Conservative Party president John Walsh released a short statement shortly before Harper took the stage in Calgary, indicating Harper had instructed him to reach out to the elected caucus to appoint an interim leader and begin the next leadership selection process. The party is expected to issue a further statement on that process Tuesday morning.
Harper, who was seeking a fourth consecutive term as prime minister since 2006, enthusiastically greeted supporters before taking the podium in “our home, our Calgary” for his concession speech.
Harper did not mention his political future in his speech. He said he had spoken to and congratulated Justin Trudeau, the fourth Liberal leader he has faced in a federal election. The Conservative leader said it was an electoral result he would “accept without hesitation,” and he pledged to help Trudeau with the transition of power.
Harper had led the party to increases in seat totals in three consecutive elections. But in this marathon campaign, the party’s attempt to paint Trudeau as too inexperienced for the highest office in the land proved unsuccessful.
Harper has spent over nine years in power and 13 years as a party leader, having officially become leader of the Opposition as Alliance leader in May 2002.
Harper, 56, called it “an incredible honour” to serve as prime minister of the country.
“We put everything on the table, we gave everything we have to give, and we have no regrets whatsoever,” he said of the 78-day campaign.
“The disappointment you also feel is my responsibility and mine only,” he told supporters.
Harper thanked his wife, Laureen, and teen children, Ben and Rachel, who were in elementary school when he was first sworn in as prime minister in 2006, for their support in “making everything possible.”
The Conservatives won 166 seats in the 2011 election, their only majority with Harper at the helm, but were poised to lose dozens of seats as of early Tuesday.
Harper, who in previous election night speeches promised to unite Canada and lead an inclusive government, was accused of divisiveness during the campaign due to the party’s slow and inconsistent response to the Syrian refugee crisis and their ongoing court battle over the wearing of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.
Harper exited the stage as Collective Soul’s Better Now blared in the background.
A campaign official told CBC News that Harper didn’t mention the party’s imminent leadership process because he wanted to focus on Conservative accomplishments in his speech, and not his individual future.
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