OTTAWA (AFP) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper won re-election Monday at the head of an elusive majority government, the first for his Conservative Party since 1988, television projections showed. In a ground-breaking election full of firsts, the left-leaning New Democratic Party was on course to surge past the Liberals, who governed for most of the last century, and become Canada's official opposition. Capping a disastrous night for the separatist Bloc Quebecois, their leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat two decades after he was first elected to parliament and the party was set to be reduced to just two seats, from 47. "It's the first time a Conservative prime minister has won three back to back elections in Canada," Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas told broadcaster TVA. According to projections, the Conservatives would win 166 of 308 seats up for grabs, while the NDP, led by the popular Jack Layton, would triple its number of seats to more than 100. The Liberals, which has taken a hammering under the flagging leadership of Harvard academic and human rights champion Michael Ignatieff, were set to be reduced to a paltry 33 seats. Since entering Canadian politics in 2006 after three decades abroad, Ignatieff has struggled to connect with voters. Throughout the campaign, opinion polls showed the Tories in the lead, but shy of the 40 percent mark that typically translates into a parliamentary majority, while facing a strong challenge in the final leg of the 36-day campaign from Layton's NDP. Harper campaigned on the economy while warning that if he failed to win a majority, the NDP and Liberals could end up forming a coalition with Layton becoming prime minister in a radical reshape of Canadian politics. And the NDP's plank for major new social spending could derail Canada's fragile recovery, he said. But Layton, who is battling prostate cancer and walks with a cane because of a broken hip, won admiration from cheering crowds for his tenacity and smiling demeanor during the campaign. The NDP campaigned to raise corporate tax rate by three percent to 19.5 -- 2008 levels -- eliminate the 2 billion dollars in subsidies to the oil sands, implement a cap-and trade system to control pollution, and increase spending on health and education. In contrast, Harper has gradually cut corporate tax, backed the powerful oil industry and shied away from implementing climate-change legislation. His critics have accused him of subverting parliamentary democracy by withholding information in a budget bill. Two televised debates in mid-April unleashed a staggering rise in support for the NDP, first in Quebec which returned mostly federalist MPs to Ottawa for the first time in 20 years at the expense of the Bloc, then nationwide. The Tories and Liberals shifted their attacks on the untested NDP, with Harper saying Layton's "folksy talk" masked a "sobering reality of crushing taxes, out-of-control deficits, and massive job losses." Several commentators said after the results came in that the Liberals risk "evaporating" while Harper must now aim to govern from the centre if he wants to realize his dream of ushering in a Conservative era in Canadian politics. For its part, the NDP said simply it would act responsibly in opposition after Canada's fourth election in seven years. Green Party leader Elizabeth May also became the first Green to be elected to Canada's parliament in elections Monday, according to projections. May defeated Conservative minister Gary Lunn in the Vancouver Island electoral district of Saanich-Gulf Islands, after failing in her first bid in 2008 to get elected. "Today we proved that Canadians want change in politics," she told a cheering crowd.