Canada has its first Conservative prime minister in over twelve years. Stephen Harper has ridden in from the wilds of Calgary, Alberta, to take Ottawa by storm.
In the second election in eighteen months, the Conservatives took seats from both the ousted Liberals, and the French-speaking separatist Bloc Quebecois. However, Harper will be leading a minority administration, and he will have to forge an alliance to govern. These have rarely lasted beyond eighteen months in Canadian politics, which may be facing a period of uncertainty. The Liberals were shaken by their defeat, and outgoing prime minister Paul Martin is to quit the party leadership. Aged 67, it may be the end of his political career, during which he is likely to be remembered as an excellent finance minister, but a disappointing leader. Harper has succeeded in softening his party’s image, and led what commentators are calling an “old-fashioned” campaign built more around messages than policies. This swayed voters who seem to have been hungry for change after twelve years of the Liberals, and who were fed up with a number of scandals that have tainted the party. However, the majority of Canada’s electorate in the east will be wary of any over-assertiveness by their western neighbours.