Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley has won a majority government, ending the 44-year reign of the Progressive Conservatives.

Notley’s NDP will form the next government and the Wildrose Party under Brian Jean will form the official opposition.

Notley called her victory on Tuesday “a fresh start for our great province.”

“Spring has arrived. A new day has begun,” she said. “You voted for change, for better health care, for better schools and for good family-supporting jobs, and we will answer your call.”

Notley also sought to reassure the oil and gas sector. “We will work with you to grow our economy and secure a more prosperous future for every Albertan in every community,” she said.

But she also told her supporters that “we need to go down the road to a diversified and resilient economy. We need, finally, to end the boom and bust rollercoaster that we have been riding on for too long.”

Jim Prentice’s PC Party, which went into the election with 70 seats, finished the night in third place.

In his concession speech, Prentice resigned both his seat in Calgary-Foothills and his position as leader of the PC Party.

“I accept responsibility for tonight’s outcome,” he said. “My contribution to public life is now at an end.”

“While I am personally saddened by the decision, the voters are always right in our democracy, and so it is this evening,” he added.

Notley’s victory is a major upset, considering the PC party had won 12 consecutive majorities and the NDP held only four seats when the election was called on April 7.

The New Democrats had never before won more than 16 ridings.

Among the NDP’s new MLAs are many novice politicians, including Edmonton-area university students Estefania Cortes-Vargas, Thomas Dang and Trevor Horne.

Both the Wildrose and Liberals had five seats before the campaign.

The Liberals appear to have lost all but leader David Swann’s seat, while the Wildrose appear to have gained about 16 seats.

In his concession speech, Wildrose leader Brian Jean promised to “keep (the NDP) on their toes” and congratulated his party on making a comeback.

“It was just a few months ago that pundits and elites across this province said the Wildrose Party was dead,” he said, referring to when former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith attempted to merge the party with the PCs.

“Albertans will not stand for backroom deals,” he added. “When it starts to stink a little bit, you have to know that voters will not put up with it.”

Greg Clark won the upstart Alberta Party's first-ever seat, beating PC Education Minister Gordon Dirks in Calgary-Elbow – the seat once held by former premier Alison Redford.

Pollsters correctly predicted the NDP would win, unlike the 2012 Alberta election when most forecast a Wildrose victory but the PCs formed a majority government.

Notley’s popularity soared after a strong showing in the leaders’ debate last month. Prentice’s performance during the debate was widely panned on social media after he told Notley, “I know that math is difficult,” during an exchange about corporate taxes.

Notley referred to Prentice’s statement, which many viewed as sexist, in her victory speech when she said she hadn’t yet “done the math,” but she believed the election was record-setting in terms of the number of women elected.

Prentice also appears to have been hurt by his predecessor in the premier’s office, Alison Redford, who stepped down in August over a series of spending scandals, including a $45,000 taxpayer-funded trip Nelson Mandela's South Africa funeral.

Prentice became premier in September and announced an election on April 7, a year ahead of what’s legally required, because Prentice said he wanted a mandate to pass his budget.

The PC budget would have increased some taxes and allow a $5-billion deficit in order to maintain spending schools and hospitals in an era of falling fossil fuel revenue. Royalties from oil and gas have long funded much of Alberta’s budget.

The Wildrose Party released a platform that promised no tax increases, and a return to balanced budgets by 2017, which would be achieved by reducing the number of government managers and other spending cuts.

The Liberal Party released a platform that includes a reduction of personal income taxes for the first $50,000, and increases thereafter, to fund things like school construction, reduced post-secondary tuition fees and arts subsidies.

The NDP, meanwhile, committed to tax hikes on the top 10 per cent of income earners, and corporations, in order to raise more money for health care and education. The party has also said it would re-examine fossil fuel royalties.