The day after the night before

What if you woke up the morning after a federal election and not much had changed?

That's what Canadians woke up to this morning. The new Parliament looks a lot like the old one.

Jean Chrtien's Liberals have returned to power with an even bigger majority than they had before the 2000 election. The Grits won 173 seats, 18 more than the last federal vote. On Tuesday that was reduced to 172 after a recount in one Quebec riding

Chrtien thus becomes the first prime minister to win a third consecutive majority government since Mackenzie King in the 1940s.

"We are at the end of a hard-fought campaign," Chrtien told supporters Monday night, adding that he thought at times the campaigning was "too personal."

Federal Election Photogallery

The Canadian Alliance won 66 seats eight more than its predecessor Reform Party got in 1997.

The Alliance failed to make a significant breakthrough in Ontario, winning only two seats. The Liberals maintained their bearhug on the province's 103 ridings, winning 100 of them, only one fewer than in 1997.

Speaking in Penticton, B.C., Alliance Leader Stockwell Day said the message of the 2000 election to his party was, "not yet, not this time."

Day told his supporters his party is the only party in the election that increased its popular vote in every region of the country. He called the Alliance "the federal alternative."

Day called Chrtien earlier to congratulate him on winning a majority government.

Meanwhile, the Bloc Qubcois surprisingly lost support to the Liberals, emerging with only 38 seats in Quebec.

The key to Chrtien's stunning gains in Quebec appears to have been vote-splitting, allowing the Liberals to sneak up the middle between the Bloc and Tories. The Liberals entered the campaign with 29 Quebec seats, while the Bloc had 44.

Conservative Leader Joe Clark won in Calgary Centre, after a tough, close fight with Eric Lowther of the Alliance.

Despite this, Clark's Tories were elected in only 12 ridings the bare minimum for a party to have official status, and almost half of what the Tories had in 1997.

Clark said he was satisfied with the wins and called it something to build on.

The New Democratic Party also earned official status with 13 seats.

NDP Leader Alexa McDonough put on a brave face the day after the election. She avoided reporters' questions about the party's lacklustre showing.

Instead, McDonough vowed to continue campaigning for better health care, the party's main issue during the election.

"Most importantly, we'll fight to save health care that defines us as a nation, that more than anything defines us as Canadians," McDonough said Tuesday in Halifax. "And we'll fight not only to save it but to improve it."

McDonough said she intends to lead the NDP into the next federal election.

An estimated 21 million people were registered to vote in this election. But only 63 per cent of eligible voters showed up at the polls the lowest it's been since 1896.

Turnout has been on the decline since 1988, when three-quarters of eligible voters cast ballots.