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Green-Grit deal: "No one wanted this" 

[PoliticsWatch updated 4:30 p.m. April 13, 2007]

Liberal leader Stephane Dion and Green Party leader Elizabeth May announced a deal on Friday to cooperate in the next election.

OTTAWA  — Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's deal with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May gained the Grit leader headlines Friday but there are signs it could create more problems for his tenuous grip on the party.       
 
Dion and May held a news conference in Nova Scotia to announce that the Liberals will not field a candidate in the Central Nova riding which May will attempt to win in the next election. In return, the Greens won't run a candidate in Dion's riding, the Liberal stronghold of Saint-Laurent -- Cartierville.  

But Liberal insiders tell PoliticsWatch that the decision was made over the objection of many Liberals. 
 
"No one wanted this," one Liberal insider told PoliticsWatch. "Not one MP and not the co chairs in Nova Scotia for the campaign."

The deal with the Greens was conceived and pushed by Dion's national campaign headquarters, according to the insider. 

"They consulted in Nova Scotia with senior Liberals and no one wanted it. The local Liberals are furious in Central Nova. They were looking for a candidate."

"Many Liberals will vote Tory."

Dion's decision to go ahead and make a deal with May has revealed more internal squabbling over the new Liberal leader's early performance. 

On Thursday, Le Journal de Montreal reported unnamed sources told them that Liberals were eager for an early election defeat so Dion could be replaced.

An SES Research poll released this week showed that Dion was rated as Best PM by just 16 per cent of "committed voters." 

A breakdown of numbers was even more troubling. They showed Dion was rated Best PM by only 10 per cent of respondents in his home province of Quebec and by just 44 per cent of Liberal voters nationally. 

Last month, PoliticsWatch was told that behind the scenes some Liberals are becoming increasingly concerned with having a number of supporters of former prime minister Paul Martin in key party positions for the upcoming federal election and the perceived lack of outreach to supporters of other leadership camps. 

The consensus of many Grits in Ottawa is that given Dion entered December's Liberal leadership convention with just 17 per cent of the delegates and the support of less than a dozen MPs it will be virtually impossible for him to survive if he does not win the next election. 

As well, Dion's announcement appeared to be a closely guarded secret that may have surprised other MPs and top Liberals. 

Just hours before the story was leaked to the Canadian Press, Martha Hall Findlay, who Dion appointed to help the Liberals at the grassroots level in the run up to the election, appeared unaware that a deal was in the works while she spun seemingly against May on CTV Newsnet's Mike Duffy Live

"I think that's wonderful that Elizabeth May thinks Stephane Dion would make a great prime minister," Hall Findlay said.

"I think it begs the question of why she wouldn't being running as a Liberal. I think that as a national party our default position is to run somebody in every riding."

Dion said at the press conference Friday that the decision was made to have a deal with May because of the "exceptional circumstances" created by the climate change "crisis" Canada is facing.

"We know that there are times to be able to be open to other views when we are able to work together better for Canadians and it will be the case in Central Nova," he said. 

The decision increases May's odds of unseating Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay in the riding, however she acknowledges that it is an uphill battle. 

In last year's election, MacKay won 40.6 per cent of the vote and finished over 4,000 votes ahead of NDP candidate Alexis MacDonald, who won 32.8 per cent of the vote. The Liberal candidate won 24.5 per cent of the vote. The Green candidate in 2006 won a dismal 1.5 per cent of the vote. 

May finished a strong second ahead of the Conservatives and the NDP in a byelection in London, Ontario, late last year. 

Dion is not facing a major battle in his riding and the Green party candidate not running against him is pretty much meaningless. 

However, in return, Dion appears to have gained comments at Friday's press conference from May that the Liberals will probably be tempted to use for a television commercial in the dying days of a close election campaign. 

"I have confidence in Stephane Dion," May told reporters. 

"I see in Mr. Dion a true leader for this country because I worked with him," she added, noting his performance at the 2005 climate change conference in Montreal.

 "There's no deal that can make me say these things. Anybody who knows me knows I've been saying these things for months."

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