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Quebec voters turn down independence for a third time

Referendum offers resounding No to separatist Parti Quebecois

Quebec voters gave a resounding No to holding a third referendum on independence from Canada on Monday, handing the main separatist party in the province one of its worst-ever electoral defeats.

The Liberal Party, which supports Canadian unity, won Quebec’s legislative elections while the pro-independence Parti Quebecois (PQ) suffered a crushing defeat.

The results will allow the Liberals to form a majority government, less than 18 months after voters booted the party from power for the first time in nine years amid a corruption scandal.

With almost all ballots counted, the Liberals had 41.5 per cent of the vote and took 70 seats in the 125-member National Assembly. PQ had 25.4 per cent and won 30 seats.

The Coalition for Quebec’s Future, which downplayed the sovereignty issue to focus on the economy, was close behind with 23.1 per cent and 22 seats.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, who had led a minority government, called the snap elections last month in the hope of securing a majority to force through a controversial PQ policy banning public-sector workers from wearing religious garments.

But the campaign stirred-up speculation that a PQ majority would ultimately lead to another referendum on independence from Canada — an idea that has lacked support in recent years.

Fears of a referendum galvanised Liberal supporters.

Ms Marois suffered a humiliating defeat, losing her own seat and announcing that she would step down as party leader.

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