Provincial Liberals officially have a leadership race on their hands now that Dougald Lamont has thrown his hat in the ring.
The 44-year-old communications specialist announced his intention to succeed outgoing leader Jon Gerrard Wednesday morning on the lawns of the Manitoba Legislature.
Winnipeg lawyer Rana Bokhari filed her papers for the Liberal leadership last month.
Lamont said he believes the economy and Manitobans’ standard of living will be the key issues in the next provincial election.
"It’s getting harder and harder for families to make a living, even though we have an economy that’s growing. For a huge number of people, their wages have flat-lined or they’re working harder and longer hours but they’re not getting any further ahead. This has been going on for 30 years," he said.
"There are steps we can take to turn it around. The main thing is putting people back to work and creating jobs at higher wages to both attract people and keep them here," he said.
Lamont has worked for the party for many years, from an "envelope-stuffer" and communications specialist to a policy maker and candidate. (He ran unsuccessfully against then-Finance Minister Greg Selinger in St. Boniface in 2003.)
The party is also in his blood. His late grandfather, J.S. Lamont, was a Manitoba MLA from 1936-41 under the Liberal-Progressive banner and his late father, Frank, former CEO of Richardson Greenshields, was a long-time Liberal adviser.
Lamont said the Liberal Party, in many ways, is better positioned today than it was before Sharon Carstairs lead it to the Official Opposition in 1988. Before she won her own seat in 1986, there hadn’t been a Liberal on Broadway in six years.
There has been a continual presence ever since – even though it’s often just been Gerrard in recent years – but many policies that the party has put forward have been adopted into law, he said.
"In some ways, we’ve ended up being the NDP’s policy shop, which is frustrating," he said, noting giving students a break on tuition if they stay in Manitoba and the making the deteriorating condition of Lake Winnipeg are priority are just two examples.
The fact that the federal Liberals under Justin Trudeau are surging in popularity for the first time in a decade could also be a significant boost to provincial Liberal fortunes, he said.
Lamont was flanked by his wife, Cecilia, their four children aged 2 to 11, and numerous family members, including his mother, Judy Lamont. He was introduced by life-long friend and city councillor, John Orlikow.
He conducted his press conference in both English and French.
The leadership convention will be held Oct. 26 at Fort Garry Place.