CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA (CUP) — Canadians witnessed a series of astounding changes in their federal political landscape on May 2 as Stephen Harper’s Conservatives achieved their majority government and the New Democratic Party achieved Official Opposition status for the first time in history.
The so-called “orange crush” of NDP support swept through Quebec and even parts of Ontario and the Prairies to net the party 102 seats, obliterating their previous record of 43 seats captured in 1988.
NDP leader Jack Layton thanked the “the tens of thousands of young Canadians, some of whom voted for the very first time.”
“You, young Canadians, are an inspiration and a source of hope for our country’s future,” Layton told a large crowd in downtown Toronto.
Layton becomes Opposition Leader in Stephen Harper’s first majority parliament. The Conservatives captured a total of 167 seats on Monday night.
“We are intensely aware that we are and we must be the government for all Canadians, including those who didn’t vote for us,” an enthusiastic Harper said in Calgary.
“We shall be faithful to the trust that you have imposed in us.”
The Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois were reduced from 47 seats to only four, leaving Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe — who lost his own riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie to the NDP — to announce his impending departure from the party’s leadership position.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff also lost in his home riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, one of several Toronto-area ridings to turn Conservative blue. While the Liberals were reduced from 77 to 34 seats, Ignatieff initially made no decision to quit his post. But around 10 a.m. on May 3, the party leader announced his resignation.
“We’ve seen tonight, I think, the emergence of a polarization in Canadian politics,” a defeated Ignatieff told supporters in Toronto at the Liberal election night party.
“We have to be big enough, open-hearted enough, courageous enough to read the lessons that the Canadian people have told our party tonight.”
History was also made in British Columbia, where Green Party leader Elizabeth May won the party’s first-ever elected seat in Saanich—Gulf Islands.
“I had a lot of young people tell me they were voting who had never voted before, and even some young people in their 30s who’d never voted before,” she said. “We saw a real change and an embracing of the power of the vote and I’m very excited about that.”
While the majority of ridings that include university and college campuses remained unchanged, three southern Quebec ridings where Bishop’s University, UniversitÃ© de Sherbrooke and UniversitÃ© Laval are housed were among the 59 seats that the NDP won on Monday.
Early May 3, Elections Canada pegged the general voter turnout at 61.4 per cent — slightly higher than 2008’s 58.8 per cent, but still lower than the 2006 turnout of 64.7 per cent. Elections Canada is expected to release more details on turnout, including statistics on the youth vote, later this week.
With files from Josh O’Kane, Alanna Wallace and Kailey Willetts
image: Alex Smyth/The Fulcrum