'No shortcuts': Dougald Lamont, new Liberal leader, won't ask Independents to join party or take over seat

'No shortcuts': Dougald Lamont, new Liberal leader, won't ask Independents to join party or take over seat

Dougald Lamont sat through his first question period as leader of the Manitoba Liberals on Monday in the upstairs gallery meant for the public, not politicians, because he doesn't actually have a seat in the provincial legislature.

But the new leader said he hasn't asked any members of the three-person caucus to give up their seats to him, and none of them have offered.

"The idea is that politics is a game of addition. We want to add a seat," Lamont told reporters after question period in his first scrum as leader.

Lamont said he hopes to have a seat before the next provincial election in 2020, but he'll wait until there's a byelection called in a riding he thinks suits him.

"I think it's inevitable that a byelection will occur, and it just depends where it comes up," Lamont said. "It'll have to be the right seat. There might actually be somebody who's a Liberal who's better suited to run there than me. I'll consider it, but it has to be a good fit."

Lamont won the leadership on the second ballot on Saturday, with eight votes more than his rival, Burrows MLA Cindy Lamoureux.

River Heights MLA Jon Gerrard also ran for the position but was knocked out of the race on the first ballot.

'No shortcuts'

Unlike other contenders for the leadership, Lamont didn't make any promises on the campaign to find Liberal candidates for the upcoming election in the very near future.

He said he'd like to have most candidates in place more than a year before Manitobans cast ballots, but first, he wants to build a good relationship with his existing caucus.

"We're going to work hard on fundraising, work hard on organization. I have to meet with everybody. We all have to be paddling in the same direction," he said.

Lamont also made it clear he doesn't plan to ask Independent MLAs Steven Fletcher or Mohinder Saran to join the party either, even if provincial law to prevent floor crossing is axed.

"One of the ways we ran our campaign, we said, 'Look, we're going to do things the right way,' which is sometimes the hard way. I don't want to take any shortcuts to official party status," Lamont said.

 Lamont said if Fletcher asked to join the party he "would say no thanks."

"Steven Fletcher would be an absolutely terrible fit for our party. Mohinder Saran, I really don't know," he added.

"At this point, I am interested in working with my own caucus and developing a relationship with them and getting us all going in the right direction. That's the priority right now."