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Politics Gerard Kennedy joins Ontario Liberal leadership race

Former MP Gerard Kennedy after his defeat to NDP candidate Peggy Nash for Parkdale High Park in the federal election May 2, 2011.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Gerard Kennedy is taking another run at the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, a post he lost to outgoing leader Dalton McGuinty 16 years ago.

The former cabinet minister, who also ran unsuccessfully for the federal leadership, is joining an increasingly crowded field that includes Eric Hoskins, Glen Murray, Sandra Pupatello, Charles Sousa and Kathleen Wynne.

Mr. Kennedy will officially launch his candidacy Monday evening in London, Ont. In a short video on his website, he issues an appeal for party members, lapsed supporters and even non-Liberals willing to take "a leap of faith."

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"I need you to join me in showing people what Liberals can do at their best: forge a consensus for this province on the way forward that includes everyone," he says.

A recent poll suggests Mr. Kennedy would lead the party to a better showing than any of the other leadership candidates, though even with him at the helm the Liberals would be running in third place behind the Progressive Conservatives and NDP.

But Mr. Kennedy is facing an uphill battle to becoming leader. His political turf on the party's left flank has largely been filled by Ms. Wynne and much of his political machine is committed to helping Justin Trudeau seek the federal leadership. Mr. Kennedy is also seen in the party as a loner who didn't maintain relationships after leaving Queen's Park and it doesn't help that he played a key role in Stephane Dion becoming leader of the federal Liberals.

Mr. Kennedy's website is short on policy but the candidate – who could not be reached early Monday – is a former social activist who was popular with the left wing of the party. In an interview with a morning show on CP24, he said he would bring back the prorogued legislature "as soon as possible" and distanced himself from a controversial education bill.

"I wasn't part of the cabinet that brought in Bill 115," he said. "Bill 115 was not my initiative and is not the way I would move forward."

Born in western Canada, Mr. Kennedy was educated at Trent University and the University of Alberta. He became executive director of Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank, a post he held for a decade.

He entered politics in 1996 and ran for the Ontario Liberal leadership that same year, losing to Mr. McGuinty on the fifth ballot. After the Liberals took office in 2003 he served as Education Minister, a post he resigned in 2006 to run for the federal leadership, a post ultimately won by Mr. Dion.

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