As shown above, Canadian ballots are very simple. Each voter chooses a single candidate for his "riding" (equivalent to a U.S. Congressional District). Each party has one candidate selected by party officials rather than in a political primary. Nothing else appears on the ballot. The candidate with the most votes in the riding wins that riding. Paper ballots are used.
In a nutshell:
Results thus far. % is popular vote. 155 seats needed for majority:
Conservatives - 124 seats (36.4%)
Liberals - 103 seats (30.1%)
Bloc - 51 Seats (10.5%)
NDP - 29 seats (17.4%)
Others - 1 seat (5.6%)
Total: 308 (of 308)
63,094 of 66,171 polls reporting
By Jurisdiction (older data):
Yukon: 1 Liberal
Northwest Territories: 1 Liberal
Nunavut: 1 Conservative (by just 3 votes with 31 polling places not yet in)
British Columbia: 16 Conservative, 7 Liberal, 12 NDP
Alberta: 28 Conservative
Saskatchewan: 13 Conservative; 1 Liberal
Manitoba: 7 Conservative; 3 Liberal; 4 NDP
Ontario: 38 Conservative; 56 Liberal; 12 NDP
Quebec: 50 Bloc; 10 Conservative; 14 Liberal
New Brunswick: 3 Conservative; 6 Liberal; 1 NDP
Price Edward's Island: 4 Liberal
Nova Scotia: 3 Conservative; 6 Liberal; 2 NDP
Newfoundland and Labrador: 3 Conservative; 4 Liberal
The Conservatives in Canada vaguely resemble moderate Republicans. The Liberals vaguely resemble Northern Democrats. The NDP is to the left of the Liberals (the sort of people who might vote Green Party if they lived in the U.S.) [Ed. A commentator advises me that the Minnesota DFL might be a better comparison as farmers and labor are important parts of the NDP base]. The Bloc Quebecois is the Quebec Nationalist Party, which is politically well to the Left, but focused on Quebec autonomy (its seats comprise about two-thirds of the seats in Quebec, which is French speaking). There is one independent.
The commentators at Daily Kos (linked above) assure me that despite the fact that left leaning parties far outnumber the Conservatives, that the Conservatives, as the biggest seat winner in Parliament, will be permitted to try to form a government (i.e. choose the Prime Minister and cabinet) and that barring truly obnoxious behavior, will be backed, at least, by the Bloc Quebecois initially. But, such minority governments are fragile and rarely last more than two years. When and if the Conservative minority government falls by failing to receive a vote of confidence after the defeat of key legislation in the House of Commons (typically a money bill), new elections will be called.
Thus, the Canadians have handed the Conservatives a pyrrhic victory, while issuing a stern reprimand to the ruling Liberals. Barring extraordinary success on the part of the Conservatives against overwhelming odds, they may be out of power again in short order.