A Green candidate in Ontario will reportedly tell voters this fall that, for the good of the country, they best not vote for him.
Gary Beamish, running in the riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, told Peterborough This Week that he will urge his supporters to cast a ballot for the local NDP candidate instead.
It's a decision that has the backing of his local riding association.
UPDATE: On Aug. 23, the Greens released a statement on behalf of the Peterborough–Kawartha Electoral District Green Party Association stating that Michael Bell and other members would not support Beamish's decision to step down and endorse another candidate.
"In keeping with the mandate of the Green Party of Canada, we will consider our options and discuss our next steps with local members," the statement reads.
Beamish told the newspaper's Sarah Frank that while he will attend all-candidates debates to speak out against Stephen Harper's Conservatives, he will quit the race after nomination day on Sept. 28 — to avoid splitting votes with NDP candidate Dave Nickle.
Beamish's name will still appear on the ballot.
The Huffington Post Canada has reached out to Beamish, who ran for the Ontario Greens in the provincial election last year.
Michael Bell, who not only serves as head of riding association but also represented the Greens in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections, agrees with the unconventional move.
Bell told HuffPost Thursday that the top priority for Greens across the country is to oust the Conservatives.
"The message that we want to have out there is, we're suggesting, it's country before party," Bell said.
The riding association had planned to wait to see which party was in the best position locally before making a decision, Bell said, but he conceded the NDP appears to be the strongest local alternative to the Tories. Still, Beamish's decision to go public this week caught him and others by surprise.
Bell said they will still espouse "Green values" during the campaign but point out areas where they overlap with the NDP, be it efforts to combat climate change or support for electoral reform. Though Greens are more "fiscally conservative" than Thomas Mulcair's party, he said, Greens and New Democrats share many other policy planks.
The early feedback to the strategy has been positive, Bell said.
"I think we'll build way more goodwill looking like we're not playing the same games as everybody else, given that we don't stand a chance in ridings other than Elizabeth (May's) and maybe a couple others," he said.
'I care about getting rid of Stephen Harper'
Bell denies that the strategy is disloyal to the party or its leader Elizabeth May. In fact, he thinks May should have considered standing down from this election altogether and throwing Green support to whatever party has the best chance of defeating Harper.
"The first thing to do is get rid of Stephen Harper. I don't care about the Greens," he said. "I care about getting rid of Stephen Harper."
Gary Adams, the nominated Green candidate in the B.C. riding of Kelowna–Lake Country, had likewise agreed to campaign for Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr in an effort to unseat a Conservative incumbent. The move had the backing of the new riding association. But after news of his plans emerged, the party's federal council asked Adams not to step aside and not to endorse the Liberal candidate.
In the first federal leaders debate earlier this month, hosted by Maclean's, moderator Paul Wells asked May if she worried that Green candidates might take support away from others who could defeat Tories.
"Might the Green Party help re-elect this government?" Wells asked.
May responded that Greens were not concerned about that "at all." The real problem, she suggested, is the 40 per cent of Canadians in the last few elections who didn't cast a ballot.
Green Party spokesman Julian Morelli told HuffPost Thursday he was still "sussing out" what was happening in the riding and was also trying to get in contact with Beamish.
Morelli said Greens are running candidates across the country and that May is encouraging Canadians to not only vote, but vote the way they want.
The riding of Peterborough-Kawartha, previously named just Peterborough, was represented by Tory MP Dean Del Mastro from 2006 until he resigned his seat last November. In June, Del Mastro was sentenced to one month in jail for breaking election laws in 2008.
Del Mastro received more than 29,000 votes four years ago, while the NDP's Nickle finished a distant second with 14,723 votes. Bell, the Green candidate, brought in slightly more than 2,100 votes.
Nickle tweeted Thursday that he welcomed the support of those ready for change.
In 2008, then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion agreed not to run a candidate against May when she tried, unsuccessfully, to beat Tory cabinet minister Peter MacKay in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova.
With a file from Althia Raj
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