garneau as he expressed pride in his party’s campaign, and offered congratulations to Corbeil. “It was a very clean and a very good campaign, and I congratulate them for having the courage to come forward to represent their parties,” he said of the other local candidates.
“Once in awhile, there are sea changes that occur in a country’s history, and this is one of those moments, when large cataclysmic tectonic shifts occur in the political landscape. There was one of those this evening, we saw it, and the Canadian people made their decision — and we respect that decision,” Garneau said.
Asked if he had advice for the apparently victorious Corbeil, Garneau said, “I wish her success, and she will no doubt in the days to come learn the ropes in being a Member of Parliament for Westmount-Ville Marie.”
But Garneau spoke too soon.
At 1:45 a.m., it was announced the final tally for Westmount-Ville Marie was still too close to call. At 2:15, Garneau was declared the riding’s winner by a mere 658 votes.
According to the final numbers posted by Elections Canada, Garneau received 15,361 votes (37.2 percent of the vote) while Corbeil finished with 14,703 (35.6 percent). Conservative candidate Neil Drabkin finished a distant third with 7,216 votes (17.5 percent).
Bloc Québécois candidate Veronique Roy received 2,290 votes; Green Party candidate Andrew Carkner received 1,516 votes; Rhinoceros Party candidate Victoria Haliburton received 148 votes, and Communist Party of Canada candidate Bill Sloan received 81 votes.
Of the riding’s 77,084 registered voters, only 41,315 cast a ballot — a voter turnout of 53.6 percent.
Although Garneau managed to hang onto his seat, many of his Liberal colleagues were not so lucky. Heavyweights such as NDG-Lachine’s Marlene Jennings and Honoré-Mercier’s Pablo Rodriguez all saw their ridings turn orange. Only seven Quebec Liberals held onto their seats, among them former Leader Stephane Dion, who handily captured his riding in St-Laurent-Cartierville.
Ignatieff resigned as party leader, effective Tuesday, May 3, leaving the party’s future uncertain. On Monday night, Garneau was asked if he would consider a leadership bid. “It is not something that is in my thinking at the moment,” he replied, but he admitted there is much work ahead for the Liberals. “In the history of my party, there have been highs and lows, and we must rebuild.”
— Additional reporting by Maria Flores