Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Canada’s Conservatives score huge win

MARKET RELIEF:The Conservatives turned a minority government into a majority, ensuring a four-year term that analysts predict will provide stability and confidence

Reuters, OTTAWA

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, celebrates his Conservative majority government with his wife, Laureen, second right, daughter Rachel and son Benjamin at election headquarters on Monday in Calgary, Alberta.

Photo: EPA

The Conservative Party of Canada stormed to a decisive victory in Monday’s federal election, winning 54 percent of the seats in parliament and securing a stable four-year term in power after vowing to focus on the economy.

The Conservatives grabbed 167 seats in Canada’s parliament, well above the 155 they needed to transform their minority government into a majority, according to provisional results. They won about 40 percent of the vote, beating expectations.

The victory, a relief for Canadian financial markets, left support for the separatist Bloc Quebecois in tatters and the party’s leader without a seat. Bloc Quebecois advocates independence for the province of Quebec.

The Liberals, who have ruled Canada for more years than any other party, were reduced to a dismal third place showing with their worst ever seat haul.

“What a great night ... Canadians can now turn the page on the uncertainties and the repeat elections of the past seven years and focus on building a great future,” Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a victory rally in Calgary, Alberta, early yesterday morning.

“Our plan [is] to create jobs and growth without raising your taxes,” he said to loud cheers.

The market’s nightmare scenario of an unstable minority government headed by the pro-labor New Democratic Party (NDP) never came to pass. Harper now has free rein to keep corporate taxes low in the nation of more than 34 million people and bring in a string of tax breaks once he balances the budget, projected within four years.

“It’s going to reinforce quite a bit of stability and confidence, and Canada is going to continue to be very attractive for foreign investors,” said Youssef Zohny, portfolio manager at Van Arbor Asset Management in Vancouver. “With a Conservative majority, you’re essentially assured a fairly business-friendly platform, low taxes, continued investment in energy and potential future energy projects. In terms of investment it’s definitely got a bullish bias.”

The Conservatives had held two successive minority governments ahead of Monday. While they led opinion polls from the start of the five-week campaign, it was not clear they would convincingly win Canada’s fourth election in seven years.

However, the left-of-center vote was split between the New Democrats and the Liberals, the second biggest party in the previous Parliament, and the Conservatives emerged as a surprisingly strong victor with 39.6 percent of the overall vote.

Of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, provisional results showed the Conservatives with 167 and the New Democrats with 102. The Liberals were far behind with just 34.

The NDP produced by far its strongest showing ever, giving genial party leader Jack Layton a role as head of Canada’s official opposition.

The party had campaigned on a platform of higher corporate taxes and an end to subsidies for the powerful energy sector although, like the Conservatives and the Liberals, it also said it would balance the budget within years.

Its plans for a cap-and-trade system to rein in greenhouse gas emissions were a negative for energy producers — Canada is the largest exporter of energy to the US, itself the world’s biggest consumer.

“There’s benefit in the stability that comes with a majority government. I think that’s going to be good for our industry and for investors,” said David Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “The NDP has a different view than us on some of the key policy issues and we’ll have to work with them to see if we can find some common ground.”

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