Murray takes early lead: poll Former mayor emerges as favourite in civic election

Glen Murray has emerged as the heavy favourite to become Winnipeg’s next mayor, holding an almost 3-1 lead over his next challenger, according to the first public poll of voters.

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Glen Murray has emerged as the heavy favourite to become Winnipeg’s next mayor, holding an almost 3-1 lead over his next challenger, according to the first public poll of voters.

Murray, who was the city’s mayor from 1998 to 2004, was backed by 44 per cent of decided respondents in a Probe Research poll released Thursday.

He sits well ahead of Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James) and former Winnipeg Centre Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who had the support of 16 and 13 per cent, respectively, in a crowded race.

“Polls are polls. I always look at them and (they) don’t change what we do,” Murray said Thursday. He credited the big early lead to the work his team has put into the campaign.

“I always think you have to have the hardest-working campaign. I think (the poll) tells us that our message is getting out there.”

Gillingham said the survey’s findings are in line with what he expected at such an early stage of the 2022 municipal election campaign. The city councillor (2014-22) insisted he’s not concerned about the survey placing him a distant second.

“We’re still three months away from election day. There’s still a lot of time,” he said. “This (poll) does not change my strategy… I’m really encouraged by the reception I’m getting all across Winnipeg.”

Twelve registered candidates have entered the race to replace Mayor Brian Bowman, who isn’t seeking a third term. Nomination papers are due by Sept. 20. Voters cast their ballots Oct. 26.

With eight per cent of support among decided voters, business consultant Jenny Motkaluk ranked fourth in the Probe poll. She finished second in the 2018 election.

The survey suggests public opinion of her has worsened, with 42 per cent stating they will definitely not vote for her.

Motkaluk has been “dealing with strong negative views,” after she criticized The Forks for its decision not to hold a traditional Canada Day celebration July 1, according to Probe.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Glen Murray was backed by 44 per cent of decided respondents in a Probe Research poll released Thursday.

Social enterprise activist Shaun Loney (six per cent) and former Manitoba Liberal Party leader Rana Bokhari (four per cent) rounded out the top six.

Rick Shone, Don Woodstock, Jessica Peebles, Desmond Thomas, Chris Clacio and Idris Ademuyiwa Adelakun received three per cent or less.

Murray’s huge lead could be due to factors such as name recognition and political experience, people parking their vote or even “nostalgia for the way Winnipeg was” during his time as mayor, said Mary Agnes Welch, a principal with Probe Research.

Murray was a provincial cabinet minister during his time as an Ontario Liberal MPP (2010-17).

Welch said she was a little surprised by the breadth of Murray’s lead.

“We’re still three months out from the vote, but his lead over the next two challengers is pretty substantial.”

Paul Thomas, a professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said he’s not surprised Murray is the front-runner at a time when many potential voters are not yet paying attention.

“Glen Murray is by far the best-known candidate,” he said.

Thomas expects the competition between Murray and his closest challengers to become tighter once summer is over.

Of all those surveyed, 67 per cent said they will definitely or possibly vote for Murray. Gillingham’s total was 51 per cent, followed closely by Ouellette at 50 per cent.

One in three (36 per cent) of respondents said they would consider voting for Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) if he enters the race.

Klein is going to announce his intentions Aug. 3 during an event at Assiniboine Park.

“Seeing a poll like this confirms what I thought. There is a significant amount of people who aren’t thrilled about the candidates,” said Klein. “It really meant a lot to me to see that number of Winnipeggers who selected me (in the poll).”

One-quarter (26 per cent) of respondents said they would be open to supporting former Transcona councillor (2002-18) Russ Wyatt, if he becomes a candidate.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Scott Gillingham had the support of 16 per cent of Winnipeggers who participated in the poll.

The Probe poll suggests Murray’s support is strongest in Winnipeg’s core area and lowest in northeast neighbourhoods. He was the top choice of provincial NDP and Liberal supporters.

Murray’s higher support among women and voters 55 and up were two trends that stood out, said Welch.

“Those tend to be the folks that actually hit the polls. That perhaps puts him in a reasonable position to hold onto that lead,” she said.

Murray also had high support among Indigenous respondents and people age 35 and under.

Gillingham is the preferred candidate among provincial Progressive Conservative voters. He also has high support among voters older than 55.

Gillingham hasn’t broken through with voters yet, Welch said. The St. James councillor probably isn’t widely known outside his ward, said Thomas. (Gillingham indicated a strategy to boost his profile will be rolled out in the coming weeks.)

Respondents were also asked to rank their second-choice candidate. Ouellette had the highest support in that category (20 per cent), followed by Murray (19 per cent) and Gillingham (17 per cent).

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Robert-Falcon Ouellette was third in the poll with the support of 13 per cent of respondents.

The online survey of 622 Winnipeg adults was conducted July 14-25 to get an “initial read” on the candidates in what has been a “messy race” so far, said Welch.

“There’s a lot of people campaigning, and a lot of announcements have been made so far. It’s been hard for voters to figure out who’s got a fighting shot.”

Probe said no margin of error can be ascribed in an online panel survey.

The Winnipeg-based company said a random and representative non-convenience sample of 622 adults would have a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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