Conservatives celebrate minority government victory
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | 3:05 AM ET
"Tonight friends, our great country has voted for change. And Canadians have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change," Harper told supporters in Calgary.
Harper acknowledged that Canadians have not given any one party a majority and have asked all parties to work together.
Earlier, Liberal Leader Paul Martin announced that he will step down as leader.
Stephen Harper delivers his election speech, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006. (CP photo)
The Conservatives were elected in 124 ridings, the Liberals were elected in 102 (leading in one other), the Bloc was elected in 51 and the NDP was elected in 29. One Independent was elected, in Quebec.
"There will be another chance and there will be another time," Martin told a roomful of supporters in Montreal. He said he called Harper to congratulate him.
The Conservatives picked up more than 36 per cent of the popular vote, an increase of seven per cent from 2004. This compared to the Liberals with 30 per cent and the NDP with 17.5 per cent.
The NDP made major gains nationally, up 10 seats from the 2004 vote.
NDP Leader Jack Layton said that while Canadians voted for Harper to form a minority government, "they asked New Democrats to balance that government."
Layton was flanked by his wife, New Democrat Olivia Chow, who won her Toronto riding.
The Tories made significant gains in Ontario and Quebec, winning in least two dozen seats.
In Quebec, where they were shut out in 2004, the Tories made major inroads, getting elected in 10 ridings.
In vote-rich Ontario, the Liberals, who captured 75 seats in 2004, were elected in 54 ridings. But the Tories increased their support, elected in 40 ridings, a gain of 16. The NDP was elected in 12 ridings, up five.
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The province, a Liberal stronghold, has 106 seats and is considered the key to victory.
Both Martin and Harper campaigned heavily in the strategic province.
In Quebec, the Bloc was elected in 51 of the province's 75 ridings, followed by the Liberals with 13 seats and the Tories with 10. In 2004, the Bloc received 54 seats, followed by the Liberals with 21. Independent candidate André Arthur, took the riding of Portneuf-Jacques Cartier from the Bloc.
While the Bloc ended up keeping most of its seats, it appeared it would do that with far fewer votes. Its share of the popular vote slipped to 42.4 per cent – a 6.5 percentage point drop from the 48.9 per cent it garnered in 2004.
Early in the campaign, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who appeared to set an electoral goal of 50 per cent of the popular vote, focused his attacks on Martin. With polls suggesting Conservative popularity soaring in the province, Duceppe began slamming Harper.
In the Atlantic provinces, the Liberals, who won 22 seats in the June 2004 election, were elected in 20 of the region's 32 ridings. The Conservatives, who were hoping to make bigger inroads in the region, were elected in nine ridings, a gain of two.
The Conservatives also took a hit in British Columbia, losing five of their 22 seats. The NDP gained five seats and the Liberals picked up one.
All four major party leaders held on to their ridings. Among the high profile Liberal political casualties were Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, Transport Minister Tony Valeri, Heritage Minister Liza Frulla and Liberal Treasury Board president Reg Alcock.
Liberal Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell was defeated in Ontario by Conservative Tony Clement, former provincial Ontario health minister, by 21 votes.
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The Tories swept Alberta and tightened their hold on the Prairies by two seats.
Many political observers have credited Harper for running a smooth campaign.
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He regularly pumped out policy announcements throughout the unusually long 56-day campaign, leaving the Liberals mostly to react.
Martin campaigned on his record as finance minister and his implementation of eight consecutive balanced budgets. He also promised to lower personal income taxes, create a national child-care plan, ban handguns, subsidize post-secondary students and ban the federal use of the notwithstanding clause.
But he spent the last weeks of the campaign going after Harper. He accused him of having an extreme right-wing agenda that would threaten the rights of minorities and take away abortion rights.
Unlike the 2004 election, the Tories were also able to keep their so-called controversial MPs in check. Indeed, some reporters complained the party was purposely keeping some candidates away from the media spotlight.
In this campaign, it was the Liberals who were often in damage control mode.
In the early weeks of the campaign, Martin spokesman Scott Reid said parents would spend Harper's child-care subsidy on "beer and popcorn." Later, the Ontario vice-president of the party resigned after he compared NDP candidate Olivia Chow to a dog.
Martin was also questioned about a series of attack ads, in particular one that suggested Harper would post armed soldiers on the streets of Canadian cities.
And just last week, Martin again was on the defensive, having to declare Harper's patriotism after Canadian Auto Workers head Buzz Hargrove, who endorsed the Liberals, suggested the Tory leader was a separatist.
As Martin was forced to contend with the fallout of the sponsorship scandal, his party was hit with two RCMP probes, one into a possible government leak on income trusts and another into alleged illegal spending through the now-defunct unity lobby Option Canada. Opposition parties jumped on the investigations, claiming they were proof of what they called more corruption in the Liberal ranks.