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Dominique Anglade becomes first woman to lead Quebec Liberals after rival quits


MONTREAL — The Quebec Liberals have named the first woman to lead the party in its 150-year history.

Dominique Anglade, a former Liberal cabinet minister who represents a Montreal riding, was acclaimed leader Monday after her only rival dropped out of the race earlier in the day. Anglade, 46, an engineer who was born in Montreal to Haitian parents, also becomes the party's first visible minority leader.

She immediately takes on the role and officially succeeds former premier Philippe Couillard, who resigned following the 2018 provincial election.

"I am proud to become the first female leader of a party that has always been at the forefront of economic and social progress," Anglade said in a statement.

"Now is the time to dare to build a Quebec that is proud of its roots, is inclusive and modern. The work begins now and it is together, dear members, that we will build tomorrow."

The Liberals are Quebec's official Opposition party, with 28 of the legislature's 125 seats. Their leadership race came to an abrupt end Monday morning when Alexandre Cusson, the former mayor of Drummondville, Que., announced that the contest was draining his finances.

He said on Facebook that he resigned as mayor to run for the Liberal leadership, but the race has been suspended indefinitely since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and he has been left without a source of income.

"Having left my duties and by renouncing all remuneration to participate in this race, not being independently wealthy and — like the great majority of Quebecers — having to earn my living, this delay is not possible," Cusson said.

"Faced with this dilemma, I had to make a heartbreaking choice. I therefore announce that I will no longer be in the running for the leadership ... when the party relaunches the race."

Anglade drew support from many current and former Liberals as well as from the province's business community, but she has faced criticism from within the party for being too Montreal-centric.

Cusson, with his connections outside the big cities, was considered the candidate better able to attract voters outside the Liberals' Montreal power base.

Within days of entering the race, Anglade was hit with a whisper campaign suggesting her ethnic background and connection to Montreal would hurt her chances of becoming premier.

Anglade told The Canadian Press in an interview last December that the anonymous Liberal insiders who criticized her "underestimate Quebecers."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2020.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press