Analysis: No easy breakthroughs for Canada's government

Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:34pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's governing Conservatives will have difficulty capturing a majority of seats in the House of Commons in the next election despite scoring a significant political win over their rivals in a by-election this week.

The Conservatives won power in early 2006 and since then have governed with a parliamentary minority, forcing them to dilute their policies and do deals with opposition parties to survive confidence motions.

The party, which enjoys greatest support in the West and in rural areas, needs to break into Canada's three big vote-rich cities -- Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver -- to win a majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.

The party took a step in the right direction on Monday when it won a by-election in Vaughan, a suburb of Toronto, which had been held by the main opposition Liberal Party for 22 years.

Yet Toronto itself remains a Liberal stronghold and there are big obstacles for the Conservatives in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, another obvious hunting ground for more seats.

The separatist Bloc Quebec has 47 of Quebec's 75 federal seats and its hold looks impervious, for the time being at least.

"With the Bloc Quebecois soaking up so much support in the province, what happens is that it leaves virtually no room for either the federal Liberals or the Conservatives to get a majority," said pollster John Wright of Ipsos Reid.

Many political observers expect the next election to be in the first half of next year. Polls indicate the Conservatives will lose some of the 11 Quebec seats they hold, which means they need to look elsewhere in search of a majority.   Continued...