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Newsmaker: A look at François Legault, the re-elected premier of Quebec

Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault calls on CAQ supporters to vote during a news conference held at the Vanier-Les Rivières riding office on provincial election day, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022 in Quebec City. He is flanked by local candidates Christiane Gamache, left, and Sylvain Lévesque, right. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Karoline Boucher

QUEBEC — A former airline executive and Parti Québécois cabinet minister who came to power promising to move Quebec past the sovereignty debate has won a second term as provincial premier.

François Legault and his Coalition Avenir Québec cruised to a majority government Monday, with the outcome clear less than half an hour after polls closed.

Legault, 65, campaigned on a promise of continuity — casting himself as a defender of the French language, highlighting the province's strong economic performance in recent years and promising to put money back in Quebecers' pockets. 

His party took power in 2018, becoming the first party other than the PQ or the Quebec Liberals to govern the province in more than 50 years.

Born in the Montreal suburb of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Legault worked as an accountant before co-founding Air Transat in 1986. He would stay at the company until 1997, entering politics the next year as a member of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois.

Appointed industry minister by then-premier Lucien Bouchard two months before the 1998 election, Legault would later go on to hold the key education and health portfolios.

He retired from politics in 2009, less than six months after being re-elected, but two years later he was back, heading a party he co-founded, the Coalition Avenir Québec.

The CAQ sought to bring together former Liberal and PQ supporters with a focus on building the province's economy and public services — while promising not to hold a referendum on sovereignty.

In a Facebook message to voters on the eve of the vote, Legault talked of his "passion" for Quebec and concern for "the future of our nation, of our language, of our culture and of our shared values." His party, he said, is the only one that can bring together Quebec nationalists.

"It's important to have a nationalist government in Quebec City," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press