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Bob Rae says the time is right for him to run for the Liberal party leadership, announcing his bid at a rally in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae announced Monday his candidacy to succeed Paul Martin as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Rae, 57, who recently took out a membership in the party, made the announcement at Ryerson University in Toronto.

"I think it's just a matter of the time being right for me," Rae told CBC Newsworld. "I'm ready to get back into public life."

Despite his NDP background, Rae stressed that the party must inhabit the political centre, saying it won't do well otherwise.

"I think we've really got to get over this left/right nonsense," he said.

Asked if his relatively short time as member of the party might hinder his chances, Rae said he has received support for his leadership bid from many members whom he used to sit opposite from when he was a federal NDP MP.

Rae already has the support from some of former prime minister Jean Chrétien's top advisers, including Eddie Goldenberg and Rae's brother John.

But Rae said his support also comes from the Paul Martin wing of the party, pointing out that John Webster, a member of the former prime minister's inner circle, has declared his support for the candidacy.

Despite the support, Rae will have to overcome his legacy as Ontario premier. Many critics point to record deficits, high taxes, and disputes with labour during his five-year term.

But supporters point out that Rae is the only contender who has ever run a government or served in both the federal and provincial legislatures.

"One person's baggage is another person's experience. I'd be very wary of somebody who didn't have any experience," Rae said last week.

Earlier Monday, Carolyn Bennett, another of Martin's former cabinet ministers, announced her leadership bid.

The leadership convention is scheduled to take place in Montreal in December.