Murray stays in race after leadership, behaviour allegations surface Former mayor denies sexual harassment accusation, apologizes for ‘stress or tension’ he caused at helm of Calgary-based non-profit

After taking a commanding lead in the polls, Glen Murray’s campaign for Winnipeg mayor was thrown into jeopardy Thursday when allegations of sexual harassment and poor leadership emerged.

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After taking a commanding lead in the polls, Glen Murray’s campaign for Winnipeg mayor was thrown into jeopardy Thursday when allegations of sexual harassment and poor leadership emerged.

Murray described the allegations from former employees at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute as false, while he vowed to stay in the race for the mayor’s chair.

He apologized for “any stress or tension” caused during his time as executive director of the non-profit clean energy think tank in 2017 and 2018.

“I’m not perfect, who is? But, I am certain the reported sexual harassment from (Thursday) is not true,” Murray said, reading from a statement inside his campaign office at Portage Avenue and Garry Street.

He claims no one raised concerns with him or others at Pembina regarding the allegations.

Murray, who refused to take questions from reporters, thanked his husband, Rick, for supporting him, while he addressed the media and a few dozen backers.

Fellow mayoral candidates Kevin Klein and Rana Bokhari have called on Murray — Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998 to 2004 — to end his campaign.

A Sept. 23 Probe Research poll suggests Murray has an overwhelming lead with the support of 40 per cent of decided voters.

Murray took on his role at Pembina, which he called his “dream job,” after resigning his seat as an Ontario member of provincial parliament in Toronto.

“I’m not perfect, who is? But, I am certain the reported sexual harassment from (Thursday) is not true.”–Glen Murray

A CBC News investigation into Murray’s tenure revealed former employees had concerns about his leadership and management abilities, and said some behaviour — including making sexual comments, drinking to excess at company events and being late for meetings — raised red flags.

While he denied any inappropriate sexual behaviour, Murray, who was a half-hour late to the press conference he scheduled to respond to the allegations, apologized to Pembina employees who may have been affected by mismanagement.

“In my time at Pembina Institute, I was ambitious and working hard on (goals) I thought we all shared as a team,” he said.

“It was also, however, a time of great change in my private life, and it is clear that I allowed that pressure to spill over into my life. I am sorry for this, and I take responsibility.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Murray described the allegations from former employees at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute as false, while he vowed to stay in the race for the mayor’s chair.

Former Pembina executive director Ed Whittingham told CBC News that Murray spoke with him one-on-one about sexual topics on Murray’s first day at the job.

Duncan Kenyon, who was Pembina’s Alberta and oil and gas director at the time, also told CBC News that Murray rubbed against him in a sexual way during a company event in Banff in 2018.

Murray, 64, denied he had ever acted in a sexually inappropriate nature with a fellow Pembina employee.

“I have always acted with the highest standards and tried to do what’s right,” he said.

Murray said his mandate was to bring “significant change” to and “overhaul” Pembina.

He suggested there was “reluctance and opposition” in some parts of the organization when he took over.

Murray said it became clear to him and Pembina’s directors that his style of leadership and the way he worked was not a “good fit.”

“Together, we came to the realization that parting was the best way forward, and it was clear that for professional, but also for personal reasons, I should leave,” he said.

Former mayor’s prominent supporters standing by their man

Mayoral candidate Glen Murray’s strongest supporters have not been swayed by allegations of sexual harassment against him in a former job.

Not only do they still support Murray, several were at his campaign headquarters Thursday afternoon to hear his public response to allegations of sexual harassment and unprofessional behaviour during his time as executive director at the Calgary-based Pembina Institute think tank. Read more.

“Leaving was a humbling experience. I regret allowing my passion to deliver on my mandate to have clouded my managerial judgment. Even more, I apologize for any stress or tension I caused with my approach leading Pembina.”

Pembina board chair David Runnalls, who told CBC News he had no knowledge of any harassment claims made against Murray at that time, presented Murray with a termination notice after a series of senior staff interviews and a staff survey about Murray’s management in August 2018.

Murray opted to resign Sept. 9, 2018 and formally left the organization the following day, according to correspondence obtained by CBC News.

Runnalls, Kenyon and Whittingham declined to comment. Runnalls has endorsed Murray for mayor according to the candidate’s website.

Inappropriate management practices, including discussing confidential information openly and being unprepared for crucial company meetings, were brought forward by former Pembina employees and correspondence obtained by CBC News.

The investigation also found that four employees quit the organization over the concerns.

Former Pembina employee Iain McMullan told the Free Press that Murray was charismatic and compelling at times, but “chaotic and unreliable” as a boss.

“He was not very good at collaboration and not very good at listening,” said McMullan, a fundraiser who was hired as Pembina’s director of strategic partnerships in November 2017.

“I have always acted with the highest standards and tried to do what’s right.”–Glen Murray

Runnalls described Murray as a “high-risk, high-reward” hiring, said McMullan, who left his role in early 2020.

McMullan said he heard about the allegations, but he “never had cause to complain” about Murray.

The Pembina Institute did not respond to a request for comment.

Murray said he would not be at National Day for Truth and Reconciliation events Friday out of concerns he would draw attention away from the events.

Klein and Bokhari, who are among 11 people running for mayor in the Oct. 26 municipal election, said Murray should withdraw.

The deadline to withdraw has passed.

“The city doesn’t need any more scandals,” said Klein. “I’m concerned about the problems of the city and I don’t want the problems of Glen. I think he should do the right thing.”

“The city doesn’t need any more scandals… I’m concerned about the problems of the city and I don’t want the problems of Glen. I think he should do the right thing.”–Kevin Klein

Klein faced questions about how his former employment with Peter Nygard’s company continues to be brought up during the campaign. He described it as “inappropriate” for people to continue to associate him with the disgraced fashion mogul, having previously denied witnessing any wrongdoing.

“I did work for the man. I could not work for him,” said Klein. “I cannot work for him, I would not suggest that any human being ever work for him.”

Bokhari accused Murray of “grossly” abusing his position of authority in his former role.

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Rana Bokhari accused Glen Murray of “grossly” abusing his position of authority in his former role.

“Glen has run on a campaign focused on nostalgia and it’s clear he has failed to live up to today’s values,” she said in a statement. “How many passes do we give him? Is this who we want to represent Winnipeg?”

Candidate and city councillor Scott Gillingham, who was second in the Probe poll with 15 per cent of decided voters’ support, did not join those calls, but he said the alleged behaviour would not pass the city’s own code of conduct or respectful workplace policies.

Winnipeggers will decide whether Murray is fit to be mayor when they cast their ballots, he said.

Gillingham thanked the former Pembina employees for coming forward.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham thanked the former Pembina Institute employees for coming forward with the “serious allegations of misconduct and harassment.”

“They’ve done a service to the voters of Winnipeg,” he said during a press conference at his campaign headquarters at River Avenue and Osborne Street. “There’s a pattern that seems to follow (Murray) from city to city to city.”

Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said the allegations could “tarnish” Murray’s image and affect his chances of becoming mayor again.

He pointed to Murray’s history of resigning from roles, including as mayor of Winnipeg in 2004 — halfway through his second term — when he unsuccessfully ran to become a Liberal member of Parliament in Charleswood-St. James.

There were questions about his moving around, “and this kind of adds to that, and not in a very positive way,” said Adams.

The situation presents an opportunity for other candidates to “make hay,” he said, noting it could benefit a contender such as Shaun Loney.

Loney, viewed as left-of-centre, believes the “concerning” allegations could help him.

“Winnipeggers, when they’re going to the polls, integrity is something that is on their checklist,” he said at a campaign event in the North End.

— with files from Kevin Rollason and Joyanne Pursaga

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Chris Kitching
Reporter

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

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

History

Updated on Thursday, September 29, 2022 2:22 PM CDT: Added with files from Kevin Rollason and Joyanne Pursaga

Updated on Thursday, September 29, 2022 4:10 PM CDT: Updated with Glen Murray's comments at the news conference.

Updated on Thursday, September 29, 2022 5:06 PM CDT: Adds video

Updated on Thursday, September 29, 2022 6:32 PM CDT: writethru, adds images

Updated on Thursday, September 29, 2022 7:01 PM CDT: Adds Malak's email ID

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