Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

Liberal Party Defeat

Ignatieff says he’ll step down as federal Liberal leader after historic defeat

By Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Michael Ignatieff, the professorial leader of a decimated Liberal party, is ending his tenure in politics after steering the party to a devastating electoral defeat.

Voters slashed the ranks of Liberals in the House of Commons to an all-time low as Stephen Harper‘s Conservatives vaulted to majority status.

“I will not be remaining as leader of this party,” Ignatieff told red-eyed supporters during an emotional news conference in Toronto.

“I will work out with the party officials the best timing for a departure so we can arrange for a succession in due time.”

The party that governed the country for much of the past century was reduced to just 34 seats, a distant third behind Jack Layton’s bounding New Democrats.

So complete was the Liberal loss that Ignatieff lost his own seat in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, a rarity for a federal leader.

In Ignatieff’s case, it had a lot to do with a relentless Tory campaign of attack ads that began long before the election did, portraying the Liberal leader as a disloyal opportunist and part-time Canadian.

“Of course they attacked me, of course they vilified me, of course they engaged in an absolutely unscrupulous campaign of personal attack,” he said.

People who met him in person were often surprised, he said, “because I didn’t turn out to be quite as bad as the ads portrayed me.”

“The only thing Canadians like less than a loser is a sore loser, and I go out of politics with my head held high.”

Canadians deserve better from their politics and their politicians, he added, “and I leave politics with a strong desire that Canadians are better served in future.”

Ignatieff turned up his nose at the suggestion of a merger between the Liberals and the NDP, and said he remains confident the party will recover from Monday’s loss.

“I think the surest guarantee of the future of the Liberal party ofCanada is four years of Conservative government and four years of NDP official Opposition.”

He said he intends to return to teaching “young Canadians,” one of his first passions. “No offers yet; no reasonable offers refused.”

For the last two weeks, the Liberals had pinned their electoral hopes on reinvigorating their traditional base of voters.

It was believed that an estimated 800,000 Liberals didn’t vote in 2008 and Ignatieff was counting on getting them back.

Ignatieff had gone cross-country last summer to bond with them, and the final days of his campaign were focused on a get-out-the-vote run in a much slicker and co-ordinated fashion than 2008.

He said up until Saturday morning, he thought he had them.

“It’s what I believed, it’s what I thought, it’s what I saw in our numbers,” he said. “There is a base that remains, but it is a much smaller base than I anticipated.”

He said he will consult with party officials about the timing of his departure and has asked deputy leader Ralph Goodale to convene the caucus next week to chose an interim leader.

Ignatieff was far from the only high-profile political figure who woke up today with tire tracks on their backs.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois — winner of at least half Quebec’s 75 seats in every election since 1993 — was reduced to a tiny, four-member regional rump. Leader Gilles Duceppe lost his own seat and immediately resigned.

A number of prominent Liberals also lost their seats, including hockey hall of famer Ken Dryden, former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, one-time leadership contender Gerard Kennedy, former immigration minister Joe Volpe and ex-cabinet hopeful Ruby Dhalla.

The Conservatives took 40 per cent of the vote, compared to 31 per cent for the NDP and a dismal 19 per cent for the Liberals.

The Tories return to Parliament Hill with 166 seats, a 24-seat improvement and more than enough to drive the national agenda until October 2015, when the country next goes to the polls under Harper’s fixed election date law.

The NDP almost tripled its seat count, rising to 103 MPs — including three dozen mostly unknowns from Quebec, a province where the party won its very first MP just over two years ago.

Under Liberal party rules, a leadership convention must be held within six months of the leader’s departure. A leader could be chosen by fall, Ignatieff suggested.

He said he’s hopeful that some younger successor — “I hope it’s a young woman” — will be able to restore the party’s lustre.

“I hope there will be people coming after me who look at me today and say, ‘He didn’t make it, but I will.'”


Harper wins Majority Government

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.


Canada imposes sanctions against Libya, including arms embargo, asset freeze

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Canada has joined the United Nations and a number of Western countries in slapping sanctions against Libya following the deadly crackdown on protesters by the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the sanctions on Sunday, while calling on Gadhafi to step down.

“It is clear that the only acceptable course of action for him is to halt the bloodshed and to immediately vacate his position and his authority,” Harper said in a televised statement.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose an arms embargo on Libya and urged UN member countries to freeze the assets of Gadhafi, four of his sons and a daughter.

The council also backed a travel ban on the Gadhafi family and close associates, including leaders of the revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against regime opponents.

Harper said Canada will go beyond the UN resolution.

“Our government will impose an asset freeze on, and a prohibition of financial transactions with the government of Libya, its institutions and agencies, including the Libyan Central Bank.

“These actions will help restrict the movement of, and access to money and weapons for those responsible for the violence against the Libyan people.”

The 192-member UN General Assembly is meeting Tuesday to vote on a UN Human Rights Council recommendation to suspend Libya from the world organization’s top human rights body.

Harper said Gadhafi has betrayed his own people.

“A government’s first and most fundamental responsibility is to protect the safety and security of its citizens. Mr. Gadhafi has bluntly violated this most basic trust. Far from protecting the Libyan people against peril, he is the root cause of the dangers they face.”

The prime minister also announced that a second C-17 aircraft has arrived in Malta, ready to help evacuate Canadians still stranded in Libya. Two C-130 Hercules aircraft will also being deployed to the region to provide additional and flexible capacity, Harper said.

“The Canadian Armed Forces in co-ordination with our allies will deploy these aircraft as circumstances permit.”

About 100 Canadians are believed to still be in Libya, most of them oil workers.

Efforts continued all weekend to contact those Canadians, Harper said.

”The emergency operation centre of the department of foreign affairs is continuing to contact registered Canadians by phone, where possible, regarding opportunities to leave the country by any possible means.”

A Canadian Forces C-17 aircraft evacuated 46 people including its diplomatic staff from Libya on Saturday.

The Conservative government has faced criticism that it has not responded quickly enough to the needs of stranded Canadians.

Other countries engaged their military to evacuate their citizens from multiple locations in Libya, including the eastern desert, where many of the oil rigs are located.

The British military, including members of its special forces, used a Hercules to fly under the Libyan radar and rescue 150 Britons and foreign nationals in a desert area on Sunday. The British government said one of the RAF Hercules aircraft appeared to have suffered minor damage from small arms fire.

Two German military planes evacuated 132 people also from the desert during a secret military mission on Saturday, landing on a private runway belonging to the Wintershall AG company.