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Cablegate: Conservatives to Form Second Minority Government

VZCZCXRO6453
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #1324 2891729
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 151729Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8603
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS OTTAWA 001324

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: CONSERVATIVES TO FORM SECOND MINORITY GOVERNMENT

REF: OTTAWA 1316 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Canada's Conservative party won an enhanced
minority in the October 14 federal election, increasing its
representation in every region and province except Quebec and
Newfoundland. Party leaders of the four major parties all won
re-election (although Green leader May failed to win a seat), as did
all Conservative Cabinet ministers, except International Trade
Minister Michael Fortier (Foreign Minister David Emerson did not run
again). The Liberals fell to a historic low in the popular vote,
fuelling speculation about Stephane Dion's political future. A low
turn-out may have helped the incumbent party. Septel will discuss
the implications of the 2008 outcome. End summary.


Conservatives score
-------------------

2. (SBU) In the October 14 federal election, the Conservatives
improved their standing in the 308-seat House of Commons from 127
MPs as of dissolution of the 39th Parliament in September to 143 MPs
in the 40th Parliament, which will meet in November for the first
time. To have obtained a majority (155 seats), the Conservatives
would have needed 29 seats and would have needed significant gains
in Quebec. The party managed to win ten seats in Quebec -- the same
tally it won in 2006 -- but early hopes of doubling or tripling its
holdings in Quebec foundered over its controversial cuts to culture
and a tough crime platform. The Conservatives lost their three
seats in Newfoundland to Newfoundland premier Danny Williams' ABC
(Anyone-But-Conservative) campaign. Prime Minister Harper publicly
cited new gains among female, immigrant, and urban voters.

3. (SBU) The Conservatives cut deeply into the Liberal bastion in
rural and suburban Ontario to gain ten seats, as well as picking off
Liberal seats in Atlantic Canada and Manitoba as well as one seat in
Vancouver. The Conservatives increased their popular vote by
approximately 1 percent (38 percent) over 2006. The Conservatives
made significant inroads in the suburban belt around Toronto, but
failed to win any seats -- again -- in Toronto and Montreal.

Liberal woes
------------

4. (SBU) The Liberals saw their share of the popular vote fall to a
historic low of 26 percent (from 30 percent in 2006) and their seats
in the Commons drop to only 76, down from their 103 MPs in the 2006
election. Strategic voting, particularly by Green Party voters, to
avert a Conservative majority did not appear to be a major factor.
The Liberals nonetheless performed better than expected in Quebec,
where they added three seats for a total of 14 in the province.
Most commentators and many unattributed Liberal Party members
squarely blamed the performance of Liberal leader Stephane Dion for
this political debacle.

Other parties gain
------------------

5. (SBU) Contrary to early expectations, the Bloc Quebecois managed
to gain two additional two seats (one each from the Conservatives
and Liberals) and approximately 38 percent of the provincial vote.
Its 50 MPs give the Bloc the third largest standing in the 40th
Parliament.

6. (SBU) The New Democratic Party picked up seven additional seats
(with 37 MPs in the 40th Parliament), but still short of its
best-ever result of 43 seats in 1988. Its share of the popular vote
remained virtually unchanged from 2006 (18 percent compared to 17.5
percent). However, unlike in 2004 and 2006, the party largely held
onto its core voters and avoided a last-minute flight of
left-leaning voters to the Liberals. The NDP consolidated its
competitive position in urban Ontario and Vancouver, and added one
new seat to the three it previously held in Atlantic Canada. It
Qnew seat to the three it previously held in Atlantic Canada. It
retained its sole seat in Quebec in the Montreal riding of Outremont
(won in a 2007 by-election), making this the first time an NDP MP
ever won election in Quebec in a federal election.

7. (SBU) The Green Party increased its popular vote to 7 percent
(up from 4.5 percent in 2006), but failed to elect any MPs,
anywhere. Leader Elizabeth May was a distant second to Conservative
Defence Minister Peter Mackay in the Nova Scotia riding of Central
Nova.

Low turn-out (by Canadian standards. . .)
-----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Voter turn-out in the election was approximately 59 percent
(versus 64.7 percent in 2006), apparently the lowest level since
1898. Pundits had warned that a low turn-out would help the
incumbent party.

WILKINS

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