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Unite to beat Tories: NDPer

Sees Liberals, Greens as allies but Mulcair has opposed idea

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Vanessa Hamilton is campaigning for the left to join forces to beat the Tory in the Brandon-Souris byelection. The idea puts her at odds with her leader, Thomas Mulcair.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Vanessa Hamilton is campaigning for the left to join forces to beat the Tory in the Brandon-Souris byelection. The idea puts her at odds with her leader, Thomas Mulcair.

A key New Democrat in Brandon says the opposition parties ought to join forces in the upcoming byelection to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

Vanessa Hamilton, president of the NDP's Brandon-Souris riding association, says she views the Greens and the Liberals as natural allies. Brandon's byelection could be a proving ground for future collaboration between the three parties since there is little chance any opposition candidate will defeat the Tories.

"We have nothing to lose," said Hamilton. "It's the bluest of blue ridings across the country."

Hamilton's proposal puts her at odds with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who has repeatedly rejected co-operation, and again raises the issue that has vexed the opposition -- whether to collaborate, especially in ridings where vote-splitting elects Conservative MPs.

'We have nothing to lose. It's the bluest of blue ridings across the country'

-- Vanessa Hamilton, president of the NDP's Brandon-Souris riding association

The Liberals ruled out the possibility Tuesday, saying they plan to hold nomination meetings for both Brandon-Souris and Provencher, Manitoba's other vacant federal seat.

"We are not discussing co-operation with any other parties for these byelections," said party spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle. "We have no plans to do so in the future, either."

During her unsuccessful bid for the Liberal leadership last spring, B.C. MP Joyce Murray laid out a detailed plan for co-operation in the 2015 election, and NDP MP Nathan Cullen proposed joint nomination meetings when he ran for the leadership of his party last year. The notion of party co-operation also popped up during Labrador's byelection in May.

Instead of a joint nomination meeting, Hamilton says it makes sense for the other parties to back the NDP candidate in Brandon-Souris. Hamilton is considering running for the nomination herself. She lost a Brandon city council byelection earlier this summer.

In the last federal election, the NDP placed second in Brandon-Souris, winning about a quarter of the votes. The Liberals parachuted in a candidate and placed fourth behind the Greens.

Tallied together, the three main opposition parties earned just over half the votes former MP Merv Tweed did in 2011.

Hamilton recently tweeted Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, asking them to support the NDP candidate in Brandon-Souris.

Elizabeth May offered a positive response. "Obviously, we're very open to it," she said.

May said the Greens would consider partnering with any party that supports reforming Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, and co-operation could include withholding a candidate in Brandon-Souris, especially if other parties stayed off the ballot in a riding the Greens could win.

But May said she was curious to hear whether Mulcair has softened his views on co-operation.

Several calls to the federal and provincial NDP offices were not returned Tuesday.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2013 A3

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Updated on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:25 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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