Voters in Ontario have returned the Progressive Conservative Party to power after 15 years of Liberal rule in the province.

Polls closed across most of the province at 9 p.m. and results followed swiftly. By 9:15 p.m., the CTV News Decision Desk declared a majority for the PCs.

“My friends, help is here,” Premier-Elect Doug Ford told a jubilant crowd at the Toronto Convention Centre.

He said his party’s win sends a clear message that Ontario is “open for business” and promised to usher in an “era of economic growth and prosperity the likes of which this province has never known before.”

“You have sent a clear message, a message of hope and prosperity, a vision for the people of this province, a vision of a government that works for the people,” Ford said.

While Ford credited the party faithful for the PCs’ sweeping win, he also offered an olive branch to his opponents. 

“You fought a very hard campaign and I can tell you Ontario is better for it,” Ford said. “We have had our different approaches, but we all share in the goal of a better Ontario.”

He also vowed that as premier, he will work even for those who didn’t vote for him.

“To those who didn’t support us – I want you to know that I will work even harder to earn your confidence,” he said.

Ford handily won his seat in Etobicoke North with more than 53 per cent of the vote.

”We worked right up to the last minute and we just appreciate everybody’s support. I want to thank everyone,” Ford said as he emerged from the basement of his mother’s Etobicoke home where his family had been watching the results earlier in the evening.

Ford’s mother, Diane Ford, described the win as “bittersweet.” Her late husband, Doug Ford Senior was the first member of the family to sit at Queen’s Park, having served as an MPP in the government of former premier Mike Harris in the 1990s.

In his victory speech, Ford paid tribute to his late father, as well as his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

“I know that my brother Rob is looking down from heaven,” Ford said. “I'm just getting chills talking about him right now. I know Rob is celebrating with us tonight. We owe so much to Rob's legacy - a legacy of service to the people, a legacy started by my father Doug Ford Sr. and a legacy that will continue.”

As for the other leaders, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath easily won her riding of Hamilton Centre, with more than 64 per cent of the vote there.

“Today millions of people voted for change for the better,” Horwath told a cheering crowd in Hamilton.  “We have won more seats than we have held in a generation.”

The NDP’s move to official opposition comes as Horwath sees her third election as leader and moves the party to its strongest position at Queen’s Park since Bob Rae was premier in the mid-90s.

Over in Guelph, Mike Schreiner became the first Green Party candidate elected in Ontario.

“You believed climate change was real and that people cause it, so you better listen to the Green Party from Guelph about how we solve the climate crisis,” Schreiner told a cheering crowd in his riding.

Wynne stepping down as leader

In Toronto, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne managed to hang on to her seat in Don Valley West by a razor-thin margin of less than 200 votes.

While the result marked a stunning defeat for a party that has governed the province since Dalton McGuinty came to power in 2003, it was not unexpected.

Less than a week ago, Wynne conceded that she knew her party could not win the election. In an unusual move, she said she knew she would not be returning to the premier’s office, but nonetheless urged people to vote Liberal in order to prevent either the NDP or the PCs from winning a majority.

Speaking to supporters Monday night, Wynne said she will be stepping down as leader of her party.

She said the election result shows that “our democracy is strong” and congratulated Ford.

“I've spoken to him and I wish him well,” Wynne said. “And I have committed to work with him to make this transition as smooth as possible. And now I trust that the rancour and the polarization of an election campaign can give way to the necessary civility of well-run government.”

She thanked her supporters for their hard work and ran through a list of accomplishments from her years in office, including a higher minimum wage and free prescription drugs for those 25 and younger.

Wynne served as premier for five years after winning a leadership contest to replace McGuinty in 2013. Despite her loss, she remains the only woman to have served as Ontario premier and the first openly gay person to have served as a premier in Canada.

GTA map shows regional divisions

While polls had widely predicted that the PCs would win the 905 area, the party appears to have executed a near sweep of the ridings surrounding Toronto. With wins in the municipalities of Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and parts of Mississauga and Brampton, the PCs won all but four ridings in the 905.

However the party also appears to have won close to a dozen ridings inside Toronto.

By contrast, the NDP appeared poised to win almost all the ridings in downtown Toronto, with big gains in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke.

Despite the fact that Toronto showed a sharp division between support for the PCs and the NDP, Mayor John Tory was quick to congratulate Ford and to point to points of commonality.

“I want to congratulate Doug Ford and his team on their election tonight,” Tory said in a statement. “His campaign promised to invest in transit expansion in Toronto and our province's mental health system – two important priorities for our City.

“As Mayor, I have focused on building strong relationships and partnerships with all levels of government that have led to historic investments. I look forward to working with our new Premier and all Toronto Members of Provincial Parliament to ensure that work and those investments in our transit network plan continue.”