Harper says he doesn’t have an political surprises up his sleeve after majority
By The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press
CALGARY – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is assuring people he doesn’t have any political surprises up his sleeve after winning a majority government.
At a day-after news conference, a smiling, relaxed Harper stepped away from his stiff campaign style and even lifted the limits he imposed on media questions during the campaign.
He said he’s humbled by the majority mandate the voters gave his Conservatives on Monday.
He said he’s disappointed by the result in Quebec, where the party was reduced to a handful of seats in the face of unprecedented support for the NDP.
But the resulting demise of the separatist Bloc Quebecois is good news for Canada, regardless of the beneficiary, he added.
“Despite the fact that we did not make any gains, of course as a Canadian and a federalist I am encouraged by the collapse of the Bloc,” Harper said.
While the NDP played the key role in slaying the Bloc dragon, “I do think we deserve some of the credit.”
He said while the Tories lost seats in Quebec, they still have a base in the province and see room to grow.
“I am disappointed but not discouraged.”
Harper returned to the microphone twice after taking several questions, even admitting to taking a modest swig of champagne in celebration of Monday’s win.
He also sought to allay any fears of a looming hard-right agenda. He insisted Canada’s commitment to public health care is unquestioned.
“I think we’ve made it very clear that we support Canada’s system of universal public health insurance.”
He wants to co-operate with the provinces in making the health-care system better, he added. “I think we need to figure out how we can work together.”
The prime minister also suggested that he’ll stick to the platform and the last Tory budget brought down in March, and work hard to keep the public trust.
“One thing I’ve learned, surprises are generally not well received by the public,” he said.
“We will have to govern well, govern in people’s interest,” he said. “Even as a majority you have to, on an ongoing basis, keep the trust of the population.”
The Conservatives won 167 seats, while the NDP will form the official Opposition with 102. The Liberals were reduced to 34 seats, while the Bloc Quebecois is left with only four.
Harper wasn’t the only leader basking in victory today: NDP Leader Jack Layton becomes leader of the official Opposition after his party’s best showing in its history, while Green party Leader Elizabeth May won her party its first seat ever.
Among the high-profile casualties were Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, who stepped down Monday, and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who promised today to quit at a time to be decided by the party.