Murray entry makes good mayoral race better

Now that former mayor Glen Murray has officially entered the 2022 Winnipeg race — a madcap affair featuring 11 registered candidates — we can be sure of only one thing.

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Opinion

Now that former mayor Glen Murray has officially entered the 2022 Winnipeg race — a madcap affair featuring 11 registered candidates — we can be sure of only one thing.

It’s not going to be dull.

The mercurial Murray, who has spent the last few years working in Winnipeg as a consultant, has a wealth of political experience. Under the category of “former,” he has been mayor of Winnipeg (1998-2004), a federal Liberal candidate, Ontario member of provincial parliament, Ontario cabinet minister, Ontario Liberal leadership candidate and federal Green party leadership candidate.

Retracing his steps to Winnipeg city hall may seem like an odd choice at this stage in his career. But if his performance at a casual campaign launch Wednesday in the city hall courtyard is any indication, he does not lack ideas or passion.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Former mayor Glen Murray arrives at city hall on Wednesday afternoon to submit his registration papers to enter the 2022 mayoral race.

Interviewing Murray has always been a lot like drinking from a fire hose; it’s simply impossible to consume the torrent of ideas and opinions he has about urban planning and development, climate change, green energy and economic development without feeling at times like you’re drowning.

Even with his foibles, on the basis of name recognition alone, Murray is now the likely front-runner in an electoral campaign the likes of which he has never seen before.

In the two mayoral elections he won — 1998 and 2002 — Murray faced only one remotely viable candidate. In 1998, he had to contend with a surprisingly strong campaign from former councillor Peter Kaufmann. In 2002, it was another surprising performance from former councillor Al Golden.

Murray may have won both times, but not in a landslide, earning only slightly more than 50 per cent of the total vote.

Interviewing Murray has always been a lot like drinking from a fire hose; it’s simply impossible to consume the torrent of ideas and opinions he has about urban planning and development, climate change, green energy and economic development without feeling at times like you’re drowning.

For his 2022 rivals, those results are a source of optimism. While a good number of Winnipeggers supported Murray in the past, it always seemed like there were also large constituencies that did not.

At least half of the 11 candidates are known political commodities that have, if you squint your eyes, at least a puncher’s chance of success.

Scott Gillingham (St. James councillor 2014-22) seems to be running the most active, most professional campaign.

However, in terms of work ethic, he is followed closely behind a reasonably strong field, many with some of their own name recognition: Jenny Motkaluk, who lost to Mayor Brian Bowman in 2018 with a strong showing; former mayoral candidate and Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette; former provincial Liberal leader Rana Bokhari; and social enterprise advocate Shaun Loney.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Scott Gillingham after registering for the mayoral race at City Hall in Winnipeg on Monday.

Then, there are the “other” candidates that have no real political experience and, to date, no clear focus for their campaigns: “community helper” Chris Clacio; security consultant Don Woodstock; business owner Rick Shone; biosystems engineer Idris Ademuyiwa Adelakun; and Desmond Thomas, a former beer vendor who also registered to run in the 2018 campaign but did not put his name on the final mayor ballot.

It’s hard to know how exactly how these 11 candidates will split the vote come election day (Oct. 26). Put another way, it’s very unclear who is competing for which constituency within the electorate.

Will Gillingham split the conservative business vote with Motkaluk? Will Ouellette or Bakhari or Loney eat into Murray’s obvious attempt to court the “progressive” vote? Will any of the long-shot candidates find traction with some bit of electoral performance art?

Winnipeg mayoral elections have always been fluid affairs. Unlike similar races in other big urban centres, party politics tends to have little, if no, impact. As a result, having proven credentials with the Progressive Conservatives or NDP or Liberals doesn’t seem to guarantee politicians from those parties at other levels of politics will support you with advice or money.

Further complicating the mayoral campaign is the fact, unlike the council races, it can’t be won by door-knocking. Meeting voters is essential, but mayoral candidates tend to go to community events where they can meet large numbers of people at once. There simply isn’t enough time for one candidate to canvass all of the homes in Winnipeg to build support.

This is where the money comes into play.

It seems quite likely Murray would not have entered the race without a strong indication he had supporters willing to write cheques.

Mayoral races rely heavily on radio and television advertisements, billboards and lawn signs — all of which cost money. Lots and lots of money. And those that don’t have it aren’t going to be competitive on election day.

For political animals of all stripes, the best news in the Murray announcement is his mere presence turns a good race into a potential barn-burner. Winnipeg voters shouldn’t ask for anything more than that.

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

Dan Lett

Dan Lett
Columnist

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.

History

Updated on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 7:27 PM CDT: Typo fixed

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