When the results of Canada’s federal election were in last night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party won a majority government and history was made when the New Democrat Party (NDP) became Official Opposition for the first time, led by Jack Layton.
The Liberals were reduced to third-place; the separatist party Bloc Québécois was all but wiped out.
The Conservatives, which had not held a majority in seven years, won 167 seats of the 308-seat Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario, a gain of 24 seats and 12 more than the required 155 seats needed to form a majority government in Canada. The NDP won 102 (up from 36), Liberals 34 (down 43). Bloc received a dismal four, and, for the first time the Green party (led by Elizabeth May) landed one seat.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff lost his seat in Toronto’s Etobicoke Lakeshore riding and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, who lost his seat in Laurier-Sainte-Marie in Montreal, announced at his concession speech that he would step down (the NDP secured 58 seats in Quebec).
“I will serve as long as the party wants me to serve and asks me to serve, and not a day longer,” Ignatieff said in his concession speech, but at a 10 a.m. press conference Tuesday announced, “I will not be remaining as leader of this party. I will work out with party officials the best timing for this departure.”
In his victory speech from Calgary last night, Harper stated, “Our job starts tomorrow. We will implement what we laid out in the budget, our plan for jobs and growth without raising taxes.” The Conservative leader ran on a platform of “vote for values,” focusing on family, hard work and tougher crime laws.
The election was called after the minority Conservatives lost a non-confidence vote on March 25 and asked the Governor General on the 26th to dissolve parliament.
With that call, all pending legislation in the House of Commons died, including the copyright-reform bill, C-32, which had successfully moved past the second hearing in Parliament. Previous bills, in 2008 and 2006, only got past the first hearing.
Many in the arts community are concerned by last night’s election results due to recent funding cuts to the arts, comments from Conservative MPs and even one from the prime minister himself.
In August, 2008, after his government pledged to slash $44.8 million from arts and culture funding by April 2010, Harper addressed the cut during a re-election campaign stop in Saskatoon in September: “I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough -when they know those subsidies have actually gone up – I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people,” Harper said, presumably referring to events like the Juno Awards, which are partially government-funded.
In early 2009, however, his government did inject $160 million into the arts, allotting $100 million over two years to arts festivals, music and comedy and $60 million for the Cultural Spaces Canada program to repair or build arts facilities, including museums and theatres.
In November, 2010, during a House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Dean Del Mastro, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, presented a question to a representative from Corus Communications about the future of the 75-year-old Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the national public radio and television broadcaster.
“I’m just asking an opinion – this is not a government policy, obviously – but do you think it’s time that the Canadian government looks at it and says maybe it’s time we get out of the broadcasting business and get into investing more money into content? We invest over a billion government dollars, as you know, into a stage, when in fact the private sector would not only make use of that stage … they have so many already, and reinvest all of those dollars into Canadian content,” Del Mastro said in part.
While the government has no stated plans to eliminate the CBC, recently, on March 1, Harper’s spending plan for 2011 included a reduction of $16 million to the broadcaster.
In addition, a promised $25 million for the Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity, which was part of the 2009 Conservative budget and supposed to be administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, “had still not been transferred,” according to an April 17 report by CBC Radio News.