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A queer's-eye view of Glen Murray

A queer's-eye view of Glen Murray

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From a Winnipegger who knows him well
Wanna know the scoop about Glen Murray?

Take it from a Winnipegger: The man who wants to replace George Smitherman as MPP for Toronto-Centre, the riding that includes the country's biggest gay village, is a charismatic, commitment-phobic, power-hungry, eager-to-please crybaby who can't be trusted.

But he deserves every vote he gets.

I've been following Murray's unlikely political career ever since he was elected to Winnipeg city council in 1989, as one of the first openly gay politicians in Canada. Back then, Murray was the 32-year-old co-founder of the city's pioneering AIDS clinic, handing out condoms and safe-sex info at clubs, coffee shops and bathhouses.

As an NDP city councillor, Murray fought passionately, often to the point of tears, for official recognition of Pride and Pink Triangle Day events. He adopted a teenaged street kid and starred in a National Film Board documentary about their relationship.

In 1998, I moved into a house down the street from Murray, and a few months later, he was elected mayor. When I went to his inauguration with my lesbian roommate, he proudly showed off his big, shiny chain of office and we swooned, "That's our mayor!" To which he responded, "Now I just need earrings to match!"

But over the next few years, our love affair with Murray waned. He dumped his ties to the NDP, cozied up to the local business community and bulldozed the city's preeminent heritage building to make way for a dreary hockey arena.

In 2004, halfway through his second term, Murray joined the Liberal Party, ditched out of his job and made a kamikaze run for a federal seat in Winnipeg's suburbs — all because then-prime minister Paul Martin wined and dined him at 24 Sussex Dr and promised him a low-level cabinet position if he won. Murray's ambitious plans for a city consumption tax, fairer municipal funding and a long-awaited rapid transit system died the minute his political career crashed and burned at the hands of a neophyte Conservative candidate.

Despite my bitterness at Murray's hasty and horribly-timed departure, as well as the fact that he flew to Toronto midway through the campaign to smear Jack Layton and Olivia Chow in their home ridings, I can't help but admit that — on the whole — he was a fantastic mayor. He worked practically round-the-clock to inject new life into our downtown waterfront, invest heavily in the arts community and build a picture-perfect bridge over the Red River. He even managed to hold the line on property taxes while maintaining great relations with city unions.

Most importantly, though, Murray succeeded in inspiring Winnipeggers to think of our city as world-class. He was also a positive role model for young queers. After a local newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request for Murray's emails, it was revealed that gay and lesbian young people from across North America had written to him for advice — and received long, thoughtful responses.

That was one of Murray's greatest strengths as mayor — accessibility. He travelled everywhere in the city and tried to know everyone. When I needed to get my passport signed by a professional, I realized there was someone I knew better than any dentist or lawyer who could do the trick — my mayor. So I called Murray's office and the secretary told me to come on down.

I have a lot of good things to report about Glen Murray, but I have to end this column with a warning to the voters of Toronto-Centre: Don't believe that he won't dump you, too, if a hotter offer comes along. After Murray left Winnipeg, he landed a position with Toronto consulting firm Navigator for a couple of years, but quit so he could take charge of the Canadian Urban Institute. Now, less than two years into that job, he's hoping to become an MPP.

Yet he still considers himself a Winnipegger, and says he'll return one day to run for MP again. At least that's what he told me a few months ago, when I interviewed him at a Winnipeg coffee shop. I have no doubt that Murray sincerely wants to serve the people — he's just always keeping his options open about which people to serve.

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Comments

If A Hotter Offer Comes Along
"Don't believe he'll move on... if a hotter offer comes along.

Hmmmm.... sounds like Glen Murray has ambition. What a pity! Why can't more people be like the author of this article... and be happy sitting on their rear ends, collecting government support. Oh wait... that's the NDP platform.
Pre-eminent heritage building an overstatement
As another ex-Winnipegger I'd say the former Eatons building was the largest but not pre-eminent heritage building in Winnipeg and was much drearier sitting empty than the actively used MTS Centre that replaced it... I think Eatons had more nostalgic than architectural value so I side with Murray on this but otherwise Kaj says it well. Winnipeg's bus rapid transit would be long finished rather than in planning stages if Murray hadn't left...
Fair assessment
As a former Winnipegger, I think Kaj's article presents a very fair assessment. Glen has a number of qualities but also, some annoying traits. On balance, though, I would say he's been a decent elected official who's effectively articulated a vision -- something sorely lacking these days. But I'm waiting to see who else is running before giving him my vote (assuming he wins the Liberal nomination). As James points out, his election is far from a done deal.
Kyle Rae
Well we won't have Kyle Rae to bitch about anymore, he's resigning. Could Enza be next?
Glen Murray far from in office in Ontario
Some good points and insights Kaj. But Murray is far from being in office here in Ontario.
First of all Murray does not even have the Liberal nomination yet in St George. Second the riding may very well be up for grabs in the by-election. It went Conservative twice in the past 15 years (Rosedale votes heavily Cons) and there is not reason it can't go NDP especially with a strong protest vote re e-health and OLG scandals and the horrid new HST tax on everything that moves (except female hygiene products and meals under $4 and newspapers--if it is such a good idea, why not tax everything????).Third Murray is an intelligent and thoughtful man and an experienced Mayor. I would have voted for him for Mayor here. But MPP is another matter, espeicialy given the arrogance of the McGuinty II majority government.
Still bitter
I don't see how you can be "a fantastic mayor" and also be the one that "bulldozed the city's pre-eminent heritage building to make way for a dreary hockey arena". Feh.
Doppelganger
He sounds like Kyle Rae - former NDPer, powerhungry crybaby who can't be trusted, pouring on the tears when politic, bashing Jack and Olivia when it suits him, etc.

If only Kyle Rae had his ADHD, though. Eighteen years later, he's still here and whining about not being paid enough though he gets ten weeks of vacation a year.

What is it about gay politicians in this country? Other than Bill Siksay, they are an ego-obsessed bunch of junket junkies and control freaks. Rae and Smitherman - each is worse than the other. Now we have Murray, or so it seems.
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