Canada’s conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, won a majority for his party in elections on Monday. The leftist New Democratic Party more than doubled its votes at the expense of Quebecer separatists and the centrist Liberal Party.
Harper has led a minority government since 2006 but failed to win an absolute majority twice — until now.
During his tenure, Harper lowered sales and corporate taxes. He refused to sign climate legislations, for which he was sharply criticized by the left.
Emboldened with fresh support from voters, Harper said Canadians could now “turn the page from uncertainties.” He predicted a continuation of conservative policy despite pre-election scaremongering from rivals, who forecast a further shift to the right.
“We got that mandate because of the way we have governed, because of our record,” he told reporters in Calgary, Alberta.
Canadians expect us to continue to move forward in the same way, to be true to the platform we’ve run on and be true to the kind of values and policies we’ve laid out before them.
The Liberals, who dominated Canadian politics for much of the twentieth century, were decimated on Monday, losing votes to both the conservatives and the New Democrats. Party leader Michael Ignatieff resigned.
The New Democratic Party, an alliance of labor unions, farmers, students and young urban professionals, entered a “new chapter”, said its leader, Jack Layton.
So did Canadian politics. The New Democrats, now the largest opposition party, are much more critical of the prime minister than the Liberals were.
The Liberals gave Canada a huge social safety net, which the conservatives have only slowly attempted to untangle. They legalized abortion and gay marriage and pushed for increased education spending and subsidies for renewable energy production.
The New Democrats share liberal social views but promote a more active statism. They also ran on higher health-care and welfare spending, paid for by higher taxes on business.
Both opposition parties have criticized the Conservatives for excluding funding of abortion from public health plans. Harper has denounced gay marriage, though not civil unions, and favors a more repressive drug policy.
His liberal economic policy and small-government conservatism are more popular, however, suggesting that, unlike is the case to the south, Canada’s “culture war” has mostly been fought and decided.