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Green Party candidate Mike Morrice says he has seen an “exponential” boost in support for the Green campaign since Liberal candidate Raj Saini withdrew.

The Green Party is confident it can win Raj Saini’s seat after the embattled Liberal candidate withdrew from the race on Saturday.

The Greens, who came second in the riding at the last election, are deploying volunteers to Kitchener Centre in hope of converting Liberal votes and seeing off a Tory challenge.

At the last election, Saini held the seat for the Liberals with 20,316 votes, after fighting off a fierce challenge from the Green candidate.

In 2019, Green candidate Mike Morrice saw a surge in support coming second with 14,394 votes, while the Tories came a close third with 13,191.

The Green vote rose from three to 26 per cent.

The Greens hope that Liberals, denied their own candidate, will vote tactically this time to see off the Conservatives.

Saini dropped out as Liberal candidate on Saturday after facing allegations that he harassed a female member of staff – a claim that he firmly denies and which The Canadian Press has not independently verified.

Morrice says he has seen an “exponential” boost in support for the Green campaign since Saini withdrew. Supporters from across Canada have offered to canvass by phone and in person, and to make donations to his campaign, he says.

“If 3,000 Liberal voters last time had switched we could have won in 2019. We knew we had a good chance prior to (Saini withdrawing), having knocked on doors for weeks and weeks. Now the momentum is huge,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“There has been an exponential increase in offers of support both locally and across the country since Mr. Saini chose to end his candidacy.”

In 2008, the seat saw a closely fought battle between the Liberals and Conservatives.

The current Conservative candidate, Mary Henein Thorn, is expected to mount a stiff challenge to win the seat where the affordability of housing is a key issue on the doorstep.

The Tories did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Victoria Galea, executive assistant to Green Leader Annamie Paul, confirmed Kitchener Centre is a key target.

“We see it as a winnable riding,” she said. “(Mike Morrice) came second last time and we think Liberals will see him as a strong choice on the ballot.”

The Greens have two MPs in the House of Commons and Paul is trying to win a seat in Toronto Centre, where she has lost twice. The party’s campaign has been overshadowed by infighting and money troubles.

Since Saini withdrew, the Greens say, some Liberal party members have offered to actively help campaign for the Greens.

Because he withdrew after the deadline for registering candidates, Saini’s name will remain on the ballot.

It is unlikely that Saini will be returned as an MP without the endorsement of his party. But, technically, he could be elected and sit as an Independent MP.

Some Liberal voters cast their vote in advance for Saini by mail before he withdrew from the race.

The Liberals issued a statement on Saturday, Sept. 4 saying that Saini was no longer the Liberal candidate after “new information was directly provided to the Liberal Party of Canada” about harassment allegations.

Saini vehemently denies the allegations.

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