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Gary Doer's out. He's in. Who?

The answer---
Lloyd Axworthy.

The question?
Who will replace Gary Doer as leader of the Manitoba NDP and as Premier of Manitoba?

Forget the knee-jerk professional pundits. The so-called potential candidates are either waist deep in delusion (Steve Ashton), shoulder deep in scandal (Greg Selinger) or nose deep in obscurity (Nancy Allan).

Gary Doer's parting gift to his once-heralded-heir, Bill Blaikie, was a knife in the back Sicilian-style with a declaration on how out-of-touch Old Lefties (like Billy) are with the electorate.

The party brass could appoint an interim Premier---nice-guy Gord Mackintosh fits the bill---to carry them over the winter while the leadership "race" steals the spotlight from the Opposition. Or they could seize the brass ring now, install his Lloydship and dare the Opposition to challenge his holiness.

Axworthy is no stranger to the Manitoba Legislature.He was elected as a Liberal in Fort Rouge in the 1973 election and re-elected in 1977. He was the only Liberal in the legislature from 1977 to 1979 when he went into federal politics.

He left Ottawa in 2000, so he's distanced from the Liberal Party's Sponsorship scandal.

He's been President and vice chancellor at the University of Winnipeg since 2004. During his tenure he's made educating aboriginal students a top priority.

Dirt free? Check
Five years promoting education as an ethical priority? Check
Aboriginal cred? Check

He comes with a sackfull of awards and honorary degrees, and, he never fails to tell you if given half a chance, that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

He just fails to tell you he was nominated by a single U.S. Senator and his chances were so slim he endorsed the ultimate winner, International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

During his stint at the U of W, Axworthy has run a parallel civic government, engaging in his personal urban renewal project all around the university with little input or interference from City Hall.

His funding partner over the years was none other than Gary Doer.

And best of all, Doer can rest easy that he's passed the torch to someone who will make sure Gail Asper has all the money she needs for her boondoggle human rights museum.

But he comes with a few negatives.

* His age. Almost 70, he's older than your grandfather. But he still looks younger than the army of living dead in the NDP's front bench.

* He's rabidly anti-Conservative and is a leader of the unite-the-left movement. If the federal government reduces the equalization payments that are the lifeblood of the NDP, Axworthy could launch an anti-Harper campaign which would trap the provincial PC's in the middle. He's also a knee-jerk anti-American, although he's keeping those tendencies in check as long as Obama is President. But those sentiments go a long way with the labour movement which will decide who becomes leader of the party.

* And scratch the surface and you'll find he's as much an Old Leftie as Bill Blaikie, except he engages in the rhetoric only among friends.

Blaikie, it's going to turn out, was Axworthy's stalking horse.

Never interested in the Premier's job himself, he let others say he was. He reported back to Lloyd on caucus issues and personalities so Axworthy wouldn't be walking in cold when the time came.

And the time has come.

The NDP needs someone with built-in name recognition, a familiar face they don't have to sell to the public. As an apostate Liberal, Axworthy will be expected to draw voters from the moribund Manitoba Liberal Party, possibly leading to an unbeatable merger of the left, aka the big fish swallows the little fish. And if he attracts the undecided vote, all the better.


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