By HELEN DOLIK
Globe and Mail Update with Canadian Press
Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien was shooting for his third straight majority government — and he hit the bull's-eye in Monday's federal election.
The Liberals stormed through most of the country, winning 173 of the 301-seat House of Commons. The Liberals won 155 seats in 1997.
"Tonight the people of Canada have renewed their confidence in our program, in our team and in my leadership," Mr. Chrétien told a cheering and clapping crowd in Shawinigan, Que.
"It is with great humility that I once again accept this honour and this responsibility."
Mr. Chrétien was generous with his thanks and congratulations, but made particular mention of his wife, Aline, calling her his "Rock of Gibraltar."
The power base of the Liberals continues to be centred in Ontario, where they dominated with 100 of 103 seats and returned several heavyweights such as federal ministers Allan Rock, Art Eggleton and David Collenette.
Ontario voters also re-elected the embattled Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources in Brant, Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage (Hamilton East), and Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief in Prince Edward-Hastings.
Mr. Rock, beaming and victorious in Etobicoke Centre, said the results showed Canadians are happy with Mr. Chrétien's leadership.
"We have a leader who has the confidence of the country," Mr. Rock, Minister of Health, said.
The Liberals made inroads in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, often at the expense of the New Democrats. They won 19 seats in the region, taking four from the New Democrats and three from the Tories.
The Grits took four seats in Nova Scotia after being shut out in 1997.
New Brunswick returned six Liberals, double the 1997 score. They held onto PEI's four seats.
The Liberals had banked on rebuilding themselves in the region to provide a political cushion against potential losses in the West. The Liberals regained their five Newfoundland seats, including a Brian Tobin victory in Bonavista-Trinity-Conception.
But the Liberals were in jeopardy of taking a substantial hit in the West. For much of the night Justice Minister Anne McLellan looked like the highest-profile casualty, as she won a squeaker over the Alliance's Betty Unger in Edmonton West.
In the dying days of the election, Mr. Chrétien told voters that only a Liberal majority government could deliver stability and economic progress to Canadians. The Liberals needed 151 seats in the House of Commons to accomplish an historic third consecutive majority government.
A recent poll suggested that pivotal areas for the Liberals to retain their majority government would rest in Atlantic Canada, Eastern Ontario and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.