Philippe Couillard is stepping back into public life and running for leadership of the Liberal Party of Quebec.

"I feel the need to serve," said Couillard.

The former Health Minister has been working in private industry ever since he resigned as an MNA in 2008.

Making his announcement at Montreal's Science Centre, the neurosurgeon was flanked by many current MNAs, including Sam Hamad, Kathleen Weil, and the most recent Liberal health minister Yves Bolduc.

"It wasn't long before all my colleagues contacted me to say that I had to think about this leadership issue, and I could feel this big wave of desire to serve again," said Couillard.

Kathleen Weil said she is in his corner.

"When Philippe Couillard spoke, I was always impressed with his talent and his leadership and his ability to explain complex things in a simple way," she said.

Raymond Bachand and Pierre Moreau have already tossed their hats into the ring to replace Jean Charest, and like Bachand and Moreau, Couillard delivered part of his speech in English.

Speaking directly to the anglophone community, Couillard said, "I want to hear your voices."

Since his retirement from politics Couillard has worked for McGill University and sat on the boards of several companies, and the National Security Intelligence Review Committee.

When Couillard was an active MNA he served as the deputy for the Jean-Talon riding in Quebec and for Mont-Royal in Montreal.

He came under fire around the time of his resignation because he discussed employment terms with a private health-care consortium -- Persistance Capital Partners -- while he was still health minister.

He had to deal with those problems once again, immediately after making his announcement, because the move was scrutinized by critics that include the new Health Minister Rejean Hebert.

"He jumped into the private sector immediately after the role he had as the minister and I think there is a problem there and he will respond to that I hope," he said.

Couillard did respond, saying the PQ should concentrate on figuring out how they'll finance their health care plan.

"l think this should be his first priority before talking about the internal matters of other political parties," said Couillard.

Couillard also said there is a legitimate role for private industry in the healthcare system, pointing out that a general practitioner's clinic is a private business.
Couillard was also sidetracked by questions about his relationship with Arthur Porter, the former executive director of the McGill University Health Centre.

Porter has been implicated in recent reports about how the MUHC superhospital contract was awarded.

Couillard said he's never been in any position of conflict and his integrity is completely intact, adding that he wouldn't be joining the leadership race otherwise

"To see the revelations that we see in the papers today, to me, it's a shock. I'm surprised. I want to know more and I hope this inquiry goes on and we get the full story," he said.