After an early cabinet shuffle, the minority Harper government fell in March after opposition parties rejected Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget and the Conservatives failed a non-confidence motion. This set the scene for a May election, and the race was on: pre-election polls had the Tories in the lead with the Liberals lagging in second, and the NDP just behind.
Despite missteps such as using the RCMP to screen rally attendees, Harper pleaded with Canadians to give his Tories a majority government or else, a tactic Michael Ignatieff condemned as a campaign of fear. NDP leader Jack Layton ran rousing rallies in his birth province of Quebec, and the country took notice of the rising tide of "orange crush." Pundits went back to their drawing boards to re-imagine what parliament would look like if the NDP made an unprecedented surge.
When the confetti settled, it was a Conservative majority, with historic NDP gains launching that party to Official Opposition status for the first time. Green Leader Elizabeth May won her party's first-ever seat in the House of Commons, but the Bloc Quebecois did not fare as well: they were reduced to five seats after a 49-seat victory in 2008. Gilles Duceppe stepped down as party leader after losing his own seat to a little-known NDP candidate, of which there were many.
To many, the most shocking story was the dismal performance of the Liberals. After appealing to voters that a Liberal vote was the only way to oust Harper, the party won only 34 seats and lost its position as Official Opposition party. Less than 48-hours after the election, Ignatieff had stepped down as leader and accepted a teaching position at University of Toronto.
After introducing a familiar-feeling budget, Stephen Harper's brand new majority wasted no time in tabling bills which had been voted down under the minority government. First up: an omnibus crime bill, which aimed to clean up the streets and back up the party's tough-on-crime campaign promises. They also pledged to scrap the long-gun registry, an initiative set up by the Liberals in 1995.
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