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Canada Elects Conservative Stephen Harper PM

The stories about this landmark election are surprisingly few and far between.

I know it's Canada, but still, it does seem to be newsworthy when a western country changes its government from socialist back to capitalist.

The few stories there are, like this from Saudi-owned Reuters, seem to prefer to dwell on the dark cloud rather than the silver lining:

Canada's new leader faces uphill fight

Tue Jan 24, 2006 11:26 AM ET8
By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The winner of Canada's election began facing the challenge on Tuesday of pushing his Conservative Party agenda of tax cuts and more defense spending through a Parliament he does not control.

Stephen Harper, a 46-year-old economist who will be the country's first right-wing prime minister in 12 years, won 124 of the 308 seats in Parliament in Monday's election, relegating the scandal-plagued Liberals to the opposition benches.

Harper, who also wants to calm fractious ties with Washington, has nowhere near the 155 seats he needs to control a 308-seat Parliament where his party has no natural allies.

He will grapple with the same problems as the man he ousted, 67-year-old Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, who also led a minority government and was forced from office with 133 seats after 17 months on the job.

The vote was as much a protest against a tired Liberal government as it was a vote for Harper, whose opponents accuse him of wanting to impose a far-right social agenda on Canada.

"Canadians did not endorse neoconservatism when they elected him last night," the Globe and Mail said in an editorial. "They voted against a Liberal Party that had become smug and arrogant."

Harper, the first prime minister from the powerful oil-rich western province of Alberta in 25 years, was due to return to Ottawa on Tuesday and to meet Martin soon to decide when power would formally change hands — a date Conservative officials said was likely to be in two or three weeks' time.

Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than 18 months and the gossamer-thin nature of Harper's administration means there is little chance he will bow to demands from some in his party to clamp down on gay marriage and abortion.


Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay struck a conciliatory tone on Tuesday, telling CBC television that the party could cooperate with others in Parliament on political reforms, child care, the environment and health care.

"There is a general acceptance … that the Parliament has to work in the better interests of all," he said.

In recent months Martin had adopted an increasingly aggressive tone with the White House, which quickly congratulated Harper on his win.

"The United States and Canada have a strong and broad bilateral relationship and we look forward to strengthening our relations and working with the new government," said spokesman Scott McClellan.

Martin, who was brought down in November 2005 over a kickback scandal, said he would quit as party leader before the next election.

The Canadian dollar barely reacted to the vote, reflecting investor confidence that both the Conservatives and Liberals had committed to keeping the budget in surplus.

"The election of another minority government really changes nothing, whereas a majority government would have had a slight potential to do something," said David Powell, currency analyst at IDEAglobal.

Harper owed his win to a breakthrough in French-speaking Quebec, where the party went from zero to 10 seats and dented the fortunes of the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

The Bloc, which campaigns only in Quebec, initially predicted it would win most of the province's 75 seats. In the end it won 51, a loss of two seats.

The Conservatives won 36.3 percent of the popular vote and the Liberals won 30.2 percent, their second-worst showing since Canada gained independence in 1867. The left-leaning New Democrats won 29 seats, a gain of 11.

At any rate, congratulations to all our friends in the Great White North!

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, January 24th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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