Quebec Premier François Legault on Tuesday defended comments he made leading up to the election encouraging voters to support Erin O'Toole's Conservatives, saying that while they didn't win, the majority of Quebecers did vote "blue."
In his calculation, Legault lumped together victories for both the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives.
On Sept. 9, Legault met with reporters and said the federal Liberal, NDP and Green parties were "dangerous" for the interests of Quebec nationalists.
Legault said Quebec wanted more — not less — autonomy and he accused the three parties of trying to meddle in health-care matters, which fall within provincial jurisdiction.
"I intervened, and I don't regret it, to defend the autonomy of Quebec and the majority of people voted blue," said Legault during a scrum Tuesday afternoon.
Despite Legault's tacit endorsement of the Conservatives, that party failed to increase its footprint in Quebec and settled for the same number of seats it won in 2019.
In fact, the distribution of Quebec's 78 seats was barely altered.
After winning 35 Quebec ridings in the previous federal election, the Liberals have lost some ground in the province and are on track to grab 33 seats this time.
As the dust settled following the election, many commentators criticized Legault, saying his effort to steer Quebecers failed.
Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, leader of the Parti Québécois, said Legault's support for a Conservative minority government was a "double-or-nothing" bet that backfired and will hurt Quebec's quest for more autonomy.
For his part, Legault said he understands that many voters felt they had more issues to consider when making their choice than just that of Quebec autonomy, however he said he still believes that most people in the province feel Quebec should have more power over its own affairs, not less.
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Legault told reporters that he spoke with Justin Trudeau on Tuesday and said the two were willing to work together on behalf of Quebecers.
He also said he has asked his ministers to reach out to their federal counterparts as soon as Trudeau names his cabinet.
While some opposition politicians argue that Legault has weakened his relationship with Ottawa by his comments, Legault said that ultimately little had changed.
"There's nothing new. [Trudeau] knows that I hate the conditions that he wants to put, for example, in our CHSLDs. He knows very well that I want him to respect Quebec jurisdiction. So there is nothing new and nothing that was not said before."
Legault emphasized, however, that Trudeau's Liberals failed to make significant inroads in Quebec and suggested this was a stumbling block that kept them from winning a majority.
"In order to get a majority government, you need more support from Quebec. And what we saw last night was the blue vote represented the majority."
WATCH | François Legault says he stands by his criticism of the federal Liberals:
Speaking from Liberal headquarters late Monday night, Pablo Rodriguez, a Liberal MP for the Honoré-Mercier riding in Montreal's east end, told Radio-Canada he was "surprised" and "disappointed" with Legault's comments during the campaign.
"We've delivered [for Quebec] more than any other government," Rodriguez said, citing the recent $6-billion pledge for the province's daycare system as an example, as well as an agreement to create more affordable housing.
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'A reality check' for Legault
On a night where the federal electoral map barely changed, leaders of the province's opposition parties all said the night's biggest loser was Legault.
Dominique Anglade, the leader of the Official Opposition Liberals, said the relationship between Quebec and Ottawa has changed because Legault decided "to tell people how to vote."
"We will have to rebuild bridges with the federal [government]," Anglade said.
According to Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a co-spokesperson for Québec Solidaire, Monday's election results represented a "a reality check" for the premier.
"He chose the Conservative Party of Canada. A good proportion of Quebecers yesterday chose something else," Nadeau-Dubois said during a meeting with reporters at Quebec's National Assembly.