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Layton shrugs off candidate's decision to drop out and back Liberals Add to ...

Jack Layton has been saying that his party, and not the Liberals, has what it takes to beat the Conservatives. But just five days in to the campaign, at least once of his own candidates did not buy the message.

Ryan Dolby, who was running for the NDP in Elgin-Middlesex-London but now supports Liberal Graham Warwick, announced his decision Wednesday morning, saying a vote for Michael Ignatieff's party was the best way to prevent Stephen Harper from winning majority.

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The defection comes at a critical time as voters who are bent on ousting Mr. Harper are deciding how to cast their ballots

"I've been thinking about this for the past month," Mr. Dolby said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail. "I am really afraid if Stephen Harper got a majority what he would do to the country."

Mr. Dolby, the president of his local branch of the Canadian Auto Workers union, joined the NDP just three years ago. His roots, he said, are in social justice and he belongs to several nonprofit organizations.

But, after a month of talking with Liberal MPs and his own personal advisers, he was convinced that the Liberal platform matched his own values and that if he ran against Mr. Warwick, "the Conservative candidate would sneak up the middle."

The decision apparently caught everyone - Liberals and New Democrats included - by surprise. Mr. Layton learned of it between two campaign stops Wednesday morning.

But the NDP Leader gave no indication of concern.

"The people of Southwestern Ontario are going to get to decide who best stands up to Mr. Harper: whether it's Mr. Ignatieff, who found occasions to support the Harper government over 100 times, or ourselves; whether it's Mr. Ignatieff, who found occasion to support the imposition of the HST here in Ontario, or whether it's Mr. Ignatieff, when he supported the mission in Afghanistan after Canadians had been told that wouldn't happen, working with Mr. Harper," the NDP Leader told reporters during a campaign stop at a robotics company in Brampton, where he was promoting his plans for job creation.

"We'll let the people of Southwestern Ontario make their choice."

Reporters asked if this move by Mr. Dolby would not push left-leaning voters who oppose Mr. Harper to flee to the Liberals.

It was New Democrats who beat the Conservatives in Edmonton-Strathcona, Mr. Layton replied, a smile firmly etched on his face.

"And I think people who think that way are in for a little bit of a surprise because what you see is New Democrat support has been growing," he said. "We've added hundreds of thousands of votes with each election to the support of New Democrats across the country."

The NDP campaign in Elgin-Middlesex-London will have a nomination within 48 hours, he said. "We are a well organized political team."

Liberal officials were quick to spread stories about Mr. Dolby's defection, saying: "It looks as though even the NDP candidates are aware that on E-day there will be a choice between two candidates for Prime Minister - Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff."

The Conservatives, whose candidate Joe Preston is the incumbent, took the move to be more proof that there are plans for a coalition between the NDP and the Liberals.

Guy Giorno, Mr. Harper's former chief of staff, took to Twitter: "Coalition talk is back: NDP candidate withdraws, backs Liberal."

And the party put out a news release saying co-operation between the Liberals and the NDP means "the Coalition plan is now secretly at work on the ground."

Mr. Warwick said Mr. Dolby approached him a couple of weeks ago about doing a joint press release. Mr. Warwick said he told Mr. Dolby to do what he wanted - but he would be doing it alone.

There was "no cloak and dagger," Mr. Warwick said when asked if the Liberals had orchestrated Mr. Dolby's NDP candidacy.

The riding has been hard hit by the recession and "people are soul searching about how they cam make a change in out community," he said. "In our riding, the Liberals are the way to bring change."

For his part, Mr. Dolby said the decision was "nothing personal" against Mr. Layton, whom he considers a friend and planned to call to offer an apology on Wednesday night.

As to why he waited until the middle of an election campaign to withdraw his candidacy, Mr. Dolby said: "It's not a decision you make overnight."

Mr. Dolby, the president of his local branch of the Canadian Auto Workers union, joined the NDP just three years ago. His roots, he said, are in social justice and he belongs to several nonprofit organizations.

But, after a month of talking with Liberal MPs and his own personal advisers, he was convinced that he Liberal platform matched his own values and that if he ran against Mr. Warwick, "the Conservative candidate would sneak up the middle."

The decision apparently caught everyone - Liberals and New Democrats included - by surprise. Mr. Layton learned of it between two campaign stops Wednesday morning.

But the NDP Leader gave no indication of concern.

"The people of Southwestern Ontario are going to get to decide who best stands up to Mr. Harper: whether it's Mr. Ignatieff, who found occasions to support the Harper government over 100 times, or ourselves; whether it's Mr. Ignatieff, who found occasion to support the imposition of the HST here in Ontario, or whether it's Mr. Ignatieff, when he supported the mission in Afghanistan after Canadians had been told that wouldn't happen, working with Mr. Harper," the NDP Leader told reporters during a campaign stop at a robotics company in Brampton, where he was promoting his plans for job creation.

"We'll let the people of Southwestern Ontario make their choice."

Reporters asked if this move by Mr. Dolby would not push left-leaning voters who oppose Mr. Harper to flee to the Liberals.

It was New Democrats who beat the Conservatives in Edmonton-Strathcona, Mr. Layton replied, a smile firmly etched on his face.

"And I think people who think that way are in for a little bit of a surprise because what you see is New Democrat support has been growing," he said. "We've added hundreds of thousands of votes with each election to the support of New Democrats across the country."

The NDP campaign in Elgin-Middlesex-London will have a nomination within 48 hours, he said. "We are a well organized political team."

Liberal officials were quick to spread stories about Mr. Dolby's defection, saying: "It looks as though even the NDP candidates are aware that on E-day there will be a choice between two candidates for Prime Minister - Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff."

The Conservatives, whose candidate Joe Preston is the incumbent, took the move to be more proof that there are plans for a coalition between the NDP and the Liberals.

Guy Giorno, Mr. Harper's former chief of staff, took to Twitter: "Coalition talk is back: NDP candidate withdraws, backs Liberal."

And the party put out a news release saying co-operation between the Liberals and the NDP means "the Coalition plan is now secretly at work on the ground."

Mr. Warwick said Mr. Dolby approached him a couple of weeks ago about doing a joint press release. Mr. Warwick said he told Mr. Dolby to do what he wanted - but he would be doing it alone.

There was "no cloak and dagger," Mr. Warwick said when asked if the Liberals had orchestrated Mr. Dolby's NDP candidacy.

The riding has been hard hit by the recession and "people are soul searching about how they cam make a change in out community," he said. "In our riding, the Liberals are the way to bring change."

For his part, Mr. Dolby said the decision was "nothing personal" against Mr. Layton, whom he considers a friend and planned to call to offer an apology on Wednesday night.

As to why he waited until the middle of an election campaign to withdraw his candidacy, Mr. Dolby said: "It's not a decision you make overnight."

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