Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the students of St. Augustine Elementary School
Canada's ruling Conservatives won a crushing victory in Monday's federal election, as the left wing vote split between two parties and the separatist Bloc Quebecois faded to almost nothing, reports Reuters.
Still provisional results showed the Conservatives had 167 seats in Parliament, well above the 155 they needed to transform their minority government into a majority. They won 40 percent of the vote, more than most pollsters had expected.
"The results are as they should be," Conservative supporter Fred Biddle said at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's raucous victory party in Calgary. "It looks like we are back to a two party system in Canada: Conservatives and all the rest."
The Conservatives, describing themselves as the guardians of a surprisingly resilient Canadian economy, had stressed throughout the election campaign that they needed a majority to keep the economy strong.
The Canadian dollar firmed as the results emerged, and analysts expected the stock market to follow it up on Tuesday.
"(A Conservative majority) is likely to be seen as a positive in the world's financial markets for the Canadian dollar," said Jack Spitz, Managing Director of foreign exchange at National Bank Financial.
The provisional results showed the left-leaning NDP winning around 103 seats, by far its strongest showing ever, and catapulting itself into the position of Canada's official opposition.
"It is amazing to see a tripling of the seats for the NDP. It gives me hope for change," said Megan Ciurysek, a 26-year-old Polish-Canadian, who described the result as bittersweet. "To have a majority Conservative government is unbelievably disappointing."
The NDP gains came largely at the expense of the Bloc and of the once-mighty Liberal Party, which lost more than half its seats in a dismal black eye for party leader Michael Ignatieff, a broadcaster and academic turned politician who never managed to connect with Canadians.
The result was a historical low for the Liberals, who saw both their lowest-ever seat total and their smallest share of the popular vote, at just under 20 percent.
The monumental nature of their defeat will prompt more talk about a possible merger with New Democrats to create a unified centre-left party capable of defeating the Conservatives.
It was not clear that Ignatieff would retain his own seat.
"Democracy teaches hard lessons and we have to learn them all," he said in a sad address to the party faithful.
The Bloc Quebecois were set to win just three seats, a sign perhaps that Quebeckers were fed up with being represented in Ottawa by a party that doesn't want Canada to exist in its present form. Party leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat.
Before the election the Bloc, the federal offshoot of a party that wants independence for French-speaking Quebec, had 47 seats, a strong majority of seats in the province.
"It may even give the Canadian dollar an extra boost, given the fact that perhaps that the question of sovereignty is really going to be put on the back burner," said Serge Pepin, of BMO Investments in Toronto.
"Canadian markets should react relatively positively."
In a first for Canada, Green Party leader Elizabeth May had a chance of capturing the party's first seat in the Canadian Parliament, where she would be a vocal critic of a Conservative government that doesn't believe in global warming.
Before the election, the Conservatives had 143 seats, compared to 77 for the Liberals and 36 for the New Democrats. There were two independents and three seats were vacant.
The Conservatives will now have a four-year term in office, with the next federal election due in 2015.