Harper 'wins majority' in Canadian elections

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won his coveted majority government in elections which changed Canada's political landscape with the opposition Liberals and Quebec separatists suffering a shattering defeat.

Mr Harper, who took office in 2006, has won two elections but until yesterday's vote had never held a majority of Parliament's 308 seats, forcing him to rely on the opposition to pass legislation.

While his hold on Parliament has been tenuous during his five-year term, he has managed to nudge an instinctively centre-left country to the right. He has gradually lowered sales and corporate taxes, avoided climate change legislation, promoted Arctic sovereignty, increased military spending and extended Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

Elections Canada reported preliminary results on its website, giving the Conservatives 167 seats, which will give Mr Harper four years of uninterrupted government.

"We are grateful, deeply honoured, in fact humbled by the decisive endorsement of so many Canadians," Mr Harper told elated supporters at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary, Alberta.

The leftist New Democratic Party was projected to become the main opposition party for the first time in Canadian history with 102 seats, tripling its support in a stunning setback for the Liberals who have always been either in power or leading the opposition.

"It's an historic night for New Democrats," NDP leader Jack Layton told a delirious crowd in Toronto.

Mr Harper was helped by the NDP surge, which split the left-of-centre vote in many districts, handing victory to Conservative candidates, especially in Ontario, where the Liberals were decimated in their last national stronghold.

Former colleagues of Mr Harper say his long-term goals are to shatter the image of the Liberals - the party of former Prime Ministers Jean Chretien, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau - as the natural party of government in Canada, and to redefine what it means to be Canadian.

Mr Harper, who comes from the conservative western province of Alberta, took a major step toward that goal last night as the Liberals suffered their worst defeat in Canadian history - dropping to 34 seats from 77, according to the preliminary results.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff congratulated Mr Harper and New Democrat chief Mr Layton and accepted responsibility for the "historic defeat".

"Democracy teaches hard lessons, and we have to learn them all," he told a sombre gathering in Toronto.

Mr Ignatieff, who even lost his own seat in a Toronto suburb, said: "I will play any part that the party wishes me to play as we go forward to rebuild."

Stephen Clarkson, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said 52-year-old Mr Harper should now be considered a transformative figure in Canadian history.



"It's a sea change," he said.



The New Democrats' gains are being attributed to Mr Layton's strong performance in the debates, a folksy, upbeat message, and a desire by the French-speakers in Quebec, the second most populous province, for a new face and a federalist option.



Voters indicated that they had grown weary of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, which had a shocking drop to four seats from 47 in the last Parliament. Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe lost his own seat and immediately resigned.



Quebeckers said separatism was still an important force, despite the province's rejection of the Bloc.



"I would caution anyone to think that the independence movement is dead at any time," said Bruce Hicks, a political scientist at the Universite de Montreal. "This is one of those burning embers things. It takes very little to ignite it, but right now it's only embers."

The Green party won its first seat ever in the House of Commons, with leader Elizabeth May winning in a British Columbia district.

The Conservatives got 40% of the vote, compared with 31% for the NDP and a dismal 19% for the Liberals.

The NDP's gains marked a remarkable shift in a campaign which started out weeks ago looking like a straight battle between Mr Harper and Mr Ignatieff, a distinguished academic, with the 60-year-old Mr Layton recovering from prostate cancer and a broken hip.

Mr Harper counted on the economy to help hand him the majority. Canada has outperformed other major industrialised democracies through the financial crisis, recovering almost all the jobs lost during the recession while its banking sector remains intact. He said he would continue his plan to create jobs and growth without raising taxes.

He campaigned on a message that the New Democrats stood for higher taxes, higher spending, higher prices and protectionism. He called the election a choice between "a Conservative majority" and "a ramshackle coalition led by the NDP that will not last but will do a lot of destruction".

Gerry Nicholls, who worked under Mr Harper at a conservative think-tank, has said having the New Democrats' as the main opposition party would be ideal for Mr Harper because it would define Canadian politics in clearer terms of left versus right.

The Conservatives have built support in rural areas and with the "Tim Horton's crowd" - a reference to a chain of doughnut shops popular with working-class Canadians. They also have blitzed the country with TV attack adverts, running them even during telecasts of the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl.

Lawrence Martin, a political columnist for The Globe and Mail newspaper and author of Harperland: The Politics Of Control, calls Mr Harper "the most autocratic and partisan prime minister Canada has ever had".

But to remain in office through the longest period of minority government in Canadian history, Mr Harper had to engage in a constant balancing act. The three opposition parties combined held 160 seats in the last Parliament, while the Conservatives held 143. The Liberals held 77, the New Democrats 36 and the Bloc Quebecois 47.

Mr Harper has deliberately avoided sweeping policy changes which could derail his government, but now has an opportunity to pass any legislation he wants with his new majority.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Java Developer/Designer

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: My client are looking fo...

Domino Developer and Administrator

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Domino ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?