Dominique Anglade became Monday the first black woman to lead a provincial political party in Quebec after her only opponent in the Liberal leadership race dropped out.
Anglade, a prominent cabinet minister in premier Philippe Couillard's one-term government, is also the first woman to lead the Quebec Liberals in the party's 151-year history.
Her lone rival to replace Couillard, former Drummondville mayor Alexandre Cusson, withdrew his candidacy earlier on Monday, citing the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Considering the current evolution of the pandemic in Quebec, the impact it has on the lives of the population and on the possible resumption of the leadership race, it seems unrealistic and irresponsible to me to picture a resumption of this race in the coming weeks, or even before 2021," Cusson wrote on Facebook.
The PLQ executive committee adopted a resolution shortly afterward, declaring Anglade leader of Official Oposition. Mont-Royal–Outremont MNA Pierre Arcand had been serving as interim leader.
Anglade said on Twitter that she supported Cusson's decision and that she admired his dedication to the party's supporters.
"I'm proud to become the first female leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, a party that has always been at the forefront of economic and social progress," she added later in a statement.
Engineer, consultant and charity work before politics
Anglade, who represents the Montreal riding of Saint-Henri–Sainte-Anne, was the favourite to win the leadership race.
Trained as an industrial engineer, Anglade worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company for many years before entering politics.
In 2010, both her parents died when a powerful earthquake struck during a visit to their hometown of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Later that year, Anglade co-founded the KANPE Foundation, a sustainable development charity that works in Haiti.
She served as minister of economic development, innovation and trade between 2016 and 2018, and then was the Liberal critic for economic and immigration issues.
Within the Liberal party, Anglade is known for advocating a stronger position on religious symbols.
The PLQ has traditionally opposed barring police officers, judges and prison guards from wearing religious symbols while at work.
Anglade, however, has said she is open to those restrictions, although she does not support the secularism law, passed by the Coalition Avenir Québec government last year.
In a release Monday, Anglade said under her leadership, the Liberal will focus on the environment and the economy.
"We will also be a strong opposition who, in this public health crisis, will question the government without respite and will propose solutions in the name of all Quebecers," she said.
Anglade was a founding member of the Coalition Avenir Québec, and ran unsuccessfully for the party in the 2012 election, before eventually defecting to the Liberals.
She left the CAQ, she said, because she disagreed with the party's views on identity and immigration.
Premier François Legault took to Twitter Monday to congratulate his former colleague turned opponent.
"Very excited to debate with you," he wrote.