Stephen Harper 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
OTTAWA - 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
"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.
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 rein 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.
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"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."
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
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 in the 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
"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
"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."
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