Canadian media predict victory for Conservatives in Canada |

Canadian media predict victory for Conservatives in Canada

OTTAWA – Canada’s major media predicted victory for Conservative leader Stephen Harper in national elections Monday night, an outcome that was expected to push Canada to the right on social and economic issues and lead to improved ties with the United States.The official results showed the Conservatives holding a strong lead over the ruling Liberals, who have held power for 13 years. But it appeared likely that Harper would rule over a minority government, making it difficult to get legislation through a divided House of Commons.There were cheers at the Conservative Party headquarters in Calgary as the media predictions were announced. Harper was expected to give his victory speech later in the night after all the results are announced.”We know that there is an undeniable and unstoppable sentiment for change in the country,” deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay told supporters. “A change towards a new, clean, constructive attitude that will exist within a Conservative government.”Relations with the Bush administration would likely improve under a Harper government, as his ideology runs along the same lines of many U.S. Republicans.Harper has said he would reconsider a U.S. missile defense scheme rejected by the current Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. He also said he wanted to move beyond the Kyoto debate by establishing different environmental controls, spend more on the Canadian military, expand its peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and Haiti and tighten security along the border with the United States in an effort to prevent terrorists and guns from crossing the frontier.Shortly after polling stations closed, the country’s major news outlets including the Canadian Broadcast Corp. and the Canadian Press news agency called the election for the Conservatives, who were winning seats for the first time in French-speak Quebec and making significant gains in the Liberal stronghold of Ontario.According to official results, Conservatives either had won or were leading in races for 122 seats; the Liberals had either won or were leading in races for 103 seats; the separatist Bloc Quebecois appeared to have 50 seats and the New Democratic Party was poised to gain 31 seats.A Conservative victory ends nearly 13 years of Liberal Party rule and shifts the traditionally liberal country to the right on socio-economic issues such as health care, taxation, abortion and gay marriage.Many Canadians had grown weary of the broken promises and corruption scandals under the Liberal Party and were apparently willing to give Harper the benefit of doubt, despite fears the 46-year-old economist was too extreme in his views opposing abortion and gay marriage.During the campaign, Harper pledged to cut the red tape in social welfare programs, lower the national sales tax from 7 percent to 5 percent and grant more autonomy and federal funding to Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.The Liberals have angered Washington in recent years, condemning the war in Iraq, refusing to join the continental anti-ballistic missile plan and criticizing President Bush for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions and enacting punitive Canadian lumber tariffs.Martin, 67, had trumpeted eight consecutive budget surpluses and sought to paint Harper as a right-winger posing as a moderate to woo mainstream voters. The prime minister also has promised to lower income taxes, implement a national child care program and ban handguns.He claimed Harper supports the war in Iraq, which most Canadians oppose, and would try to outlaw abortion and overturn gay marriage.Harper denied those claims and said Sunday that Martin had failed to swing voters against him.”Canadians can disagree, but it takes a lot to get Canadians to intensely hate something or hate somebody. And it usually involves hockey,” Harper quipped.Voters cast ballots at 60,000 polling stations amid unseasonably mild winter weather. Turnout from the country’s 22.7 million registered voters was expected to be better than the 60 percent of the June 2004 election, the lowest number since 1898.William Azaroff, 35, voted for the left-of-center New Democratic Party but conceded a Conservative government was likely to win.”I think it’s a shame,” said the business manager from Vancouver, British Columbia. “I think the last government was actually quite effective for Canadians. I think a Conservative government is just a backlash against certain corruption and the sense of entitlement.”Martin’s government and the 308-member House of Commons were dissolved in November after New Democrats defected from the governing coalition to support the Conservatives in a no-confidence vote amid a corruption scandal involving the misuse of funds for a national unity program in Quebec.An investigation absolved the prime minister of wrongdoing but accused senior Liberals of taking kickbacks and misspending tens of millions of dollars in public funds.Just as campaigning hit full swing over the Christmas holidays, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced they were investigating a possible leak by Liberal government officials that appeared to have influenced the stock market.When the 38th Parliament was dissolved, the Liberals had 133 seats, the Conservatives had 98, the Quebec separatist party Bloc Quebecois had 53 and the New Democrats had 18. There also were four Independents and two vacancies.Laureen Browne, a longtime Liberal supporter from Calgary who hasn’t missed an election in 40 years, worries a Harper government would kowtow to U.S. interests.”If the Conservatives win, we may as well become another U.S. state and let George Bush make decisions for us,” she said. “If I don’t vote, then I can’t complain; and if the predictions are right, I will be complaining the loudest.”Vail, Colorado

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