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House of Commons

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Parliament name Parliament of Canada - Parlement du Canada
Structure of parliament Bicameral
Chamber name House of Commons
Related chamber (for bicameral parliaments) Senate
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 14 October 2008
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all members of the House of Commons following the premature dissolution of this body on 7 September 2008. General elections had been held previously on 23 January 2006.
On 7 September 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Governor General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament and call new elections to the House of Commons for 14 October. This would be the third elections in four years. According to an amendment to the Elections Act in November 2006 elections were not due until 19 October 2009. However the amendment did not divest the Governor General of the power to dissolve parliament before the end of its term. Prime Minister Harper used this legal loophole to call for early elections in a bid to secure a parliamentary majority arguing that the parliament was "dysfunctional".

In the previous elections held in January 2006 Mr. Harper's Conservative Party won 124 of the 308 seats at stake. The Liberal Party which had ruled the country since 1993 came in second with 103 seats. The Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party (NDP) took 51 and 29 seats respectively. Mr. Harper subsequently formed the smallest minority government in Canadian history.

Although no specific issues dominated the political agenda at the time of the dissolution the global financial crisis pushed the economy to the forefront of the election campaign. Major parties presented various tax-reduction plans to boost the economy trying to win over the provinces of Ontario and Québec which account for a total of 181 out of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. In all 1 601 candidates including 445 women were vying for the 308 seats at stake.

Prime Minister Harper argued that Canada was on a better economic footing than the United States where the financial crisis had originated. He pledged to maintain tax cuts especially for senior citizens and single parents. He also campaigned on reduced debt and prudent spending. However one week before polling day he announced a plan to help the aerospace and automobile sectors with loans amounting C$ 400 million (US$ 320 million).

The Liberal Party led by former environment minister Stéphane Dion criticized the Prime Minister for failing to come up with an economic plan. Mr. Dion continued to advocate a tax increase on greenhouse gas emissions in order to fund tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners and small businesses.

The Bloc Québécois of Mr. Gilles Duceppe also criticized the Prime Minister's economic policy accusing him of laissez-faire economics.

The NDP led by Mr. Jack Layton promised to cancel corporate tax cuts introduced by the Prime Minister. It also promised to introduce a nationwide child care plan and home care for the elderly.

The campaign was also dominated by Canada's ongoing involvement in the war in Afghanistan. A few days before polling day a parliamentary report indicated that the mission would cost C$ 18 billion (US$ 14.4 billion) by the time its mandate ended in 2011. At the time of the 2008 elections nearly 100 Canadian soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan.

The Bloc Québécois called for the withdrawal of troops from Kandahar province arguing that the mission should focus on humanitarian aid instead. The NDP also called for a withdrawal of the troops and for the mission to be taken over by the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Green Party led by Ms. Elizabeth May insisted that troops should start leaving no later than February 2009. The Conservative Party promised to withdraw most of the 2 500 troops by 2011. The Liberal Party committed itself to withdrawing the troops without specifying any deadline.

A total of 58 83 per cent of the 23.6 million registered voters turned out at the polls.

The final results gave 143 seats to the Conservative Party. The Liberal Party's share dropped to 76. The Bloc Québécois remained the third largest party with 50 seats. The New Democrats increased its strength to 37. The Green Party lost the one seat that it held in the outgoing parliament. Two independent candidates were elected. In all 68 women were elected.

On 30 October Mr. Harper once again formed a minority government.

The newly elected House of Commons held its first session on 18 November and re-elected Mr. Peter Milliken (Liberal Party) as its Speaker.
Voter turnout
Round no 114 October 2008
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
13'929'093 (58.83%)
Distribution of votes
Round no 1
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Conservative Party
Liberal Party
Bloc Québécois (BQ)
New Democratic Party (NDP)
Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total
Conservative Party 143
Liberal Party 76
Bloc Québécois (BQ) 50
New Democratic Party (NDP) 37
Independents 2
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
Distribution of seats according to profession
Preliminary results
- http://enr.elections.ca
- http://www.parl.gc.ca

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