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Former Vancouver mayor and B.C. premier Mike Harcourt September 7, 2007 in Vancouver.

Laura Leyshon/The Globe and Mail/Laura Leyshon/The Globe and Mail

Former NDP premier Mike Harcourt has come off the fence to endorse Mike Farnworth as the best of four choices for the leadership of the BC New Democrats.

The moderate Mr. Harcourt, premier from 1991 to 1996, has been seen as the trump endorsement in the leadership race, but had told reporters throughout the race that he would remain neutral.

Hours before his Friday endorsement, contender John Horgan told The Globe and Mail that the former premier had said he would not be endorsing anyone.

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But Mr. Harcourt acknowledged, in a brief interview after his written declaration on Friday, that he had changed his mind.

He told The Globe and Mail that he would explain things further at a Monday news conference with Mr. Farnworth.

BC New Democrats choose a new leader on April. 17. Mr. Farnworth has presented himself as a moderate option for party members, akin in some respects to Mr. Harcourt.

In his statement, Mr. Harcourt touted "three major candidates" seeking the leadership - an apparent reference to MLA's Adrian Dix, Mr. Farnworth and Mr. Horgan.

The other candidate remaining in the race is Dana Larsen, an advocate for medicinal marijuana. Mr. Larsen is not an MLA.

Mr. Harcourt, a former Vancouver mayor, said all of the three key candidates would make a fine premier, but Mr. Farnworth offers the BC New Democrats the best chance of winning the next election.

"Throughout this campaign, I've watched Mike demonstrate a leadership style that listens to all voices and brings people together," Mr. Harcourt said in his statement.

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"This approach will unite people across the province. That's when New Democrats are at their best and can accomplish significant changes on behalf of the people of British Columbia."

Mr. Farnworth, who entered provincial politics as an MLA under Mr. Harcourt, said he was pleased by the backing of his former boss.

"It means a lot," he said in the statement.

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