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Toronto Scarborough Liberal hopeful Tim Weber drops out to back Bill Blair

Former CTV News anchor Tim Weber announced on Thursday he is quitting the race to help run the campaign of Toronto’s former police chief, whom Mr. Weber called a cabinet contender.

A front-running Liberal nomination hopeful has thrown his weight behind Bill Blair in Scarborough Southwest, and he is encouraging the others to follow suit.

Former CTV News anchor Tim Weber announced on Thursday he is quitting the race to help run the campaign of Toronto's former police chief, whom Mr. Weber called a cabinet contender.

"I think it's time for everybody in this riding to unite," he said. "This is a chance to put Scarborough Southwest on the map."

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Mr. Weber, who began campaigning for the nomination last November, said he made the decision after three conversations with Mr. Blair this week, and without being openly asked to do so by party organizers.

"Everybody's been very nice and very polite and very courteous, and everybody understands what's happened," he said.

"There were no direct conversations with anybody in the party, to be frank, but perhaps some indirect ones."

Five candidates for the nomination remain other than Mr. Blair. Mr. Weber's main rival before the former chief joined the race was said to be Michael Kempa, a University of Ottawa professor who began campaigning last spring. Mr. Kempa did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

New Democrat Dan Harris won the riding from the Liberals in 2011. Mr. Blair announced he would seek the nomination just hours after finishing his 10-year term as chief on Saturday night.

The federal Liberal Party has promised open nominations in each riding despite the presence of star candidates.

However, party organizers told The Globe and Mail in early March they had approached Mr. Blair about running, and on Monday, Mr. Blair appeared with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at a news conference.

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Mr. Weber will become co-chair of Mr. Blair's campaign along with Michelle Berardinetti, the city councillor for the area. The riding has not set a date for its nomination meeting, unlike most.

Mr. Weber said that after a courtesy call from Mr. Blair on Sunday morning to announce his run, the two spoke again on the phone and then met in person.

"Bill and I discovered we were on the same page on a lot of things," he said.

But he also said Mr. Blair had potential to be the most powerful MP the riding has seen in a long time, with a Liberal win, although he said party leadership has not mentioned long-term plans for Mr. Blair.

"I think we can sit back and say who is cabinet minister material before an election, and I think Bill Blair's name would be right at the top of it," he said.

Scarborough Southwest is one of several ridings where Liberal nomination races involve high-profile candidates.

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A Liberal spokesman said the party wants open votes, although it may favour certain candidates.

"They are all open nominations," said Olivier Duchesneau. "But that doesn't mean we are indifferent to the result."

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