Canada ruling Liberals suffer setback in special election loss

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s ruling Liberals suffered a setback on Monday when they lost a parliamentary seat in the province of Quebec, where party officials say they need to pick up support to bolster their chances of retaining power in 2019.

Provisional results showed the official opposition Conservatives easily won a special election in the constituency of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, which the Liberals narrowly captured in the 2015 election that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power.

The sitting Liberal legislator quit last December for personal reasons, triggering the vote.

The Liberals, who currently hold 40 of Quebec’s 78 seats, privately say they need to win an additional 12 in the mainly French-speaking province to offset expected losses elsewhere and maintain their majority in the House of Commons in a federal election in October 2019.

Recent nationwide opinion polls show the Liberals only narrowly ahead of the Conservatives, suggesting Trudeau would lose his majority if an election were held now. That would leave him dependent on opposition lawmakers to govern, weakening his position.

Chicoutimi-Le Fjord was held for many years by the separatist Bloc Quebecois party, which is now in a state of near collapse. Liberal insiders said they suspected Bloc voters had switched to the Conservatives, who ran a popular local hockey coach as their candidate.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Cooney