Rana Bokhari new Manitoba Liberal leader

Rana Bokhari has been selected as the new leader of the Liberals in Manitoba. It's the first time the Liberals have selected a new leader in 15 years.

Party members meeting in Winnipeg select successor to Jon Gerrard

Rana Bokhari has been selected as the new leader of the Liberals in Manitoba.

It's the first time in 15 years that the Manitoba Liberals have selected a new leader. Members held a convention on Saturday to select a successor to Jon Gerrard, who is stepping down as party leader.

There were three candidates in the running: Dougald Lamont, Bokhari, and Bob Axworthy.

The leadership convention took place at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, with the first round of voting starting at 11:30 a.m. CT.

Gerrard first entered public office in 1993 when he was elected a Member of Parliament for the then Portage-Interlake riding.

After taking over as Manitoba Liberal leader from Ginny Hasselfield in 1998, Gerrard ran and won the River Heights riding in 1999.

But the 65-year-old pediatrician-turned-politician has admitted that he's often lonely at the legislature. For years, he has been the only Liberal that has managed to get elected.

In the last provincial election in 2011, the only seat the Liberals could secure was Gerrard's riding.

Gaining support

Support for the Liberals in Manitoba have plummeted in recent years, but that may be changing, says political analyst Chris Adams.

Adams said a recent Probe Research poll shows support for the Liberals has doubled, but he added that it's up to the party to build on it.

"That is the aim of the party this time around ... can they bring in a leader who will hold onto that 20 per cent they've got in the polls in Winnipeg and bring them to a strong showing in the 2015 provincial election?" he said.

Adams said the leadership contest has been good for the party, noting that Bokhari has sold the most memberships among the three contenders.

Gerrard, who intends to stay on as an MLA for River Heights, has said he hopes the new leader continues to fight for health and the environment.

The outgoing leader has not announced if he will seek re-election as the MLA for River Heights.

If he does, said Adams, it could be an interesting battle because Pallister — who currently represents the Fort Whyte riding — has moved into the River Heights area and may run there in the next election.

"If he is running again, he's probably the most likely person to be able to hold off Brian Pallister," Adams said of Gerrard.

"The question, though, is the new leader of the Liberal Party, after Saturday's convention, has to find a riding that's winnable."