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federal election 2015

Adam Vaughan supporters do the wave as they await his speech at the Rivoli in Toronto on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.MARTA IWANEK/The Canadian Press

Toronto voters turned to the Liberals in staggering numbers, handing defeat to a string of high-profile candidates including incumbent Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Olivia Chow, who fell short in her bid for a political comeback.

Ms. Chow, the widow of former NDP leader Jack Layton, failed to retake a seat in Parliament, losing to Liberal Adam Vaughan in the new riding of Spadina-Fort York. Mr. Vaughan, a former Toronto city councillor, took Ms. Chow's old seat of Trinity-Spadina in a by-election last year when she stepped down to make an unsuccessful run for Toronto mayor.

The defeat follows a political career that has spanned decades, many of them at the side of Mr. Layton, who like Ms. Chow served as a councillor at city hall before moving to federal politics. Ms. Chow left a teaching post at Toronto's Ryerson University to join the federal race this summer after saying for months that she had moved on from politics.

Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

"Even a joyful life is not without sad moments," Ms. Chow told her supporters, saying she had learned "from life and from Jack" about the need to start over.

"We pick ourselves up from our highs and our lows," she said. "Never, ever let them tell you that it can't be done," she said, a reference to the words of her late husband.

Mr. Oliver said that his defeat was part of the Liberal surge across the country. "The wave just swept over us," Mr. Oliver said, who noted that until a few weeks ago his internal polling was "solid."

Mr. Vaughan, for his part, promised to put public housing and transit on the federal agenda and to end once and for all the debate about jets on Toronto's island airport. "No jets on the waterfront," he told a cheering downtown crowd.

For those who must wait while packed streetcars go by on King Street during rush hour, he promised, "help is on the way."

He attributed the Liberal victory in his riding and across the country to "hope and hard work."

Toronto Mayor John Tory congratulated Justin Trudeau on what he described as an "impressive victory."

"His campaign championed investment in our cities, and included commitments to many of Toronto's priorities, from building transit and affordable housing, to repairing social housing and addressing our city's infrastructure needs," Mr. Tory said in a statement late Monday night.

"I am heartened to know that the Prime Minister Designate shares these goals for Toronto and I look forward to working with him on behalf of all the people of Toronto."

The battle in what Mr. Vaughan likes to call the country's "tallest riding" – a swath of downtown waterfront dotted with new condo towers – was indicative of many races across Canada's largest city, which came down to two-way battles, mostly between Liberals and New Democrats.

During the campaign, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair frequently referred to Toronto as "the most important city in Canada," and last night, as the votes continued to be counted, the city's voters showed that they had overwhelmingly turned to the Liberals in this election.

In 2011, the NDP took eight seats and the Liberals six in Toronto, but one riding was swapped in the by-election that saw Mr. Vaughan replace Ms. Chow. The Conservatives had nine.

This time around, the city gained two new ridings, for a total of 25, and Liberals – incumbents and new faces vying in many instances for what were thought to be solid NDP or Conservative ridings – came up the winners.

The highest profile addition to the Liberals in Toronto is former police chief Bill Blair, who took the riding of Scarborough Southwest from the NDP incumbent Dan Harris.

Mr. Blair called for unity as he addressed supporters. "Tomorrow when we wake up we are all Canadians and we must all work together," he said.

A rematch of a tight race in Etobicoke Centre, where Conservative Ted Opitz beat Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj by just 26 votes, saw Mr. Wrzesnewskyj regain his former seat by a handsome margin.

The NDP suffered several upsets, including in Toronto-Danforth, Mr. Layton's former riding, where Craig Scott was defeated.

Other well-known New Democrats that will not be returning to Ottawa include Andrew Cash in Davenport and Peggy Nash in Parkdale-High Park.

In addition to Mr. Oliver's loss – a rare defeat for an incumbent finance minister – the Conservatives also gave up seats to newcomers in several races in the city's suburbs. Bernard Trottier, who four years ago staged an upset by defeating then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, was defeated last night by James Maloney. Mr. Maloney sat briefly as a Toronto councillor to fill a vacancy created when Peter Milczyn was elected to Queen's Park last year.

As part of the Liberal wave, Chrystia Freeland, who went to Ottawa in a 2013 by-election, beat the NDP's Jennifer Hollett to hold onto her seat.

In Toronto Centre, incumbent Bill Morneau held off a challenge by Linda McQuaig.