The Bill 63 showed that questions of language and education issues divided Quebec. On the economic issues many nationalists expected even fewer concessions.
In such circumstances, everyone was aware that 1970 would be a decisive year. The election of 29 April 1970 was the first significant test of the mood of the Quebecois. Rene Levesque predicted 25 per cent vote for sovereignty. The Trudeau formula of bilingualism, French in Ottawa, greater economic opportunities for Quebec, but all in a context of federalism was however even more popular. The English minority, which reflected the pan-Canadian view, was almost invisible.
In 1968, a Gallup poll found 11 per cent of those who believed that Quebec would separate from Canada. In 1969, the same question about the break-up of Confederation brought 47% of those who thought that a break-up would occur.
The Union Nationale government was thoroughly discredited as result of the Bill63 fiasco. The Liberal Party, led by Robert Bourassa, had come through. Many in English Canada and in federalist circles feared that the highly charismatic Levesque could win.
What nationalists referred to at the time as a propaganda campaign of economic terrorism started. Federalist sources in Ottawa claimed that Quebec would experience an overnight drop in their standard of living of 35 per cent if Levesque and the Parti Quebecois were elected. Plants would shut down, unemployment would spiral, savings and investments would be put at risk. Investors would panic. Worse, there would be a massive flight of capital out of Quebec.
On Sunday 27 April two days before the election, Brink Brinks armoured trucks pulled up to the front door of the Royal Trust building on Dorchester Boulevard in Montreal (today Levesque Boulevard). This itself was unusual: it was Sunday and Brinks typically uses the garage entrance for its operations for obvious security reasons. Despite the early morning hour, photographers from Montreal Gazette were on hand to get some pictures.
The trucks were loaded with boxes of “fleeing capital and drove towards Ontario. Their rout conveniently took them pas waiting television camera crews. Thus the tangible evidence of a flight of capital was duly recorded. And broadcast and rebroadcast for the next two days.
On the day of the election, the PQ won 24 percent of the vote but took only 7 of 108 seats in the National Assembly. The UN won 18 seats with 20 per cent. The Liberals took 72 seats with 44 per cent. The results were comfortable for the federalism, but a close analysis was deeply disquieting for the federalist victors.
In fact, about one French-speaking Quebecois in three had voted for the PQ. PQ did best among the groups that owned the future: the young, the educated, the cultural workers. The conservative nationalists of the UN won 20 per cent of the vote and even those who voted for the LP, supported the French issues. The political message was clear.
For all the reasons the PQ election-night rally had all the characteristics of a victory party. Rene Levesque made a statement: This is a defeat which feels like a victory! A PQ victory appeared as close as the next election if the Quiet Revolution continued to unfold as it had since 1960.
For the first time since 1838 a sovereign future for Quebec seemed a real possibility. But then came October Crisis. The events of October were to result in a brief but painful delay.