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Tories storm Liberals' last Ontario redoubt

A woman casts her vote for the federal election in a polling station on Toronto's Ward Island on Monday May 2, 2011.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

There was a time not so long ago when the Liberals owned Canada's largest province from north to south and from east to west.

But great chunks of Liberal turf were handed to the Conservatives and the New Democrats in each of the past three elections and more was ceded Monday as some Ontario voters fled to the left and far more fled to the right.

Early results set the pattern: Ontario was preparing to turn Tory blue.

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In the city of Toronto, the largest remaining Grit stronghold in Canada where all but two seats were Liberal heading into the election, the first polls indicated they were losing in seats they never thought could slip from their hands. A half hour after the polls closed, they were leading in just a quarter of Toronto's 23 seats.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was even in a see-saw battle in his own riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

And outside the city, the carnage was even worse. The Brampton seats, the Mississauga seats, were falling to the Conservatives. The Conservatives have worked hard to woo the South Asian vote in Toronto's suburbs and the effort has paid off. Liberal incumbent Ruby Dhalla lost her Brampton-Springdale seat to Tory Parm Gill in what was a hotly contested riding.

Races that some thought would be tight started out with the Tories racing to early and clear leads.

Former police boss Julian Fantino, who won Vaughan north of Toronto for the Conservatives by the slimmest of margins in a fall by-election, looked like he would have little trouble polishing off Liberal Mario Ferri, a popular former city councillor.

And Ajax-Pickering, one of the hottest, and nastiest fights in the country, Liberal Public Safety critic Mark Holland was watching Chris Alexander, a career diplomat and former ambassador to Afghanistan, pull into an early lead.

In Simcoe North, where ousted Conservative Helena Guergis was running as an independent, it was Conservative candidate Kellie Leitch who quickly surged to the top.

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If there was one bright spot in the east part of the province for the Liberals it was in Kingston and the Islands, where former Speaker Peter Milliken had retired, creating a potential opening for the Conservatives and their candidate Alicia Gordon to scoop the seat they have not held since the 1980s. Ted Hsu was ahead from the start but the race was tight.

In the seats where Liberals were leading, it was often not by much.

Even in Kitchener, where the Liberals thought they would have had a shot at unseating Conservative incumbents, the Conservative seemed set to prevail.

The New Democrats appeared set to hold on to their seats across the northern part of the province, many of which were Liberal ridings until 2008. Tony Martin, the veteran New Democrat appeared to be fending off the competition in his riding of Sault Ste. Marie.

And in Welland, in the Niagara Peninsula, NPP incumbent Malcolm Allen also seemed to be holding up in a tough three-way race.

But the story of Ontario was the Conservatives who managed to hold on to the largely rural areas in the southwest and the east of the province while breaking down Fortress Toronto - and the Liberals being reduced to a handful of seats.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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