A fragile Liberal minority, with the Premier losing his seat. The separatists relegated to third and the Quebec dynamic under seismic change. At first blush, not necessarily a bad scenario for the Canadian federation.
Generally, when the reigning Liberal party loses the confidence of the people, we engage in another round of divisive debate as the PQ takes the helm. In a way the federation has dodged a bullet in this instance. Charest has failed, Quebecers have rejected the Liberals, despite the seat totals. The pandering and political manipulation has backfired, but the beneficiary isn't the separatist cause. Instead, the ADQ is the official opposition, the Liberals will have a new leader and the cycle is broken. There is no "knife at our throat", instead we now have a PQ in philosophical disarray.
I'm not a Quebecer, so my opinion isn't informed, but I take these results to mean a few things. Quebecers, despite their disdain for Charest, don't want a referendum, and are tired of the old debates. The ADQ vote is protest in nature, and reflects a desire for change. Conservatism has found a strong voice in Quebec politics, which may actually benefit Harper after all.
What does this mean for Canada? Conventional wisdom assumed a Charest majority was the best outcome, but I would suggest tonight's results are better in the long term. The Liberals can re-tool while still in power, a unique circumstance. Dumont is an unknown, but has no appetite for referendums and division. Hardline sovereigntists have never been weaker in terms of political power. The Bloc is weakened by extension, and will now have to argue relevance.
The downside, these results may help Harper. Dumont has spoken highly of Harper in the past, and the ADQ approach is analogous to the federal Conservatives. Harper did everything in his power to help Charest, but ultimately tonight's results might still present a favorable climate in the next election. I have no idea where this leaves the Liberals, a lot will depend on Dion's election performance and how he reacts to the new landscape.
All in all, I can think of worse scenarios.