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January 24, 2006
Harper Calls For Unity, Martin Quits

The first consequences of Canada's major political realignment came within minutes of the polls giving their final numbers as the two major party leaders gave their valedictory speeches for the 2006 election. Stephen Harper, the triumphant Tory, called on Canada's political parties to unite for the good of the country, while outgoing Prime Minister Paul Martin quit his post as party leader, avoiding an almost certain dismissal by the losing Liberals:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Canada's next prime minister, pledged to work with all parties in the next Parliament after Canadians elected a Tory minority government Monday, ending a 12-year reign of Liberal rule.

"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 his supporters in Calgary.

Harper acknowledged that Canadians have not given any one party a majority and have asked all parties to work together.

Martin won his riding in Quebec but saw ten others shift to the Conservatives, the first time in a generation that the right has carried any seats in the troubled province. Harper, commentators speculated, discovered the "secret code" for unlocking Qebecois support and not only took seats from the Liberals but racked up an impressive slice of the vote. BQ retained its seat total but wound up far below 50% of the popular vote, only outpollling the Tories by 42%-24%, an impressive result for Harper. Martin resigned as party leader after the national debacle:

Liberal Leader Paul Martin won't lead his party into another election, he said early Tuesday morning as he conceded that Stephen Harper's Conservatives had won Monday's general election.

"I will always be at the service of the party," he added in a speech to a crowd of emotional supporters in his Montreal riding of Lasalle-Émard. "The Canada we want is one very much worth fighting for."

He also said he will remain the Liberal MP in the riding, which he has represented for five terms.

"When I think about it, 17 years is a long time, and you have stood by me," Martin said.

The Liberals were fortunate to have retained over 100 seats in the new Commons and only trail the Tories 124-103. Conservatives made gains in almost every province except Prince Edward Island. They did especially well in rural ridings, but did not make much of a dent in the cities, as CBC noted late in its broadcast. In the cities, NDP did well, picking a few ridings off of the Liberals, but for the most part the Grits hung onto what they had in those contests.

Stephen Harper should be sworn into office within the next two weeks, and the new era of Tory leadership will begin. Canadian voters have given Harper a rather limited mandate, a test period where they expect the Conservatives to prove that they can lead from the center-right, maintaining the economic success of the last few years while cleaning up and streamlining the excesses of the Liberal government. If successful, the voters might reward Harper and his party with a majority government down the road -- but until then, Harper will have to keep his diplomatic skills trained on the Commons.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 24, 2006 4:58 AM

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Looks like the Conservative Party will return to power in Canada with a healthy gain in parliament seats over the outgoing Liberals. Conservative blogger Captain Ed is the right's authority on things Canadian, and he live-blogged the election last nigh... [Read More]

Tracked on January 24, 2006 8:08 AM


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