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Bob Axworthy announcing run for Liberal leadership

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Bob Axworthy is currently chairman of the Thinkers’ Conference and Inner City Action and a NCAA-certified basketball coach for The University of Winnipeg Inner City Wesmen.

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Bob Axworthy is currently chairman of the Thinkers’ Conference and Inner City Action and a NCAA-certified basketball coach for The University of Winnipeg Inner City Wesmen.

A third candidate has entered to the race to be the next leader of Manitoba’s Liberals.

Bob Axworthy will officially announce his bid at noon today.

The 59-year-old Axworthy, who ran in the 2012 by-election in Fort Whyte and finished second to Tory Opposition leader Brian Pallister, said today he believes his experience makes him the best choice to lead the party.

"I’m pretty confident where I’m going," he said. "If you’re looking for a choice in this province—we know people are disaffected with the current government—we can make the changes."

Lawyer Rana Bokhari and communications consultant Dougald Lamont are the other two candidates.

Axworthy, whose brother is University of Winnipeg president and vice-chancellor Lloyd Axworthy, said he will run on six policy areas: poverty, human rights, environment, education, the economy and opening up the Manitoba Liberal Party to more people.

"We have to make it more open and more transparent," he said.

Axworthy said he was slow out of the gate to announce his candidacy not because of indecision, but because he was working with outgoing Leader Jon Gerrard crafting strategy and policy during the extended sitting of the Manitoba legislature, which only ended last Friday.

"I wasn’t going to do it until I was ready," he said. "I was just concerned that working with Jon every day, I could get a little behind the eight-ball."

The Liberals vote Oct. 26 to replace Gerrard, who holds the Liberal’s lone seat in the 57-legislature.

The Liberals are trying to find a replacement for Gerrard, who announced his resignation after the 2011 election that saw the party win only one seat out of 57 and 7.5 per cent of the popular vote, down from two seats and 12 per cent of the vote in 2007.

The party does appear to be benefiting from the decline in NDP support, according to a June poll by Probe Research. The poll said 17 per cent of Manitobans surveyed said they would vote Liberal.

The numbers don't suggest a Liberal surge similar to the one by leader Sharon Carstairs in 1988, when the party won 20 seats. The party last won an election in 1953.

Axworthy said while Bokhari, 35, and Lamont, 44, bring some young blood to the party, what the Liberals need is experience.

Axworthy is currently chairman of the Thinkers’ Conference and Inner City Action and a NCAA-certified basketball coach for The University of Winnipeg Inner City Wesmen.

"I think experience counts for a lot," he said.

Axworthy will not be allowed to participate in Saturday's leadership debate in Portage la Prairie until he finalizes the nomination process.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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