Adil Shamji drops out of Ontario Liberal leadership race, backs Bonnie Crombie

Adil Shamji is dropping out of the race for Ontario Liberal leader and throwing his support behind Bonnie Crombie, Global News has learned, serving the first major shake-up of the months-long campaign.

The deal, sources said, was brokered over a series of dinners between the two candidates, with the final negotiations taking place in late September.

In return for Shamji’s support, Crombie’s campaign will adopt his healthcare and education policy planks allowing the two to campaign together ahead of a leadership debate scheduled for Oct. 1 in Stratford.

Shamji, who serves as the MPP for Don Valley East, told Global News the campaign has entered a “new phase” as the candidates court the more than 80,000 members who are eligible to vote in November.

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“I feel like if I want to have maximum impact on those issues, it’s to hand the torch over to someone who can amplify my advocacy on the greatest scale possible,” Shamji said in an exclusive interview. “Bonnie is the one who can deliver that for me.”

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Crombie stressed there are “absolutely no agreements and no offers” anchoring the deal but said she would “merge” Shamji’s health care and education policies into her own campaign.

“He comes with a lot of respect and credibility and integrity as an emergency room doctor,” Crombie told Global News. “He’s built up quite a following.”

The move also comes ahead of of a financial deadline — candidates were expected to pay another $25,000 in order to remain in the race, which Shamji will no longer have to shell out.

While the merger will likely boost the Crombie campaign, it could also sharpen the attacks from the opponents.

Crombie is facing three other candidates for the Liberal party’s top job including: former Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi; Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith and Liberal MPP Ted Hsu.

During the last leadership debate at Toronto Metropolitan University, Crombie faced the bulk of criticism from other candidates who claimed that her Greenbelt approach risk putting the party on the same policy footing as Premier Doug Ford.

Crombie, who initially said she would be willing to open up portions of the Greenbelt for housing development as long as the request was made by municipalities, later stressed that she had closed the door to that policy and would no longer open the Greenbelt if the Liberals were to form government.

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Party members are set to cast their ranked ballots on the weekend of Nov. 25 and the winner is to be unveiled Dec. 2.

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