Jack Layton and the NDP were all smiles on an historic election night, despite the fact that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives won a majority government.
Layton took the stage at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to deafening applause — and had to pause numerous times to let the cheering and chants of “NDP” subside.
The New Democrats secured 103 seats and will now be the official Opposition in the House of Commons.
“For the first time in our history they have asked us to serve as official Opposition,” Layton said. “In this campaign, New Democrats promised to get Ottawa operating for you and your family. Tonight Canadians responded in record numbers. You voted to end the same old debates and political games.”
Layton emphasized his view that the NDP’s late surge in this campaign was not an overnight success, and he paid tribute to those who came before him.
“This is an historic night for New Democrats…. It is important to remember that tonight’s results did not come around in 32 days. It has been 50 years in the making,” he said. “We think of all those people that came before us, the millions of men and women who believed so passionately in a more fair society, and they refused to give up, often in the face of overwhelming odds. We stand on the shoulders of these people today.”
Layton had warm words for defeated Liberal Leader Michael Ingantieff and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe. He also congratulated Stephen Harper and the Conservatives on winning a majority government — but he pledged to continued pushing for change.
”I join all Canadians in wishing Mr. Harper well. I let Mr. Harper know that I look forward to working with his party and in fact all parties to get things done,” Layton said. “I would like to say that I have always favoured proposition over opposition… but we will oppose the government when it is off-track.… I will propose constructive solutions focused on helping Canadians.”