Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Conservatives win in Canada, vow to mend ties with US

AP , OTTAWA

Canadian prime minister-elect Stephen Harper pledged to quickly carry out his campaign promises to cut taxes, get tough on crime and repair strained ties with Washington after his Conservative Party won national elections and ended almost 13 years of Liberal Party rule in Canada.

But with a minority government, that may be easier said than done.

The Conservatives' winning margin was too narrow to rule with a majority, a situation that will make it hard for them to get legislation through the divided House of Commons.

Monday's vote showed that Canadians are weary of the Liberal Party's broken promises and corruption scandals. Prime Minister Paul Martin conceded defeat and said he would step down as Liberal leader.

They were willing to give Harper a chance to govern despite concerns that some of his social views are extreme.

"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 some 2,000 cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters in Calgary.

He said his new government -- not likely to be sworn in for several weeks -- would immediately move to cut the unpopular national sales tax from 7 to 6 percent, "reform the justice system to fight against crime and gangs," and begin to allocate C$1,200 (US$1,042) annually to Canadian families for each child they have needing daycare.

He also wants to introduce a federal accountability act that will monitor government spending in an effort to avoid the corruption scandals that have plagued the Liberals.

"We will do this because shuffling the deck in Ottawa is not good enough," he said. "We need to do this to make the system more accountable to you, the Canadian taxpayers."

Relations with the US President George W. Bush's administration will likely improve under Harper as his ideology runs along the same lines of many US Republicans.

Harper has said he would reconsider a US missile defense scheme rejected by the Martin's Liberal government. He also said he wanted to move beyond the Kyoto debate by establishing different environmental controls.

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