POLITICS

Former Manitoba Liberal leader Jon Gerrard to seek re-election in River Heights

03/12/2014 12:27 EDT | Updated 05/12/2014 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Jon Gerrard may be out as Manitoba Liberal leader, but he plans to run for re-election in the only seat the party holds.

The decision means the troubled party's new leader, Rana Bokhari, will have to look elsewhere for a legislature seat.

"I've talked with a fair number of constituents and the reaction has been 'Great. We'd like to see you run again,'" Gerrard said Wednesday.

"I've enjoyed working with Rana Bokhari ... we've got a good working relationship and it's a good time to be a Liberal."

Gerrard, 66, served 15 years at the Liberal helm and stepped down after a disastrous 2011 election campaign that saw the party's popular vote cut almost in half to 7.5 per cent.

Bokhari, a lawyer who is new to politics, was picked last October to succeed Gerrard and has yet to decide where she will seek a legislature seat. She didn't jump at the first two chances — byelections held in two Tory strongholds earlier this year.

Bokhari is instead focusing on fundraising and drawing in new members. She said Wednesday she fully supports Gerrard's decision to run again in his River Heights constituency in Winnipeg.

"Jon has been a strong voice for the people of River Heights for a very long time," she said.

With the next election expected in the spring of 2016, Bokhari has time to figure out where she might run in an attempt to take a seat away from the governing New Democrats or Opposition Tories.

"I have stated publicly that we had about for to five seats that I was looking at ... and as the days roll on and things become more clear, I will be very happy to make those places public and let everyone know."

Bokhari took over a party that was running very low on funds and had struggled to pay off its six-figure debt from the 2011 election campaign. The leadership race was divisive, as some supporters of her two opponents — Dougald Lamont and Bob Axworthy — saw her as a neophyte who won simply by selling the most party memberships.

Axworthy recently quit the party and said Bokhari supporters were purging people who had not supported her. Liberal party president Robert Young denied the accusation.