With majority, Harper pledges to build 'great future'
Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:43AM EDT
Stephen Harper's long quest for a majority mandate is complete, thanks to a historic election that banished the Liberals to the political wilderness, obliterated the Bloc Quebecois and ushered in the NDP as the new Official Opposition.
In a devastating blow, both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe lost their seats in Parliament; defeats that left their supporters unsure of what the future held for their respective parties.
"My friends, it's been a long campaign but now we can turn the page on the uncertainties and repeat elections of the past seven years and focus on building a great future for all of us," Harper told a victory audience in Calgary.
"Canadians have chosen hope, a united Canada, a strong Canada. We must be the government of all Canadians, including those that did not vote for us. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have proposed in us."
Harper's win completes his transformation from a right-wing whiz to a national, mainstream leader, and corresponds with a seismic redrawing of Canada's political landscape, coloured blue and orange.
Equally stunning is the ascent of NDP Leader Jack Layton, who will make history by becoming the first-ever NDP leader to move into Stornaway as official Opposition leader.
"Spring is here my friends and a new chapter begins," Layton told a huge crowd in Toronto during a speech that felt like a victory lap. "Tonight's result didn't come about in 35 days, it's been 50 years in the making."
Much of the NDP's rise has been attributed to a burst of support in Quebec, while the Conservatives were able to breach the Liberal heartland in Toronto.
Even Ignatieff was unseated from his riding on the city's west end, two years to the day that he became party leader.
"This party is bigger than any of us," said Ignatieff at his campaign headquarters, adding that he would continue his political work if the party asked him to.
"It's tough to lose like this."
While Duceppe said he would quit as leader, there were huge swells on either ends of the political spectrum.
Additionally, Green Leader Elizabeth May was celebrating a huge win in her Victoria, B.C., riding.
"Amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic," said May at her victory party.
As of early Tuesday morning, these were the results for elected or leading ridings (numbers in brackets represent Parliament before the election writ dropped):
- Conservatives: 166 ridings (143)
- NDP: 102 ridings (36)
- Liberals: 35 (77)
- Bloc Quebecois: 4 (47)
- Green: 1
To secure a majority government, 155 of 308 seats are needed.
At NDP gatherings across the country, the party faithful were giddy with excitement as the left-leaning party reaped massive wins in Quebec and knocked off high-profile MPs across the country.
"This is really good for Canada," said former NDP Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
"This really shakes things up in Quebec and it really shows that the separatist movement is in trouble.
Among those MPs who won't be returning to Parliament:
- Conservative cabinet minister Lawrence Cannon
- Liberals Gerard Kennedy, Ken Dryden and Martha Hall Findlay
- Independent Helena Guergis
In Atlantic Canada, Conservative cabinet ministers Peter MacKay and Gail Shea held onto their seats.
Liberal candidate Siobhan Coady, meanwhile, was dislodged in St. John's South-Mount Pearl as part of the NDP bump that led to the party picking up seats across the region.
The Liberals lost five seats in Atlantic Canada, with the NDP and the Conservatives picking up the slack.
"We were offering a choice," said incumbent NDP MP Jack Harris, from St. John's East in Newfoundland. "Mr. Ignatieff said 'Red door, blue door' (but) he forgot about the orange door."
Conservative Fabian Manning, an ex-MP who quit his Senate post to run in Newfoundland, was defeated in a close battle.
Reflecting on the party's increased haul in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Maritimes, MacKay said the party had done well.
"We had tough ground to till on the Rock but we ran a very good campaign in the region."
A Liberal ‘demise?'
Many in the party were hopeful that Ignatieff could heal a fractured group that suffered a major loss in the 2008 campaign.
But the results Monday were anything but encouraging, falling into third place for the first time in the party's storied history.
If Quebecers shifted to Layton in massive numbers, then voters in Ontario ran from the Liberals to Harper's Conservatives en masse.
Many gains came in the so-called 905 region, where the Conservatives made major inroads with new Canadians.
Despite claims during the campaign that his party targeted ethnic voters, incumbent Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was unapologetic.
"Reaching out to Canadians and encouraging them to vote -- there's nothing less cynical," Kenney said. "We have to be a government for all Canadians not just the ones that voted for us."
The Conservatives picked up 21 seats in the province, with the Liberals dropping 26, including important bastions in Toronto.
"I take all the responsibility for what didn't work, but all the credit for what did goes to you," Ignatieff said.
Among the Liberals that won their seats in the province was Bob Rae, who held on in Toronto.
"Many of my Liberal colleagues that didn't do good, those are dear friends," he said. "I regret the fact that they weren't re-elected. I know they will continue to contribute to public life."
Results were still being tallied in Quebec, Ontario and the West, but the Liberals were already licking their wounds.
Some, like Liberal insider and Senate mainstay David Smith, were looking beyond the results for glimpses of hope.
"I hear that word ‘demise,' but there's another word: regeneration," Smith said. "There will be soul-searching, no doubt about that, but we'll come back."
There were other glimmers, as Quebec MP Justin Trudeau held onto his seat in Montreal.
"I think there's a clear indication that Quebecers want to be part of the national conversation," he said.
Layton snatches Quebec from the Bloc
While Harper grabbed his home seat in Calgary and strode toward Conservative lore, Layton got a piece of the spotlight with a victory that seemed nearly unthinkable only a few weeks ago.
Even political figures on the opposite side of the spectrum had to tip their hat to Layton for his massive victory.
Reform party founder Preston Manning said: "I don't agree with Jack on a lot, but I agree with replacing separatists with federalists."
There was also praise from a former Conservative prime minister, who worked closely with Layton's father.
"Jack Layton successfully became the incarnation of change, somewhat surprisingly because he's been around for a while," said Brian Mulroney.
In Edmonton, incumbent NDP Linda Duncan held her seat, which is locked in the middle of a Conservative sea in Alberta.
Indeed, while the election campaign began with a whimper, the contest heated up as Layton, Ignatieff, Harper and Duceppe jostled for support in key ridings.
"This started out like an episode from Seinfeld -- an election about nothing -- but it turned into the Big Bang Theory," said pollster Nik Nanos.