Canada's new opposition leader vows cooperation

Tue May 3, 2011 5:51pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The leader of Canada's New Democratic Party, which won official opposition status in Monday's federal election, vowed on Tuesday to work with the Conservative government to find common ground.

The left-leaning NDP has governed in several Canadian provinces but had always placed a distant third on the federal scene. On Monday it took 102 out of 308 seats in the House of Commons, up from 37, pushing it into second place ahead of the Liberals.

"We have been given a job to do by Canadians which is to drive home the notion that politics has to be done differently in Ottawa", said NDP leader Jack Layton, looking gaunt after a recent battle with prostate cancer and hobbled by hip surgery.

"We'll oppose you when we think you're wrong, but we'll work together to try to find areas where we agree," he said of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who won his first majority after leading two successive minority governments.

Speaking in Toronto, Layton said the NDP would press for more family doctors in Canada, for improving pensions and retirement security for seniors, and for limiting credit card interest rates.

The party had campaigned on a platform of higher corporate taxes, an end to subsidies for the powerful energy sector, and a cap-and-trade system to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. As with the Conservatives and the Liberals, it wants to reign in the federal budget deficit within years.

Thanks to the NDP's surprise surge toward the end of the five-week campaign, Layton will take the keys to Stornoway, the official residence of the opposition leader.

On his way out of the Ottawa mansion is Michael Ignatieff, who is resigning as Liberal leader after his party failed to take at least runner-up status for the first time in its history.   Continued...

<p>New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton speaks during a news conference in Toronto May 3, 2011. Layton will form the official opposition party to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's majority win in Monday's federal election. REUTERS/Mike Cassese</p>