Liberal leadership field grows with Bennett's entry

Another of Paul Martin's former cabinet ministers, Carolyn Bennett, has announced a bid to replace him as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Another of Paul Martin's cabinet ministers, Carolyn Bennett, has announced a bid to replace him as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Bennett, 55, declared her intentions at a hospital in downtown Toronto on Monday morning.

"During this campaign I will be focusing on two questions related to leadership: what needs to be done and how we will do it together," said Bennett, a family physician and the former minister of state for public health.

"We will start, of course, with health and health care."

Bennett said she believes she can lead the party through a rebuilding phase in order to regain the public trust, so that the Liberals can make progress beyond its "truly impressive" record on health care.

"I want a Canada that keeps as many Canadians healthy for as long as possible, where clean air is more important than puffers and respirators."

Her preferred management style is at "the centre of a circle, not the top of a pyramid," she told CBC News in an interview following her announcement. "There's no oxygen at the top of a mountain. It has to be in the grassroots, or in the valley where the people live."

Elected four times in Toronto riding

Bennett was first elected in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's in 1997 and has kept the seat in the three elections since then.

Once the chair of the Liberal women's caucus, she now serves as the Liberal social development critic.

With Bennett's entry into the leadership race, there are now two women seeking the job. The other woman, Toronto-area lawyer Martha Hall Findlay, was the first declared candidate in the race to replace Martin.

On Sunday, Martin's former public works minister, Scott Brison, confirmed he is also running for the Liberal leadership.

Other declared candidates include Joe Volpe, Stéphane Dion, Maurizio Bevilacqua and Michael Ignatieff.

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae was expected to join the competition Monday. Rae, a longtime member of the New Democratic Party, recently took out a membership in the Liberal party.

Former social development minister Ken Dryden could also announce his intentions this week. The lawyer and former National Hockey League star is a two-term MP who was handed control of Martin's child-care program after the 2004 election.

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