Liberal Leader Paul Martin was handed a minority government in a surprising election outcome Monday that marked the party's fourth-straight mandate but a return to the House of Commons with diminished clout.
The NDP improved its seat totals, giving the Liberals a possible ally in the Commons. The two parties are just one seat shy of a majority.
Few had predicted that the Liberals would win a strong minority Monday evening, but the Liberals won in 135 ridings, the Tories in 99, the Bloc Québécois in 54 and the NDP in 19. All four party leaders won in their ridings.
Canada now has its first minority government since the Joe Clark's Tories held power for six months in 1979. The seat totals were nowhere near the huge victory that Mr. Martin had been predicted to win when he took over as Prime Minister last December. Nor even the small majority his Grits were expected to receive when the writ was dropped five weeks ago.
The electorate decided that Mr. Martin deserved to lead the country, but gave the Liberals the message that they must be less arrogant and power-hungry. The Liberals got 36.7 per cent of the popular support compared with 29.6 per cent for the Conservatives and 15.7 per cent for the NDP.