By RON FANFAIR
Glen Murray is no stranger to elections which he says he relishes.
The social advocate served as Winnipeg’s 41st mayor and he unsuccessfully ran as a Liberal Party candidate in the 2004 federal elections in Canada’s seventh largest municipality.
Murray is now attempting to make his mark in Ontario politics as his party’s candidate in the February 4 by-election in Toronto Centre, which includes Regent Park and St. Jamestown communities.
In the run-up to the election, he said he enjoys campaigning in the riding held by George Smitherman, who resigned from the provincial cabinet to run for Mayor.
“I love elections because people give you permission to knock on their doors, they invite you into their living rooms which they would never do to a total stranger at any other time and they are very heartfelt telling you about their concerns, their problems and their hopes,” said Murray, 52. “It’s really a privilege to be part of that.”
If elected, Murray has pledged to begin championing a community development plan for each neighbourhood in the riding in his first 100 days.
“With a sustainable well thought out plan, all of a sudden the neighbourhood becomes a magnet for people and capital investment and it grows your tax base,” he said. “We need to build a precinct plan that includes district energy, housing, health, environment, safety and transportation led by residents…Toronto Centre is a community of neighbourhoods and creating development plans is vital to our riding’s success.”
Some of the Ontario government’s major housing investments in Murray’s riding include $38.6 million for 780 affordable rental units and $3.4 million for 130 home-ownership units in Regent Park, $23 million for 218 units in projects located at King and River Sts. and the Pan Am Games athletes village that will be turned into affordable living units after 2015.
As the first openly gay mayor of a large North American city, Murray said he has encountered violence, barriers and prejudice because of his sexuality.
“As a gay man, I have lost jobs and I have had all kinds of things taken away from me that have nothing to do with the content of my character, but rather with one human characteristic,” he said.
Ontario’s Cabinet Chair Gerry Phillips said Murray is a fitting candidate for the job.
“We, meaning the province and not the Liberal party, are very lucky that Glen has agreed to run,” said Phillips who is a Minister Without Portfolio responsible for seniors. “If you want to look at what is the ideal background that we need in this province, it’s someone who understands the environment, cities, finances and housing. Glen also has a passion for people and he’s the ideal person to be in the Ontario legislature.”
In May 2004, Murray announced his resignation as Mayor of Winnipeg – becoming the first mayor in the city’s history to resign mid-term – and took a run at a seat in parliament in the 2004 federal election.
Following his unsuccessful run, he relocated to Toronto and accepted a position as visiting fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College. In 2005, he was appointed by then Prime Minister Paul Martin as chair of the national round table on the environment and the economy.
Murray is the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Institute, Canada’s national non-partisan urban policy institute. He also serves on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s advisory panel on climate change.
He’s active in the community as a board member of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research and as a member of the Toronto City Summit Alliance and Greening the GTA Taskforce.