Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray announces bid to get old job back

Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray says he is taking another run at his old job. 

Murray announced Wednesday afternoon he is running for mayor in this fall’s Winnipeg municipal election, after filing the paperwork to register his campaign at city hall.

“I love this city. We are going to get stuff done quickly,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We are going to get back to the kinds of partnerships that made us so proud of our city.”

Murray was Winnipeg’s mayor from 1998 to 2004, when he resigned to run for the federal Liberal party.

He lost that race, but was elected a Liberal member of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament in 2011, where he held different cabinet positions until briefly leaving politics in 2017.

In 2020, Murray ran to replace Elizabeth May as the leader of the federal Green Party, but lost.

City has ‘enormous challenges’

Murray said since moving back to Winnipeg a few years ago to work in the private sector, he’s been struck by how difficult it is to get developments off the ground, the city’s crumbling infrastructure and how much the city’s most vulnerable are struggling. 

“This city has some enormous challenges. They are on scale of challenges when I was elected mayor the first time,” he said. 

“I’ve never had more experience in my entire life. I’m way more qualified to do this job than when I was young and did it the first time.”

Asked why he wouldn’t stay in private sector and work there to improve the city, he said he believes major changes are needed at the municipal level.

“There’s a real frustration in the private sector that there really needs to be some change in the public sector, so that we can get back to business in the city,” he said.

Murray says he did not take the decision to run lightly and consulted with a number of people about running for mayor before taking the leap. 

He said he will outline his platform at a later date.

‘High profile’ challenge to other candidates

In an interview with CBC News Tuesday, Murray suggested he was able to fix some financial issues during his time as mayor.

Aaron Moore takes issue with some of those comments.

“I think his decision to freeze property taxes for multiple years is part of the reason why we’re in the fiscal situation we are,” said Moore, a University of Winnipeg political science professor focused on municipal politics.

“I think suggesting he did some fiscal magic as mayor and now he has to come fix it again is sort of ignoring the contribution he made to the problem.”

Moore also believes many still think highly of Murray. He characterized him as both fairly moderate or progressive, depending on the issue. Murray’s property tax freeze, for example, was a fiscally conservative move, Moore said.

The fact he left Manitoba could inspire a degree of skepticism among some voters, said Moore, though he also thinks Murray could make life tougher for some competitors.

“With somebody as high profile as Glen Murray running in the race, it might make some of the other candidates re-evaluate their chances of winning,” he said.

Winnipeg needs to move forward, rivals say

Murray is now the 11th person to register a mayoral campaign for Winnipeg’s Oct. 26 election.

The other 10 candidates are Idris Adelakun, Chris Clacio, Rana Bokhari, Scott Gillingham, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Rick Shone, Desmond Thomas and Don Woodstock. 

After Murray announced his run, Shone said in a statement that Winnipeg needs to “look forward,” and “is at a crossroads” with regards to infrastructure, debt, homelessness, transit, public safety and affordability.

He accused Murray of abandoning Winnipeggers in 2004 and of leaving his job as mayor unfinished.

“I am not a career politician, I am a father of two, a small business owner, volunteer in the community and I love my home. I am excited about our future. Now is not the time to look back,” Shone’s written statement said.

“We don’t need a mayor who is more interested in being a star on the national stage.”

Regarding Murray’s suggestion of concerns over the city’s financial position, his rival Gillingham, currently the councillor for St. James and until recently chair of the city’s finance committee, said “there is still money in the bank” after a $220-million hit from the pandemic.

Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James), who is now running for mayor, says ‘things have changed a lot in this city’ since Murray held the office. (CBC)

“[There was] no incremental help through that from the province of Manitoba. We maintained our credit rating … so we’ve done a really good job,” he said following Murray’s anouncement.

Gillingham said his focus in his mayoral campaign is communicating a vision for Winnipeg “that is exciting and realistic and achievable, and moves the city ahead.”

“Glen was … away from Winnipeg for almost 20 years,” Gillingham said.

“I’ve been here with my hand at the wheel and leading through all of this, and so I am ready to step into leadership of the mayor’s position.”

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