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Liberals cruise to majority

 Kathleen Wynne powered Ontario's Liberals past a legacy of scandal Thursday, staving off aggressive assaults from the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats to cruise to a fourth straight mandate and an unexpected majority.

Within an hour of the result becoming clear, Tory Leader Tim Hudak — whose austerity platform of smaller government and public-sector job cuts ran smack into a voter brick wall — took to the stage to announce he would resign as leader.

"We did not receive the results that we wanted," Hudak told dejected supporters at his headquarters in Grimsby, Ont.

"(But) nobody should take this result as an endorsement of the status quo."

Hudak said he would stay on as leader until a replacement is chosen, and would remain a member of the legislature.

Despite a hard-fought campaign that saw accusations of corruption and incompetence hurled at her minority Liberals, Wynne managed to persuade jaundiced voters to give her government another chance and make her the province's first elected female premier.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: the word Liberal is not just letters on a lawn sign," Wynne wrote in an email to supporters after the polls closed.

"It is the generosity of spirit that defines us at our best — and so do you."

The ballots were counted amid a palpable sense of uncertainty as to whether or not the snap election, called more than a month ago, would yield a decisive result.

Defying almost all predictions, Wynne earned a convincing win both in the popular vote and the number of seats, paving the way for her Liberals to govern on their own.

The Liberals were well ahead of the Tories in the popular vote as voters rejected Hudak's pledge to slash 100,000 public sector jobs as part of a shock deficit-tackling therapy.

Preliminary results put the Liberals at 58 seats, Hudak's Conservatives at 27 seats and the New Democrats at 22. At dissolution in the 107-seat legislature, the Liberals held 48 seats, the Tories 37 and the NDP 21, with one seat vacant.

The Canadian Press

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