Major political players fall like bowling pins
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff pauses as he addresses supporters on Monday, May 2, 2011 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 8:26AM EDT
OTTAWA - Giant political names tumbled to their defeat, one after another, on a night that saw four cabinet ministers and some of the country's most prominent politicians cascading like dominoes to their electoral demise.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe both lost their seats -- shocking defeats that appeared unlikely entering election night, and unfathomable only a few days ago.
They fell victim to the NDP tide that swept the Bloquistes out of Quebec, and split votes in Ontario that allowed Conservatives to gobble up seats in Canada's most populous province.
Duceppe instantly announced his resignation. He ended his concession speech, however, by predicting eventual victory in the greater quest for Quebec independence.
"I am leaving," Duceppe said. "But others will follow -- until Quebec becomes independent."
Only a few weeks ago Duceppe was poised to win a crushing majority in Quebec. And in a triumphant appearance at a party convention of the provincial Parti Quebecois, he promised to lead a renewed push for independence within several years.
Ignatieff's personal prospects remained murkier.
He suggested he might be willing to stay on if the Liberal party wants him to -- which, given the party's lamentable score and his failure to win a seat, appears far from certain.
Against all odds, one party leader succeeded where the Liberal and Bloc bosses failed: Elizabeth May.
May became the first elected member of Canada's Green party -- toppling Gary Lunn, the Tory minister responsible for the recent Vancouver Olympics.
Equally improbable was the triumph of long-shot NDP candidates in Quebec. That includes Ottawa waitress Ruth Ellen Brosseau, parachuted in as a candidate who not only struggles with French but also spent part of the campaign vacationing in Las Vegas.
Other big names were swept aside: Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon lost to an NDP karate instructor and social scientist in his Quebec riding of Pontiac. Quebec cabinet ministers Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Josee Verner also lost to the NDP.
The Liberals lost more than half their members -- hockey hall of famer Ken Dryden, former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, onetime leadership contender Gerard Kennedy, former immigration minister Joe Volpe and ex-cabinet hopeful Ruby Dhalla. Canada's first astronaut, Marc Garneau, was in a dogfight to retain his Montreal seat.
And Helena Guergis, the Tory cabinet minister turfed from the party by the prime minister, lost her Ontario riding to a Conservative newcomer.
The NDP gains new heavyweights in Quebec: Francoise Boivin, a promising one-time Liberal MP; Alexandre Boulerice, a journalist and union official; Cree leader Romeo Saganash; and longtime diplomat and university professor Helene Laverdiere, who unseated Duceppe.
The Liberals were left with a few MPs in Quebec -- perhaps as few as five -- including Justin Trudeau. The son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau had been expected to face a tough battle in his blue-collar Montreal riding but he triumphed.
The dwindling Conservative seat count in Quebec could signal the return to cabinet of Maxime Bernier, a onetime star who served as foreign affairs minister. He held his seat in the Beauce.
Robert Chisholm, the popular former leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, knocked off promising Liberal backbencher Mike Savage. He is the son of the late John Savage, former Nova Scotia premier. Chisholm is expected to hold a senior role in the expanded Jack Layton caucus.
"(It's) been the greatest privilege of my life," Savage said softly of his time as an MP.
"It was never a privilege I took for granted. It was never a privilege I abused. I can honestly say that in six weeks of knocking on doors, nobody told me that I wasn't a good MP."
A former spokesman for Stephen Harper and one-time head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, John Williamson, picked up what was considered to be a safe Tory seat that had been vacant in New Brunswick Southwest.
Bernard Valcourt, who served in the Mulroney cabinet in the 1980s and later served as leader of the New Brunswick Tories, was returned to Ottawa as the MP for Madawaska-Restigouche.