It’s hard to imagine how Winnipeg would benefit from re-electing a vagabond politician like Glen Murray as its next mayor.
Murray, who last served as his worship in Winnipeg 18 years ago, has been wandering around Manitoba and Ontario for the past three decades, running for, quitting and running again (or musing to run) for a variety of jobs in municipal, provincial and federal politics.
He’s won some battles, lost others and never seemed content staying in one place for more than a few years at a time.
Murray, 64, now wants his old job back — the one he walked away from mid-term in 2004 to run for the federal Liberals in the former Charleswood—St. James riding (he lost).
He has offered no compelling reason for his bid to become Winnipeg’s mayor again. It may be he’s just looking for a steady paycheque (the mayor’s job pays more than $200,000 a year, plus benefits).
Four years ago, when he announced he was moving back to Winnipeg, Murray ruled out getting back into politics.
"I have no desire to go back to it," the former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister told Global News in 2018. "I think I’ve done my public service."
When asked Wednesday during his official 2022 mayoral campaign launch in the courtyard at city hall what changed his mind, he didn’t answer. Instead, he explained how he was trying to keep his business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been caring for his ailing mother over the past few years.
He said he hasn’t had time to do anything else, which isn’t entirely true. Murray had time two years ago to run for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada, which he lost (placing fourth).
Now, with seemingly nowhere else to run, he’s decided to take a shot at the mayor’s chair again.
"I love Winnipeg," said Murray, when asked several times why he wants to be mayor, adding there’s still more work to do.
"It’s not about me, though, right?" he insisted, prompting more than a few belly laughs among those who have followed the former mayor’s political career over the past three decades.
Murray is one of the most self-absorbed politicians you’ll ever meet. He gives former Manitoba premier Brian Pallister a run for his money in that category. Murray’s politics and style may be different than the former Tory leader, but his level of arrogance is of the same calibre.
Murray is one of the most self–absorbed politicians you’ll ever meet. He gives former Manitoba premier Brian Pallister a run for his money in that category.
During a recent podcast, hosted by former CBC radio broadcaster Terry MacLeod, Murray spent the better part of 39 minutes boasting about his record as mayor (1998-2004) and how the city has practically fallen apart since he left the position.
Almost all development in Winnipeg prior to his mayorship was backwards and wrongheaded (except the development of The Forks), according to Murray. After six years of smart, visionary urban planning under his watch, subsequent mayors and city councils unravelled all the good work he did with poor planning and bad investments.
At least that’s the world according to Murray. Humility has never been his strong suit.
Nor has his relationship with the truth, which is strained at the best of times. It didn’t take Murray long to remind us of that Wednesday, when he claimed, wrongly, he got his controversial "new deal" done while he was mayor.
The proposal — a plan to cut property taxes in half and eliminate the businesses tax in favour of a host of new consumption taxes and fees — failed. One of the reasons was because it was not revenue neutral. As proposed, it was an overall tax increase, which included a city sales tax, a tax on gasoline and natural gas, a 911 tax, a city booze tax, and higher frontage levies.
It proposed to shift the tax base away from high-end property owners and businesses to lower-income people, including renters. It was ultimately quashed by then-premier Gary Doer.
The question remains: why does Murray want this job and what does he have to offer Winnipeg?
He talks a mile a minute about the same things he spoke of 20 years ago — crumbling infrastructure, poorly cleared sidewalks, bad urban planning, etc. — but offers little but vague platitudes.
Murray will be a competitive candidate in the 2022 mayoral race. He still has a fan base in the city. But so far, he sounds mostly like someone who just needs a job.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.