An NDP candidate in Nova Scotia who suddenly resigned from the federal election campaign says he is the victim of a "shameful and dishonest" smear campaign.
Morgan Wheeldon was the NDP's official candidate in Kings-Hants before resigning after controversial comments he allegedly made about the Middle East on Facebook appeared as a screen grab being circulated by the Conservative Party. He confirmed the resignation on Monday morning.
Wheeldon is accused of saying Israel intended to "ethnically cleanse the region" in a Facebook post in August 2014. The original post has since been deleted.
Wheeldon said the Facebook post was part of a longer conversation and the post itself wasn't expressing his sole viewpoint but one that comes from a variety of news sources, which is illustrated by the fact that the post opens with "one could argue..."
"The broader point was that depending on your source of information, you would draw different conclusions about the conflict," Wheeldon said.
"The context changes the entirety of this whole thing and it makes exceptionally clear that this is a dirty smear and it's shameful," he said.
Earlier today, Brad Lavigne, an NDP campaign adviser, said Wheeldon's position as reflected by the Facebook post didn't reflect the party's position.
"Our position on the conflict in the Middle East is clear, as Tom Mulcair expressed clearly in the debate. Mr. Wheeldon's comments are not in line with that policy and he is no longer our candidate," he said.
"We were made aware of some information that had not previously been disclosed. When we approached Mr. Wheeldon with this information, he submitted his resignation."
Wheeldon said his true personal views are actually in line with the NDP platform.
"My position on Israel has always been that they deserve a safe and secure state, one that works with Canada and I also agree personally with the two-state solution in the NDP platform," he said.
Wheeldon said what is being circulated doesn't fall under defamation because he's a public figure but if he were a private citizen, it would fall under cyberbullying legislation.
"Being accused of being an anti-Semite, that's pretty much defamation if I was a private citizen."
Means the world to have support like this. I am disappointed in Canadian democracy today, but I remain hopeful. https://t.co/gVgP7iEuFx— @MorganWheeldon
Carl Oldham, a town councillor in Wolfville, said he met Wheeldon a few times in the community and was impressed with him and his enthusiasm for the election.
"[Wheeldon] seemed to have lots of fire under him and and he was all excited about the election coming," he said.
"He seemed like a strong candidate, I don't know who they would get now for that riding."
Voters in Kings-Hants said the prospect of not having an NDP candidate in their riding for the election is concerning.
"I need to know exactly who is running ... It's really important to me that when I vote, I'm not voting for someone, I'm also voting against and that significantly reduces my choices," Leah Isnor said.