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Harper laments poor Tory showing, loss of cabinet ministers in Quebec

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon concedes defeat in his Pontiac riding, near Ottawa, on May 2 , 2011.


While he won his long-sought majority, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's disappointed by the Conservative Party's Election results in Quebec, where the party lost five seats.

Still, he said he was cheered by the fact the separatist Bloc Québécois was nearly eliminated in the May 2 election.

He acknowledged the Tories have a major rebuilding job to do in the province, where the party lost three sitting cabinet ministers and now only holds six seats.

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"Obviously we're disappointed with the results in Quebec. ... In some cases we've lost the services to Parliament of some very great Canadians and Quebeckers who've made enormous contributions to our government and to their country and I think as well to their ridings," he said.

"But that's the decision of the voters and we accept it. We accept we have a lot more work to do to gain the true confidence of Quebeckers," Mr. Harper said.

"I am disappointed but not discouraged."

Those senior Quebec Tories who lost their seats May 2 include cabinet ministers: Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josée Verner, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Mr. Harper said, however, Quebec's apparent rejection of the separatist Bloc is heartening. The Bloc was reduced to four seats and this means it's also lost official party status in the Commons.

"Compare the overall situation of the Bloc Québécois and the sovereignty movement today with where it was in 2005 before we came into office - and you see just an enormous change," Mr. Harper said.

He argued the Tories can take some credit for what's happened to the Bloc, saying his government worked hard to repair relations with provinces including Quebec.

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"Obviously I am disappointed that the NDP has been for now the beneficiary of most of that," he said.

"I am encouraged that the shift is towards federalism," Mr. Harper said.

He said he sees a way to rebuild Tory support in Quebec but declined to elaborate. "I do see a way we can gain the confidence of Quebeckers and we are committed to doing that."

The Tories won 16.5 per cent of the popular vote in Quebec while the NDP won 42.9 per cent of the popular vote. The Bloc's share was 23.4 per cent.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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