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We return now to Toronto Centre, and the courageous bid by former Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray to capture a seat in the Ontario Legislature in a provincial by-election. Murray was nominated last month to carry the Liberal colours in a seat that has long been held by Liberal MPPs. I commented on Murray’s candidacy in a dead-tree column, and followed up in The Sausage Factory when some former Winnipeggers weighed in on his candidacy.

It was remarkable that Murray was barely up and running when rumours circulated that the confidently confident former mayor had negotiated a direct line into Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet if successful in the by-election. It was shades of 2004 all over again – when Murray asked for and received the star candidate treatment from then Prime Minister Paul Martin but failed to win a seat in the House of Commons.

We at the factory discussed the possibilities that Murray was a bit older, perhaps a bit wiser and maybe not so full of himself. Unfortunately, it seems that Murray still has some growing up to do.

In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Murray got some great ink suggesting that he has, in fact, successfully shunned his tag as an outsider and now has a very good shot at making a mark in the world of high-level party politics. The story also continues speculation that he is going directly into cabinet.

Then things get weird. In the interview, the reporter asks Murray about the help he has received from Liberal MP and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, whose federal seat encompasses Murray’s prospective provincial riding. Rae has lent Murray the entire weight of his election machine. He has appeared at Murray fundraisers, spun gold about Murray’s candidacy in the Toronto media, and is widely quoted and photographed on Murray’s website –

But when he was asked if he was following in Rae’s footsteps – a politician who got out of the game only to make a high-profile comeback – Murray turned on Rae.

"I’m not like Bob Rae," Murray said. "I cut taxes every year I was mayor."

Rae, who was in Winnipeg Tuesday on the Liberal anti-prorogation national tour, is furious about the comments, according to sources. And rightly so. Murray had a reputation in Winnipeg for biting the hands that tried to feed him and get him elected. Both John Harvard, the MP who stepped aside for Murray to run in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia and Lloyd Axworthy, the dean of former Liberal MPs, lavished Murray with their best people and support. Murray eventually spurned those offers, and installed his own people. And got whipped by now Tory MP and Minister of Democratic Renewal Steven Fletcher.

Exploiting Rae’s high-profile and political machine, and then trying to distance yourself from his somewhat ambiguous legacy in Ontario, is pretty cynical stuff. And although Murray is the odds-on favourite to win this by-election, it’s hard to imagine Rae’s people working really hard to get out the vote on E-day, February 4.

Could this be a tragic mistake, a stumble in the final stages of a sure thing? Hard to say. But there will be a lot of Liberals watching with interest Thursday when the votes are counted.

We warned the good people of Toronto Centre to prepare for a Gong Show. The Sausage Factory makes no apologies for being right on this one.

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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