Conservatives win Majority Government
Canada’s Conservatives stormed to a decisive victory in Monday’s federal election, winning 54 percent of the seats in Parliament and securing a stable four-year term in power after vowing to focus on the economy.
The Conservatives grabbed 167 seats in Canada’s Parliament, well above the 155 they needed to transform their minority government into a majority, according to provisional results. They won about 40 percent of the vote, beating expectations.
The victory, a relief for Canadian financial markets, left support for the separatist Bloc Quebecois in tatters and the party’s leader without a seat. Bloc Quebecois advocates independence for the province of Quebec. The Liberals, who have ruled Canada for more years than any other party, were reduced to a dismal third place showing with their worst ever seat haul.
“What a great night… Canadians can now turn the page on the uncertainties and the repeat elections of the past seven years and focus on building a great future,” Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a victory rally in Calgary, Alberta early on Tuesday morning. “Our plan (is) to create jobs and growth without raising your taxes,” he said to loud cheers. (Reuters)
The market’s nightmare scenario of an unstable minority government headed by the pro-labor New Democratic Party never came to pass. Harper now has free rain to keep corporate taxes low in the nation of more than 34 million people and bring in a string of tax breaks once he balances the budget, projected within four years.
“It’s going to reinforce quite a bit of stability and confidence, and Canada is going to continue to be very attractive for foreign investors,” said Youssef Zohny, portfolio manager at Van Arbor Asset Management in Vancouver. “With a Conservative majority, you’re essentially assured a fairly business-friendly platform, low taxes, continued investment in energy and potential future energy projects. In terms of investment it’s definitely got a bullish bias.” (Reuters)
The Conservatives had held two successive minority governments ahead of Monday. While they led opinion polls from the start of the five-week campaign, it was not clear they would convincingly win Canada’s fourth election in seven years.
But the left-of-center vote split between the New Democrats and the Liberals, the second biggest party in the previous Parliament, and the Conservatives emerged as a surprisingly strong victor with 39.6 percent of the overall vote. Of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, provisional results showed the Conservatives with 167 and the New Democrats with 102. The Liberals were far behind with just 34.
Layton Heads Official Opposition
The NDP produced by far its strongest showing ever, giving genial party leader Jack Layton a role as head of Canada’s official opposition. The party had campaigned on a platform of higher corporate taxes and an end to subsidies for the powerful energy sector although, like the Conservatives and the LIberals, it also said it would balance the budget within years.
Its plans for a cap-and-trade system to rein in greenhouse gas emissions were a negative for energy producers – Canada is the largest exporter of energy to the United States, itself the world’s biggest consumer. “There’s benefit and stability that comes with a majority government. I think that’s going to be good for our industry and for investors,” said David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “The NDP has a different view than us on some of the key policy issues and we’ll have to work with them to see if we can find some common ground.” (Reuters)
Layton Defends Inexperienced Quebec Caucus
NDP Leader Jack Layton defended his youngest, least-experienced caucus members Tuesday morning after Quebec voters elected three McGill University students and a pub manager who doesn’t speak French or live in the Francophone riding she’ll represent.
“I don’t share this notion that a young person is somehow not qualified, and evidently the people who voted for these new MPs in Quebec feel the same way,” Layton said in Toronto just 12 hours after his party saw its best-ever election results. (CBC) The NDP crushed the Bloc Quebecois in the province, taking 58 of 75 seats. But the orange wave of popularity that decimated the other parties in the province swept several newbies to the House of Commons, including three students, a karate instructor and the pub manager.
Layton promised all the new MPs will work as hard as those with more experience. “First of all, we also have a lot of experienced MPs who are judged by most of the people who watched the Parliament as some of the most effective,” he said. “And we will have a lot of new blood, new energy, new talent… when people vote for change, that’s what they’re hoping happens… Young people got involved in this election in an unprecedented way… We should see that as something to celebrate, not something to criticize.” (CBC)
Harper ‘Disappointed’ By Fewer Quebec Seats
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday he is disappointed that his majority government does not have a larger foothold in Quebec.
Harper said he would build his cabinet from the six Quebec MPs who won on Monday. “We did win a number of seats for experienced MPs who will have a significant place within our government,” Harper said. “I would have hoped for more, but we do have significant representation there, and we will certainly be listening to what the people of Quebec say over the next four years.” (CBC)
He also said it was good to see the “shift to federalism” and how the Bloc Quebecois were reduced to four seats. “Despite the fact that we did not make any gains, of course, as a Canadian and a federalist, I’m encouraged by the collapse of the Bloc,” he said. Harper said on Monday night that the majority government would “turn the page on the uncertainties and repeat elections of the past seven years.” (CBC)
Liberals Suffer a Huge Loss in Seats, Ignatieff Steps Down as Party Leader
“We have seen tonight, I think, the emergence of a polarization in Canadian politics,” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said in a sad address to the party faithful. “We have a government that will pretend to govern from the center and there’s a risk it will move the country to the right. We will have an official opposition that will criticize from the center but possibly move the country to the left.” He added: “It’s tough to lose like this.” (Reuters)
Not only did Ignatieff lead the party to its worst showing in its history, but he also lost his Toronto-area seat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Ignatieff told a news conference that he will “not remain leader of party” and “will arrange succession in due time.” (CBC) Ignatieff said he’s asked Liberal Ralph Goodale to call a caucus meeting next Wednesday in Ottawa.
Despite his party’s disastrous showing, Ignatieff said he believes the party can return as a political force. During the news conference, Ignatieff said Canada needs a party of the political centre. He downplayed talk of a merger with the NDP. The NDP and the Liberals hold different traditions, and that, Ignatieff said, will make it difficult for the two parties to merge. “People ask whether the Liberal Party has a future,” he said. “I think the surest guarantee of the future for the Liberal Party of Canada is four years of Conservative government and four years of NDP opposition.” (CBC)
He said he found it difficult to recover from the negative advertising the Conservatives rolled out against him prior to the election campaign. “Of course they attacked me, of course they vilified me,” Ignatieff said. “Of course they engaged in an absolutely unscrupulous campaign of personal attack. But look, the only thing Canadians like less than a loser is a sore loser, and I go out of politics with my head held high. When Canadians met me, they thought, ‘Hey, he is not so bad.’ But I didn’t meet enough Canadians.” (CBC)
Voter Turnout Inches Up to 61.4%
Canada’s voter turnout rate inched up to 61.4 per cent, according to Election Canada’s preliminary estimates. There were 14.7 million Canadians who elected a Conservative majority government on Monday night, pushing the preliminary voter turnout to 61.4 per cent up from 59.1 per cent in 2008.
Prince Edward Island had the highest voter turnout in the country as 74 per cent of registered voters cast ballots. Meanwhile, only 48.5 per cent of Nunavut voters marked ballots in the election..
Canada’s two largest provinces also saw their voter turnout rates rise from 2008 levels. In Ontario, 62.2 per cent of registered voters showed up to vote in Monday’s election. The Conservatives saw their hold on the province increase as the party won 77 of 106 seats. In 2008, the province’s voter turnout level was 59.1 per cent. Meanwhile, in Quebec, which saw the NDP win 58 of 75 seats, the preliminary voter turnout levels is 62.2 per cent. Quebec’s voter turnout rate was up from the 61.1 per cent in 2008.
All the figures were based on reports from 71,486 of 71,513 polls across Canada. The total number of registered electors did not, however, include anyone who only registered on election day itself.
The highest voter turnout in Canadian electoral history occurred in 1958 when 79.4 per cent of registered voters took part in the election that saw John Diefenbaker return to power with a majority government.