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OTTAWA — Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray is hoping to lead the federal Green party from an activist movement to a political force.
"I can build the Green party into a more powerful and influential force; I can help it build more electoral success," Murray told the Free Press in his first interview after declaring his candidacy Wednesday afternoon.
The longtime Liberal said he took out a Green membership just a few months ago, but had been leaning towards the party and a possible run since last Christmas.
Murray said he wants to lead the party for five to 10 years, targeting 50 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, so the Greens have enough momentum to be effective.
He wants to shift the party away from carbon taxes towards the cap-and-trade system he helped implement as Ontario’s environment minister, and focus on green jobs with projects such as high-speed rail. He would ultimately ban short-haul flights that don’t run on electricity.
Murray made the announcement after the Free Press requested an interview.
He said the massive spending to cope with the COVID-19 shutdown presents an opportunity to shift the Canadian economy away from fossil fuels.
"People are finally waking up to the nature of major global health and environment crises: what can happen and how disruptive they are, and how Canadians are pulling together," he said.
Murray, who described himself as a gay activist, compared the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and the rapid mainstream acceptance of LGBTTQ+ people to Canadians shifting their views on the climate crisis.
Rumours about Murray mounting a leadership bid have circulated among Green party staff and activists in Ottawa and British Columbia since February, about the time Murray’s Twitter account shifted towards Green figures such as outgoing leader Elizabeth May.
While some party insiders welcomed his candidacy, many noted that other official and declared candidates are younger than the 62 year old, with more diverse backgrounds and activist roots outside electoral politics.
"I don’t think age or race or skin colour should matter, frankly. I think we’re past sexism, ageism and racism," Murray said. He praised the other candidates, but argued he has more of a track record in winning elections.
Murray was mayor of Winnipeg from 1998 to 2004 before moving to Toronto. He was a Liberal member of Ontario’s legislature from 2010 to 2017 and served as a cabinet minister. He then spent a year with an Alberta sustainability think-tank for a year before returning to Winnipeg to work with environmental businesses.
He would not say who he voted for in last fall’s federal and provincial elections. He similarly would not dwell on why the Green party’s surge in the polls a year ago collapsed by October’s election, despite massive climate-change marches and some success at the provincial level.
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