Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is in the running for his job after he officially entered the NDP leadership race on Friday.

Selinger filed his nomination papers over the noon hour at the NDP provincial office on Portage Avenue. While there, he defended a contentious issue that sparked the race in the first place: the PST increase.

"No community can do well economically if it's under water," Selinger said. "And we saw the investment in Winnipeg — under a billion dollars — with that investment has saved us about $14 for every dollar we've invested. That has made Winnipeg a safer place, a more prosperous place."

The premier is the third person to enter the race.

Selinger said he is the best candidate for premier.

Greg Selinger

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger reads his governments Speech From The Throne at a news conference and speaks to media at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Thursday, November 20, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods (John Woods/Canadian Press)

"We have had very good results in Manitoba," said Selinger. , we see a strong economy , a growing population..."

He said his leadership campaign will take a back seat to his duties as premier.

“I plan to make my first responsibility governing is for the people of Manitoba," said Selinger. "There is a leadership contest going on. That will be the second priority in the sense that your first duty is to serve the people of Manitoba.”

Former minister for jobs and the economy and one of five rebel cabinet ministers Theresa Oswald first entered the race on Dec. 19, followed by Steve Ashton, who resigned as transportation minister leading up to it.

Ashton vows to ‘buy local’

On Friday, Ashton promised to create a new cabinet portfolio for local food and social enterprise, and he said the position would promote Manitoba's homegrown food.

'I am prepared to go anywhere anytime and talk to Manitobans about my vision' - Steve Ashton

He made the announcement at Local Meats and Frozen Treats, which sells made-in-Manitoba products.

“It's a low cost item. It does not have to add anything in terms of cost,” said Ashton. “And it will result in a minister that will not only promote social enterprises and local food production, but deal with some of the issues that we are dealing with.”

What differentiates Oswald, Selinger and Ashton from each other is the way they think the province should be run, said Ashton.

"There are obviously going to be three different visions," he said. "We have a fair amount in common but there are clear differences. Again I would welcome debates; I am prepared to go anywhere anytime and talk to Manitobans about my vision.

'I look forward to a respectful, constructive and honest debate about who is the right man or woman to renew our party' - Theresa Oswald

Ashton's call for a referendum on the provincial sales tax increase has been seen as a direct challenge to Selinger.

On Friday, Selinger refused to acknowledge Ashton's campaign promise to hold a referendum.

Oswald endorsed by 2 city councillors

Oswald was on the campaign trail Friday in rural Manitoba. She accepted endorsements from two city councillors in Lonnie Patterson and Jan Chaboyer.

"Premier Selinger has served this province with dedication for many years and it's been an honour to work together on important programs for Manitobans, including free cancer drugs for all patients, expanding home care for seniors and introducing the Rent Assist housing benefit for low income families," Oswald said.

"I look forward to a respectful, constructive and honest debate about who is the right man or woman to renew our party, regain the confidence and trust of Manitobans and ensure the NDP is competitive going into the next election."

Selinger said that it is unclear how a race with Ashton and Oswald will affect his own campaign.

"It's a little bit murky at this point," said Selinger. "A lot of it's going to be about how their campaign teams get organized and get out their supporters at these delegate selection meetings."

January 6 is the final day for candidates to sell memberships.

Selinger will stay on as premier during the leadership race, which is scheduled to take place at the NDP convention on March 8.