New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc has dropped out of the Liberal leadership race and thrown his support behind rival Michael Ignatieff, one of two remaining contenders.

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Dominic LeBlanc announced at a press conference he won't run in a Liberal leadership but is urging the party to expedite their selection of a permanent successor to Stephane Dion. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

"[Ignatieff]

 is the consensus choice of Liberals to lead the party at this moment. And I want to be clear he is also my choice," LeBlanc said at a news conference Monday afternoon in Ottawa.

The 40-year-old lawyer was the first to leap into the race for the top job when he announced his intentions just two weeks after the Oct. 14 federal election.

LeBlanc, who has represented the riding of Beauséjour since 2000, was widely considered as a bit player in a race largely between the two remaining contenders — Toronto MPs Ignatieff and Bob Rae, a former Ontario NDP premier.

During the press conference, LeBlanc also took the opportunity to urge his party to expedite the process to find a permanent leader, pushing for the selection to be completed in the next three weeks.

"The Liberal party owes itself and the Canadian people a new leader, a permanent leader, a leader able to make the necessary decisions and needed judgments leading to the budget vote and beyond," said LeBlanc.

"Moreover, I believe we need that leader in place as soon as possible. Certainly no later than the beginning of the new year."

Later in the day, LeBlanc said he felt it would be "untenable for the Liberal party" to have the leadership issue left unresolved right now. "I concluded that I shouldn't let my personal ambition stand in the way of the party," he told CBC News.

LeBlanc's decision comes on the heels of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's announcement that he will step down before Parliament resumes on Jan. 26, several months earlier than originally planned.

The party wants to ensure a new leader is in place before the House of Commons reconvenes and MPs face a critical confidence vote on the federal budget that could send Canadians to the polls or see a Liberal-NDP coalition rise to power.

The Liberal leadership convention was scheduled to select a permanent replacement for Dion on May 2, but recent political developments have forced the party to move up the selection process.

It's still unclear what process will be used to select the next leader, or whether the party will select an interim or permanent leader in the coming weeks.

Whatever process emerges, LeBlanc called for the creation of a mechanism to permit widespread democratic consultation within the party. "We must ensure that the Liberal party rank and file have their say," he said.