Harper in the driver's seat, Iggy and Duceppe in the trunk
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign rally in Brampton, Ontario April 29, 2011.(REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the Conservative majority in Parliament he asked for at almost every campaign stop. Now what?
"I can't believe what I'm seeing tonight," former Tory MP Monte Solberg told Sun News Network as he watched the returns on Monday night.
That shock gives way to some simple political realities.
Since holding the confidence of the House of Commons is no longer in question, Harper gains a much freer hand to move forward with his agenda.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has already made clear the next Tory budget would bear a striking resemblance to the one he introduced just before the Harper government fell.
"Fundamentally, it will be the same document, updated if necessary," said Flaherty. Flaherty added the only changes he'd expect would be because of updated economic data.
The Tories also gain control of parliamentary committees.
That would speed up the passage of bills through the Commons before they go to the Tory-controlled Senate.
Once the government gets a throne speech and a budget out of the way, the next items on the agenda are likely to be law and order, eliminating the long-gun registry and introducing Senate reform.
At the same time, the Tories will face a very different opposition, led by NDP chief Jack Layton.
The historic first for the New Democrats leaves them as the "government-in-waiting" with a bevy of inexperienced and unknown MPs, largely from Quebec.
Those MPs could prove to be wild cards in the new Parliament, even if they don¹t get critics posts.
The biggest changes will come for the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois.
Grit leader Michael Ignatieff¹s days as a politician are numbered after he lost his own seat and led his party to a showing worse than the 2008 debacle under leader Stephane Dion.
As the third party in the House of Commons, the Liberals not only lose some of their best-known members, they¹ll have to fight for attention that will likely be focused on the Tories and NDP.
As they rebuild, the Bloc will have to ponder their party's very existence.
Almost wiped out in Quebec, the separatist party loses its status as the voice of the province in Parliament.