Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard Won't Run Again

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Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard is facing demands from senior party members to commit publicly to resigning, but he is thinking about staying on. (CP) | CP

UPDATE: Jon Gerrard says his time as leader of the Manitoba Liberals is coming to an end.

Gerrard says the party is aiming to have a leadership convention in 2013 and he will not run for the job again.

He won't say whether he will resign willingly or whether he will wait for a mandatory leadership review.

Gerrard says he'll have more to say before the end of the year.

He has been Liberal leader since 1998 and support has slipped in each election.

He retained the party's one seat in the Oct. 4 election and said at the time he would think about his future.

Some party members say Gerrard has failed to connect with voters and have been pushing him to quit.

Manitoba's next fixed election date is October 2015.

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard is facing demands from senior party members to commit publicly to resigning, but he is thinking about staying on, The Canadian Press has learned.

Fresh off the party's worst election result in decades, Gerrard is to attend a Liberal board of directors meeting Monday, at which time some members will call on him to lay out his exit plans, say three party members who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"He doesn't control the board at all this time, and even longtime loyalists feel it's time. It will be sad if he tries to hang on," one party insider said. "No one will push this early, but I do think people will be wanting that clear indication of a timetable for a change."

"I think Jon, at this point, his own personal emotions ... are coming in the way of logic, and the party that he actually loves so much, he's hurting," said another longtime Liberal.

Gerrard, who turned 64 last week, said Wednesday he was still mulling over his future.

"I will make a full announcement in due course. I am in the process of consulting with people," he said.

"I'm talking to people within the party about my future as leader ... and we'll certainly have, I'm sure, some of that discussion at the board meeting on Monday night."

The Manitoba Liberals have been in the political wilderness since the late 1980s and were almost wiped off the map in the Oct. 4 election. The party captured one seat — Gerrard's — after taking two seats in 2007. It also failed for the first time in decades to capture at least 10 per cent of the popular vote — a threshold that is required to qualify for a 50 per cent refund of campaign expenses.

It was Gerrard's fourth kick at the can. Under his leadership since 1998, the party's popular vote has slipped in every election.

Under party rules adopted in 2008, he will face an automatic leadership review sometime in the next two years. He told reporters on election night he was considering his future.

But now, sources say, he has indicated he may try to hang on to his job even if party members call for a leadership convention.

"On election night, he was much more open and realized it was going to be time to go, but in the weeks since, he's still open to a leadership (review) but he is talking that he may run again," said one source.

"The idea that he thinks he can resign as leader and run again for the job is one of the craziest things ... that he's ever said."

Gerrard has survived previous leadership challenges. In 2008, before the party had adopted automatic leadership reviews, some members tried to force a review at the party's annual general meeting. Reporters were asked to leave the room and, with Gerrard standing at the front and observing the crowd, party members voted by a show of hands against the idea.

But this time is different.

"He's not going to be able to count on support from people that were big fans of him up until six months ago," one insider said.

The officials that want Gerrard to leave will not insist on an immediate departure. The party is tens of thousands of dollars in debt after the election and fundraising is the top priority. There is also no rush to replace Gerrard immediately because he is the only Liberal in the legislature and the next election is four years away.

Those that want him to leave are seeking him to commit to stepping down by 2013 to give a new leader time to gain experience before hitting the campaign trail.

Some party officials approached Gerrard last year and asked him to step aside, but he refused, the sources said.

"His answer was, 'No, I'm going to stay. I'm going to stick it out,'" said one source.

Those that want the leader to leave say they have come forward reluctantly and were hoping Gerrard would bow out gracefully.

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