Liberals see tough road after vote setbacks

Tue Nov 10, 2009 1:11pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Hurt by a poor showing in special elections on Monday, Canada's opposition Liberal Party acknowledged on Tuesday it has a steep hill to climb to regain popular support.

The Liberals, the biggest opposition party and the most successful political party in Canadian history, came in third place in all four of Monday's elections, held to fill vacant seats in the federal Parliament.

The Liberals decided in September to try to bring down the minority Conservative government in Parliament and force a general election, but their dismal showing in Monday's by-elections, and an unexpected pickup in support for the Conservatives in the French-speaking province of Quebec, have prompted some soul-searching.

"The by-election results last night show that we have a lot of work ahead of us," said Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, a former Harvard don who shook up his inner circle this month in a bid to rebuild momentum.

"Our job in the months ahead is to earn the confidence and support of Canadians."

The governing party often loses ground in by-elections but the Conservatives added two seats on Monday -- including a surprise win in Quebec, where until recently they had been losing ground.

The Quebec win came at the expense of the Bloc Quebecois, which advocates independence for the province and retains a majority of the Quebec seats.

Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe said his party would dissect the results but said the loss may have been the result of voter unhappiness that the Bloc legislator who had held the seat had stepped down so soon after the October 2008 general election.   Continued...

<p>Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>