LeBlanc to run for Liberal leadership

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc said he will be running for the leadership of his party, becoming the first Liberal to publicly announce his intention to seek the top job.

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc said he will run for the leadership of his party, becoming the first Liberal to publicly announce his intention to seek the top job.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail, LeBlanc, 40, said he will make the official announcement after the party decides on the date and location of the leadership convention.

LeBlanc said he thinks the party needs to reposition itself and become more centrist.

"Perhaps, in recent campaigns, we have drifted from that pragmatic centre of Canadian politics and we haven't given some of the traditional Liberal voting blocs an enthusiastic reason to support us," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc also said the Green Shift — Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's carbon tax plan — represented "a major challenge for us last time" and will not be part of his campaign.

On Monday, former deputy prime minister John Manley said he was considering a return to the political scene to join the race to succeed Dion.

MP's Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, both front-runners in the previous leadership race, are expected to take another run at the top job.

Other possible contenders include former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, former leadership rivals Martha Hall Findlay and Gerard Kennedy, and MP Denis Coderre.

Dion is remaining at the helm of the party until his successor is selected at a leadership convention. No date has been set, but it could take place next May in Vancouver.

LeBlanc's foray into the leadership race comes as no surprise to at least one political analyst in New Brunswick.

Rick Myers, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, said LeBlanc will enter the race as a dark horse so it was imperative that he announced his intentions early.

"I think the dark horses have to get out there early or the door closes for them," Myers said. "Consequently, if he wants to be in and make any splash, he has to go early."

LeBlanc lost in his first electoral bid in 1997 but was elected in 2000 in the largely rural Beauséjour riding in southeastern New Brunswick. The son of former Gov.-Gen. Romeo LeBlanc is fluently bilingual and is a Harvard-educated lawyer.

LeBlanc served as the Liberal justice critic before the election was called and he served on the Liberal party's platform committee.

Myers said the federal Liberals need to realize they are in a long-term rebuilding process and should turn to a leader they would feel comfortable with for two campaigns if they lose the next election.

The political scientist said the next Liberal leader must deal with the Barack Obama factor in that Canadians will demand their political leaders combine political experience with youth, dynamism and charisma of the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate.

"They will be looking for a fresh face but you can't be stupid and embrace someone like [MP-elect] Justin Trudeau who has zero experience and zero credibility. Justin Trudeau would be another [U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate] Sarah Palin," Myers said. "LeBlanc probably is one of the few people who would have the right balance."