The neighboring Canadian election attracted little in the way of American media attention during its short campaign cycle, — in fact much less than the 2010 British vote. But when the votes were counted Monday night, the ruling Conservative Party had scored an impressive victory. The final tally also handed the once dominant Liberal Party its worst defeat in modern history.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party attained the majority government they had sought while campaigning across Canada for the past month. Harper’s party won a total of 167 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, 12 more than the 155 needed to secure majority status. The Conservative Party has now bested the opposition in three consecutive elections since 2006, but yesterday’s vote gave Harper his first outright Parliamentary majority. The victory brought the party full circle from its disastrous 1993 defeat under then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell who nearly drove the Progressive Conservative Party, as it was then known, to extinction, as they lost all but two seats.
For the first time in Canadian history, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), led by career politician Jack Layton, will be the official opposition to Harper’s government. The NDP managed to capture 102 seats in yesterday’s election, an all-time high for this particular party. The new opposition owes much of its electoral success to the collapse of Liberal Party support and the effervescent performance of leader Layton in the nationally televised pre-election debates. The Layton phenomenon was similar to that of Britain’s Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg during the 2010 elections in the United Kingdom. Clegg, like Layton in Canada, captured the electorate’s attention, but the Canadian was actually able to transform his political juggernaut into seats in Parliament. Despite finishing a close third in the British national popular vote, Clegg’s Liberal Democrats won only 57 of 650 seats.
The NDP now supplants the Liberal Party, which has either been the governing entity or official opposition since Canada’s confederation in 1867. Michael Ignatieff, the former Harvard professor-turned Liberal Party leader, led the Liberals to their worst defeat ever losing 43 seats, including his own Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding in Toronto. The Liberal Party now holds just 34 seats in the House, having been decimated in the party’s stronghold, the Province of Ontario. Ignatieff struck a defiant and slightly bitter tone in the hours after his defeat and originally did not rule out remaining as the Liberal leader even though many party regulars demanded his ouster. However, later in the day he finally did resign and said he was leaving Canadian politics with his head held high.
The Bloc Quebecois was almost a non-factor in yesterday’s election, losing all but four of the 47 seats they held in the last Parliament. The 43 seat decline matches the size of the Liberal Party’s demise. Gilles Duceppe, resigned as the Bloc’s leader immediately after the result became clear including the loss of his own Laurier-Sainte Marie riding, previously a Bloc stronghold.
The Green Party won its first and only seat in the Canada’s House of Commons yesterday as Elizabeth May was victorious in the British Columbia riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Mr. Harper will now be asked by the Governor General to form a new government with a Conservative majority. He already has five years of experience as Canada’s Prime Minister, but with fairly weak center-left opposition. It will be interesting to see how the House responds to an energetic but more radically liberal opposition as his foil, and how relations change with the Obama Administration in the U.S.
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