Time remains on campaign clock as city races to embrace past

Let’s get one thing straight: Glen Murray has not won the 2022 mayoral election. In a somewhat surprising development, however, it appears the election is now his to lose.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2022 (254 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Let’s get one thing straight: Glen Murray has not won the 2022 mayoral election. In a somewhat surprising development, however, it appears the election is now his to lose.

A recent Probe Research poll, conducted on behalf of the Free Press and CTV Winnipeg, released last Friday, shows Murray has the support of 40 per cent of decided voters, down slightly from a June report but still way out in front. In fact, the man who served as Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998 to 2004 has more support than the second-, third- and fourth-place candidates combined.

To what do we attribute Murray’s strong pre-election showing? As the Free Press story so eloquently put it, it could be “nostalgia, name recognition or running a good campaign.” It’s probably a little bit of all of those things.

Murray has brand recognition from his time in the mayor’s office, and also from having maintained a fairly high political profile since leaving Winnipeg.

Although Murray was mayor for only six years, he left an oversized mark. There are prominent public amenities scattered throughout the downtown he legitimately claims as his work product. Even so, his time in office was not without controversy or questions about competence.

Concerns still linger about Murray’s decision to freeze property taxes for most of his time in office — a policy that left municipal infrastructure in a deep state of disrepair. The consequences can, in many ways, be felt today.

If you listen to some of the more histrionical critics in town, Murray also sports a scarlet ‘R’ for “resigned as mayor to pursue other political opportunities.”

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p>
                                <p>If you listen to some of the more histrionical critics in town, Glen Murray also sports a scarlet ‘R’ for “resigned as mayor to pursue other political opportunities.”</p>

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

If you listen to some of the more histrionical critics in town, Glen Murray also sports a scarlet ‘R’ for “resigned as mayor to pursue other political opportunities.”

Murray stepped away from the mayor’s office to run as a star Liberal candidate in the 2004 federal election. When that didn’t work out, he sought and secured political office in Ontario rather than stay in Manitoba. To some political observers, Murray’s decision to showcase his political ambition is a huge negative.

That argument doesn’t hold much water. Condemning a politician for being ambitious is tantamount to condemning dogs for wanting their bellies rubbed. It’s who they are. Get over it.

Of course, history will show that after resigning, Murray lost in the federal election because he over-estimated his political star power and under-estimated the vigour of political enemies seeking to defeat him.

Is Murray trapped in the same scenario in this civic election? The poll results suggest otherwise, but they also contain hints about how and why he might stumble before the campaign finish line.

Is Murray trapped in the same scenario in this civic election? The poll results suggest otherwise, but they also contain hints about how and why he might stumble before the campaign finish line.

The 2022 mayoral campaign has been impressive in the size and scope of interests exhibited by the enormous field of candidates (15 registered, 11 were nominated and will be on the ballot).

In short, this has been one of the best mayoral campaigns in recent memory, if your definition of “best” includes bold ideas with a dash of high-level political comedy.

Not all of the ideas have been worthy. There were too many naive assumptions expressed about seizing and repurposing derelict buildings (it’s legally untenable), performing road construction on a round-the-clock schedule (anywhere but the street outside my house!), and freezing or lowering property taxes. Once again, the true outsiders in this campaign have revealed their lack of understanding of the legal and fiscal restraints facing city hall.

<p>JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p>
                                <p>Shaun Loney has run a viable and professional campaign, and demonstrated an understanding of local government that exceeds most of the other long shots.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Shaun Loney has run a viable and professional campaign, and demonstrated an understanding of local government that exceeds most of the other long shots.

However, on a completely unscientific basis, there did appear to these eyes and ears to be more high-level ideas and debate than previous mayoral campaigns. The recent poll has some indications voters have taken notice of the quality and quantity of good ideas, and demonstrated some love for lesser-known candidates.

For example, Shaun Loney, the self-described “social entrepreneur,” had captured the support of 14 per cent of decided voters, up more than double from his showing in June. Loney has run a viable and professional campaign, and demonstrated an understanding of local government that exceeds most of the other long shots.

The poll also confirms voters can spot poorly defined candidates with poorly designed platforms, even those with some name recognition.

Jenny Motkaluk received more than 76,000 votes and finished a strong second to Mayor Brian Bowman four years ago; this time around, she has the support of only four per cent of decided voters. The same goes for former mayoral candidate and former Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette (six per cent). Former provincial Liberal leader Rana Bokhari garnered only three per cent support.

At this stage, the only candidate with a theoretical chance to derail Murray is Coun. Scott Gillingham (15 per cent of decided voters).

Gillingham is pegging his hopes on the fact nearly 40 per cent of those polled were undecided. However, he would have to capture nearly all them to have a fighting chance.

Lots of things could happen before or even on election day to prevent Murray from recapturing the mayor’s office.

Still, as unlikely as it seemed at one point, it appears the mayor who left the city to pursue other political opportunities is about to be welcomed back.

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.

Report Error Submit a Tip