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Immigration Minister Chris Alexander loses Ajax riding

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has been ousted by former Liberal MP Mark Holland in the riding of Ajax.

Former Liberal MP Mark Holland has won in Ajax

'I think it was change really for the sake of change,' says Alexander 1:54

One of Stephen Harper's most controversial senior cabinet members - Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander - has been ousted by former Liberal MP Mark Holland in the riding of Ajax.

With 180 of 212 polls reporting, Holland was ahead with 56 per cent of the vote, compared to nearly 35 per cent for Alexander. In 2011, Alexander won the riding with about 44 per cent of the vote.

"I think the message of change was very much there, and that is a powerful message after three terms," Alexander told reporters late Monday night. "We were all students of history this election, because no matter who won history was going to be made."

When pressed by reporters about his plans for the future, he pointed out that he had only been ousted "minutes" before.

"It's a huge honour to have been able to serve the people of Canada," Alexander said. "I commend those newly elected on their success in winning the confidence of Canadians."

Holland had represented the riding when it was called Ajax-Pickering from 2004 until Alexander's victory in 2011.

He tweeted about his win Monday night.

Alexander, once a star candidate for the Conservatives due to his strong resume of diplomatic work in Russia and Afghanistan, came under fire early in the campaign for his handling of the Syrian refugee file.

In response to a media firestorm and public outcry, last month Alexander announced new measures to speed up the processing of refugees and to bring in "thousands more" Syrians and Iraqis by the end of 2015.

Alexander said the new measures mean the 10,000 Syrian refugees the government previously promised to resettle in the next three years would instead be brought to Canada by September 2016 — "a full 15 months earlier than anticipated," he told reporters last month in Scarborough.

Asked by a reporter Monday night whether his handling of the refugee file ultimately led to his ouster, Alexander replied that Canada had been a leader on the issue, but acknowledged that the resettlement program had gotten off to a slow start.

The plight of Syrian refugees hit home for many Canadian families when the image of a drowned Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach made news around the world. It was later revealed that the family of the boy -- Alan Kurdi -- had hoped to one day come to Canada. 

The boy's aunt, who lives in British Columbia, spoke passionately of a failed sponsorship bid for the boy's uncle. 

Both the NDP and Liberals offered up their own plans during the election campaign. 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said on the campaign trail that a New Democratic government would resettle 10,000 Syrians before the end of the year and 46,000 by 2019. He also stressed the need for more Canadian immigration officials to be on the ground in the Middle East.

For his part, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whose party surged to power Monday night, touted his teams's ambitious plan, saying a Grit government would bring in up to 25,000 refugees from Syria by January, 2016, and commit $200 million to help new arrivals settle in Canada and to help the UN manage refugee camps in the Middle East.

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