Maurizio Bevilacqua, touting his longtime dedication to the Liberals in formally announcing his bid for the party leadership, told supporters Wednesday they shouldn't buy into the idea they need to unite the left in order to regain power.
"When it came time for me to choose a path in life, I chose the path of public service," the 18-year Liberal MP told some 300 supporters in his home riding.
"When it came for me to choose the political party, it was the Liberal Party of Canada - my first and only choice," Mr. Bevilacqua said in a thinly veiled attack against Conservative defector Scott Brison and former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae, both of whom are expected to vie for the leadership.
The Liberals are at a historic crossroads, Mr. Bevilacqua said, adding that Canadians have lost confidence in the party.
"The time for licking the wounds of Jan. 23 is over - the time for renewal is now."
Party supporters should not be swayed by talk of uniting the left, he continued, saying such discussion will only further pull the Liberals away from their roots.
"Let's be clear, the Conservatives did not win the last election campaign - we lost it," he said.
"Stay focused. Stick to your principles and once and for all, let us dispense of this 'unite the left' rhetoric. Let's be proud of who we are as Liberals."
The 45-year-old Vaughan, Ont., MP is going up against left-leaning, higher-profile candidates such as Michael Ignatieff and Gerard Kennedy, who quit his post as Ontario's education minister earlier this month and is expected to announce his bid next week.
Veteran MP Joe Volpe will take the plunge Friday, and Rae is expected to toss his hat in the ring Monday.
Former environment minister Stephane Dion and Toronto lawyer Martha Hall Findlay are also in the running.
Mr. Bevilacqua, a former junior finance minister, noted his humble roots as a young Italian immigrant whose father drove a truck to pay the family's bills.
"My story is Canada's story," he said.
While considered a dark horse contender in the leadership race, Mr. Bevilacqua has garnered the support of some key organizers for former prime minister Jean Chretien.
Joe Fontana, a Liberal MP in London-North-Centre, will announce his decision Friday not to run for the Liberal leadership, expressing a desire to spend more time with his family.
Liberals will choose a successor to former party leader Paul Martin at their leadership convention in Montreal in December.