When Michael Ignatieff told Jack Layton during the leaders’ debate he’d be in “opposition forever,” little did he know the NDP would soon snatch the official title away from the Liberals.

What seemed like a predetermined election when Stephen Harper’s government fell on March 28 has, in fact, changed the country’s political landscape.

Though the Conservatives finally got the majority that eluded them, the real story was the NDP’s surge to become – for the first time ever – the official Opposition with more than 100 seats.

The Liberals fell to third place in the standings, losing an unprecedented number of seats, including Ignatieff’s Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding where Conservative Bernard Trottier won.

“I offer on behalf of my party sincere congratulations to two opponents who have had the better of the night,” Ignatieff said in a speech from his party headquarters Monday night.

“Democracy teaches hard lessons and we have to learn them all. We have to be big enough, open-hearted enough, courageous enough to read the lessons that the Canadian people have taught our party tonight. Leaders have to be big enough also to accept their historic responsibility for a historic defeat, and I do so.”

The Liberal leader vowed to work with his party in any way he could going forward.

Ignatieff, the subject of more than a year of negative Conservative advertising going into the race, was a solid campaigner but his anti-Harper call for change ended up benefiting Layton.

After the debates at the mid-point of the campaign, Layton’s popularity soared, with the NDP polling at unprecedented levels in Quebec and gaining momentum across Canada.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May also made history, defeating Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn in B.C.’s Saanich-Gulf Islands riding to become Canada’s first-ever Green MP.

And Gilles Duceppe resigned as Bloc Quebecois leader Monday night after his party dropped more than 40 seats it had held since 2008. The 63-year-old lost his own Laurier-Sainte-Marie seat to a little-known NDP candidate.

With files from the Canadian Press