The doctor is in.
Philippe Couillard, a former neurosurgeon, led his Liberal troops to a majority win in the Quebec election Monday night, 18 months after the party was turfed out of power under Jean Charest.
The red Liberal tide flowed early across Quebec’s electoral map, sweeping over the incumbent Parti Quebecois, which had been battered by questions about its plans for a third sovereignty referendum that most Quebecers flatly said they didn’t want.
The Liberals had between 40 and 45 per cent of the popular vote, compared with less than 30 per cent for the PQ.
The Coalition for Quebec’s Future, which had rebounded in support in recent days, came in a distant third.
While no pundit would be foolish enough to declare sovereignty dead, the option has likely been put to sleep for a while. Some observers have suggested it could be years, if not decades, before it is revived.
Couillard, who was a popular health minister under Charest until 2008, stoked the fears of a referendum after star PQ candidate Pierre Karl Peladeau entered the election and declared he wanted to build an independent Quebec.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois mused what a sovereign Quebec would be like for days after that, something that allowed her party to be knocked off its message to the point where it never really recovered.
Monday’s results in Quebec no doubt prompted a sigh of relief in Ottawa as well.
With the PQ out, it means Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t have to worry about a national unity crisis as he heads toward the 2015 election.
It will also not preoccupy Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, who draws most of his New Democratic Party caucus from the province, some of whom expressed sovereigntist sympathies at one time or another.