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Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, right, looks on as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May fields a question as they announce their political alliance in New Glasgow, N.S. on Friday. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))

The Liberals and the Green party confirmed Friday they have agreed to work together to try to oust Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay from his riding in the next federal election.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and Green party Leader Elizabeth May held a joint news conference in Stellarton, in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova.

Dion, who said the move showshis party is serious about addressing climate change,said the Liberals will not run a candidate in the riding where May intends to seek her party's first federal seat.

In exchange, the Greens have agreed not to run a candidate in Dion's Montreal riding.

"We need exceptional solutions and that's the reason we're acting this way," Dion, a former environment minister, said in French.

May said while she doesn't agree with all Liberal policies and the two parties don't plan to merge, she does have confidence in Dion.

"The crisis of climate change is an urgent one," May said in French."There is no time to waste. Because of our electoral system, I do not have a choice. I have to collaborate."

Political observers say the Liberals hope May's credibility on the environment will give their party a boost on the issue, which is expected to dominate the next election.

Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg said the deal is a "terrible error in judgment" and shows Dion is a weakleader.

"I think Stéphane Dion is in trouble if he has to resort to cutting backroom deals before an election is even called," said Solberg. "If Dion's leadership is too weak for Central Nova, why should it be acceptable for any Canadian?"

Solberg also took a swipe at the Green party, saying there are better ways to start a new political party than making backroom deals.

Layton 'disappointed' in May

Earlier Friday, NDP Leader Jack Layton said the deal was undemocratic and denied Canadians the right to choose who will represent them in Parliament.

"It's incredible that this matter of such importance is being decided by two leaders in secret," Layton said at a news conference in Ottawa.

"That's not what democracy is about. It is the citizens that ought to make choices about who is going to be representing them."

Layton said he was disappointed in May, who announced her plans to run against MacKay earlier this year.

"It's disappointing and somewhat surprising that Ms. May, who professes to be someone who stands on principle, would have so quickly slipped into the muck of backroom wheeling and dealing," said Layton.

He said he was surprised that May would support Dion on the issue of the environment because greenhouse gas emissions rose by 30 per cent during the 13 years the Liberals were in power, including Dion's two yearsas environment minister.

Tough fight for May

May already has one failed attempt at winning a federal seat. Last fall, she finished second in a federal byelection in the Ontario riding of London North-Centre, winning 26 per cent of the popular vote.

In explaining her decision to run against MacKay, May said while heis a friend and a "nice guy," Canada's foreign policy had shifted drastically to mirror American policies.

WinningCentral Novawill be an uphill fight for May, however.

MacKay won easily in the last federal election, with 40.6 per cent of the popular vote. He was followed by the NDP candidate at 32.9 per cent, while the Green candidate tallied less than two per cent of the vote.

CBC reporter Stephen Puddicombe said almost nobody he spoke to inthe ridingthinks MacKay will be defeated.

"They call it 'Peter MacKay's riding,' they don't even call it a Conservative riding," said Puddicombe.

The deal could alsogenerate a backlash within Dion's and May's parties. Many Greens are upset with May for praising Dion's environmental record, and some local Liberals have already spoken out against Dion's move.

With files from the Canadian Press