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Never know whom you'll meet

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I ran into Glen Murray when I was in Upper Canada for child the younger’s convocation.

We were at dinner in the Distillery District in Toronto when my wife pointed out to me that Murray had just walked by. He came back a minute later, and had already spotted me.

Some politicians have the knack for remembering people, though I’d interviewed Murray many times over the years. I may have been the first reporter at the WFP to interview him when Murray first ran for city council in 1989, back when it was a 29-seat council, against Joe Bova and a fellow named Sam Katz.

Murray became the first openly gay municipal councillor in Canada, as I recall.

Anyway, we chatted and he got introduced to the table, three of whom are seniors living in the riding, which the peripatetic Murray retained for the Liberals in last week’s Ontario provincial election by a landslide. Murray also called over his partner Rick, whom I’d met in Winnipeg back in the day, to meet everyone.

As I’d recently picked up from Twitter, Murray told me he’s lost 70 pounds, so far. I’d expect he’ll continue to be a major player in Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet, which may keep him in one place for a while, unless he gets the federal bug again. But I digress.

What I found surprising was that this was the week before the Ontario provincial election, and here was Murray not out campaigning and door-knocking, but having dinner, albeit in a superb restaurant whose fare will be well-reviewed on TripAdvisor soon. Maybe he believed the polls.

And in a segue whose only link is that it’s another Ontario Liberal whom I believe I was the first to interview....

I see that London Mayor Joe Fontana has resigned today after his conviction on several criminal charges.

I haven’t seen Fontana since he was federal housing minister and came through our office here for a meeting with the WFP editorial board.

It would be around 1978 that I interviewed Fontana when he first ran for city council in one of London’s suburban wards. As I recall, he based his campaign on opposing a proposed medium-security federal prison that would have brought hundreds of permanent jobs, all kinds of construction work, and ongoing services and supplies contracts to London.

Fontana claimed the prison would constitute a public safety hazard. The prison would have been down on the 401, several kilometres from the nearest housing of the day, and some people who turned out to be in the minority thought that the prison would not only be a good thing for London, but that if anyone did get over the wall, he’d head for Toronto instead of trying to hide in a city which at that time had about 300,000 people.

Fontana got elected to council, later became a Liberal MP despite having opposed that project, a cabinet minister, and then the mayor.

If this is the way his career ends, it’s a sad end.

 

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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