10/19/2015 22:43 EDT | Updated 10/19/2016 01:12 EDT

Liberals take back GTA on the road to winning government

TORONTO — Voters in the critical Greater Toronto Area appeared to be dissolving their four-year-long contract with Stephen Harper's Conservatives Monday night, returning the Liberals to the region in huge numbers and propelling the party to power.

Meanwhile, in the downtown core, an apparent collapse of NDP support also helped to push the Liberals over the top. Liberal incumbent Adam Vaughan beat the NDP's Olivia Chow in Spadina-Fort York in one of the most hotly contested fights in the province.

As early Ontario results began to come in, the Liberals were leading across the region, both in Toronto proper and in the suburbs.

Despite having campaigned with native sons Doug and Rob Ford in the west-end Toronto area of Etobicoke twice in the past week, the Conservatives lost Etobicoke-Lakeshore to the Liberals, and were trailing in Etobicoke Centre.

Incumbent Conservatives Michael Chong, in Wellington Halton Hills, and Peter Kent, in Thornill, were among the handful that held on to their seats. Cabinet ministers Julian Fantino, Chris Alexander and Joe Oliver were behind in early returns.

To understand what is happening in the GTA, you have to look back at the dynamics of the 2011 election, when the Conservatives swept the region in spectacular fashion. 

In Mississauga and Brampton, for example, the party took every seat, whereas in 2008 they only had one. The party also pierced several elusive outer Toronto ridings, such as Eglinton-Lawrence, where Joe Oliver was elected.

Conservative party insiders point out that winning many of those ridings was because of the unique circumstances of the time — the NDP was much stronger then under late leader Jack Layton, creating vote splits.

At the same time, then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff failed to capture the support of traditional party supporters — some of them voted Conservative to prevent NDP wins in Ontario. Ignatieff lost his own riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore — Conservative Bernard Trottier wound up holding it for only four years.

Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press