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Canada election: four ways that history was made May 2

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(Credit: ZUMA Press/Newscom)

(Read caption) People watch election results announced by national media on TV screens in Toronto May 2. Canada's Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper won.

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Canada rarely gets earthquakes but it felt a big temblor on May 2. When the rest of the world was glued to news about Osama bin Laden, Canadians voted in an election that shook up their political landscape.

On the surface, the election simply saw more of the same: Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who took office in 2006, will stay in power. But wait, much more happened below the crust:

1. For the first time in Canada’s history, the Liberals came in third place, with only 19 percent of the vote. The party of Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson, and Jean Chretien that so dominated politics for decades and defined Canadian identity fell from grace. The loss forced its leader, former Harvard academic Michael Ignatieff, to resign. (He even lost his own seat in Parliament).

2. Bloc Quebecois, the political party that long championed separation for Quebec province, also lost big time. Its seat count went from 47 seats to 4. This will alter one of Canada’s long-standing debates about its unity.

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