From left, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Conservative leader Tim Hudak and Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne cast their ballots for the provincial election. Canadian Press
Despite being hounded on both sides by rivals who harped on Liberal government scandals during the longer-than-normal campaign, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne has steered her party to a majority and a commanding electoral victory, based largely on major gains in the Toronto area.
With all ridings reporting some results, Liberals were elected or leading in 58 constituencies to 28 for the Progressive Conservatives and 21 for the NDP.
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The strong Liberal showing has its roots in the Greater Toronto Area, where eight seats are poised to change hands — seven of those going to the Liberals. Overall, the results mean the Liberals will be even more concentrated in the GTA.
The Liberals also picked up seats from the Tories in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Barrie and Northumberland, while they were only poised to lose two: Sudbury and Windsor West.
The outcome was also rosier for the NDP under Leader Andrea Horwath, who was the first of the major party leaders to be declared elected in their home riding tonight. The NDP vote share was at 25 per cent, up from the 23 per cent they achieved in the 2011 campaign.
The NDP vote gains, too, came mostly at the expense of the PCs, with the New Democrats picking up the Tory seat in Oshawa.
The PC share of the popular vote was down 4.5 percentage points from the last election, as the party dropped eight seats to the Liberals. PC Leader Tim Hudak is projected to keep his riding, however.
Wynne herself was re-elected in her home district of Don Valley West.
Delays keep a few polls open
The polls closed at 9 p.m. except at six polling stations in three ridings where delays earlier in the day meant they remained open up to an hour longer for voters. Results from only those ridings weren't made available until all their polls closed.
Following a hard-fought campaign, the major party leaders are back in their hometowns tonight to watch the results, while their candidates anxiously watched the election returns and fretted about whether they'll have a seat at Queen's Park in the next legislative session.
Given how close the parties were in a number of pre-election polls, the outcome of the election was expected to depend on a dozen key battleground ridings. Those included races where the Progressive Conservatives would have needed to unseat Liberal incumbents to gather the seats they needed to win, and a handful of others where the Liberals needed to knock off NDP and Tory incumbents to clamber into majority territory.
In the end, the Liberals did poach a number of those seats. Among them: the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina, which had been NDP since 1999, and the west Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, where city councillor Peter Milczyn turned the tables on his former municipal council colleague, Conservative Doug Holyday. Backed by the campaign team of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Holyday had defeated Milczyn in a byelection in the same riding last August.
At dissolution, the Liberals held 48 seats in the 107-member Legislature, the PCs had 37 and the NDP held 21, with one vacancy.
Wynne starts day with a jog
Wynne began election day in Toronto with her usual morning jog, following which she cast her ballot in her riding of Don Valley West. "It's such an important process, such an important election," she said.
Wynne, who becomes Ontario's first elected female premier and has extended her party's 10½ years of rule, had a relatively low-key day with no campaign events.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak made one final pitch for voter support at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, standing in front of a plane to say he would help create jobs in Ontario so young people don't have to fly to Alberta for work. He said he was a "hundred per cent proud of the campaign we've run."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath had the busiest day, starting at 8:30 a.m. in Toronto's Kensington Market, where she rallied volunteers, before heading to Hamilton to greet voters in the street.
"I don't want to predict at all what we're going to end up with at the end of the day," she said.
"All I felt is growing momentum and felt it right up until today when I got out of the car and people were shaking my hand in downtown Hamilton. So we'll see what the people decide and we'll do our best to deliver for them."
Nightmare for pollsters
The election was originally tipped as a tight two-way race between the Liberals and PCs, but polls in recent days had been all over the map, suggesting it could have been anything from a three-way battle with the NDP or a decisive victory for either Wynne or Hudak.
The campaign was triggered when NDP Leader Andrea Horwath refused to support the minority Liberals' budget. The snap election will cost the province about $90 million.
The province's economic recovery, job creation and the elimination of the $12.5-billion deficit dominated the 40-day campaign, which in the final stages was marred by nasty personal attacks and accusations of voter manipulation.
There were questions about voter turnout in this election. It has fallen steadily in recent elections, dipping to an all-time low of 48.2 per cent in 2011.