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Charest's Liberals win Quebec by-election

Quebec Liberal candidate Damien Arsenault, left, gets his hand raised in victory by Health Minister Yves Bolduc after winning a by-election in the riding of Bonaventure.

Jacques Boissinot/Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Premier Jean Charest's Liberals won a by-election in Quebec on Monday night, piling even more pressure on Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois.

Liberal candidate Damien Arsenault stormed to victory in Bonaventure with about 50 per cent of the popular vote.

While the PQ was not expected to win a riding that has been Liberal for all but four of the last 55 years, Ms. Marois visited Bonaventure several times during the campaign in the hope of shoring up support for candidate Sylvain Roy.

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The by-election was a test for Mr. Charest but also for Ms. Marois.

The Liberals have been lagging in the polls, while Ms. Marois has been unable to assert herself as leader and has been rocked by a wave of departures from the party this year.

Both the Liberals and the PQ received a break of sorts in the by-election because a newly formed party did not field a candidate.

Opinion polls indicate Coalition Avenir Quebec, which is headed by former PQ cabinet minister Francois Legault, is way ahead of the Liberals and the PQ.

Bonaventure – on the southern Gaspe Peninsula – has been Liberal since 1956, except for a four-year PQ interlude between 1994 and 1998.

The by-election is being held to replace former deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau, who resigned in September.

The Liberals had 64 of the National Assembly's 125 seats coming into the by-election, compared with 45 for the PQ. The Action Démocratique du Québec had four and Québec Solidaire one.

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There were 10 Independents, most of them who quit the PQ earlier this year because they were upset with Ms. Marois's leadership.

The PQ won the riding in 1994 when the party formed the government under Jacques Parizeau.

Ms. Normandeau then grabbed it back for the Liberals with a narrow victory in 1998 before she romped to massive wins in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

The Canadian Press

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