From the Winnipeg Free Press
Mayor won't be given safe seat
Grits want Murray to beat an NDP MP
Sat Jan 10 2004
By Dan Lett
FEDERAL Liberals won't offer Mayor Glen Murray a safe seat in the coming election -- he'll have to knock off one of the city's NDP members of Parliament.
"Having one Liberal come in and replace another Liberal doesn't give us much," Reg Alcock, Treasury Board president and Manitoba's senior cabinet minister, said yesterday.
"We would prefer he bring us another seat," Alcock said, adding none of the five sitting Liberal MPs is prepared to move aside for the mayor.
Murray has long lobbied to take over one of the safe Liberal seats in Winnipeg to ease any move from city hall to Ottawa.
"I'm very interested in having Glen for a candidate," said Alcock, who met with Murray over the holidays. "He's got a lot of great qualities that I would love to have on our team. But I've told him it (his candidacy) has to add another seat to our caucus."
Alcock declined to name a specific riding, but conventional wisdom has given Murray his best chance against NDP MP Pat Martin in Winnipeg Centre. When contacted last evening about a possible federal run, Murray was cryptic.
"This issue right now is in the hands of the Liberal party," he said. "I have a job to do as mayor and that's what I am concentrating on."
Asked several times to clarify what this meant, Murray simply repeated his statement.
Earlier yesterday a spokesman for the mayor said Murray has not yet made a decision about a possible run in May.
"He's been asked and encouraged by some Liberals to run for federal office," said communications director Donald Benham. "He considered it in 2000, and he is considering it now."
In 2000, Murray tried unsuccessfully to negotiate an uncontested nomination in the Liberal stronghold of Winnipeg South Centre after longtime MP and regional minister Lloyd Axworthy retired from politics. One of the conditions Murray sought was an immediate posting to cabinet. At that time, neither of Murray's demands could be met, and Anita Neville won the nomination.
Since then, Liberal insiders claim Murray, who has a personal relationship with Prime Minister Paul Martin, has lobbied to have Neville unseated with some sort of federal appointment, so that he could replace her in the next election. Murray currently resides in Neville's Winnipeg South Centre riding, and represented a large portion of the riding when he was a city councillor.
The political grapevine in Manitoba has been burning up with rumours that Martin wanted Murray to assume the candidacy in Winnipeg South Centre. Bolstering those rumours were national media reports quoting unnamed sources from Martin's camp claiming Neville was disloyal to the new prime minister and could be challenged for the riding nomination.
Alcock said he told Murray in no uncertain terms that challenging Neville would be viewed as a hostile act. "If he tried to challenge Anita, as our only female caucus member in Manitoba, there would be a lot of us who would fight that," Alcock said.
Liberal MPs currently hold five federal seats in Winnipeg. All five -- John Harvard (Winnipeg St. James), Neville (Winnipeg South Centre), Rey Pagtakhan (Winnipeg North St. Paul), Raymond Simard (St. Boniface) and Alcock (Winnipeg South) -- are running for re-election.
Pagtakhan, secretary of state for western economic diversification, has announced his intention to face NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis in Winnipeg North Centre, which after boundary redistribution will incorporate some of his strongest polls. Former city councillor Terry Duguid has left his post as chairman of the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission to run for the Liberal nomination in the newly created Winnipeg Kildonan-St. Paul riding.
Duguid said yesterday he would be disappointed if Murray contested the nomination in Kildonan-St. Paul. "Glen told me to my face he would support my candidacy and he wouldn't run against me for the nomination," said Duguid.
Last fall, political observers in Winnipeg detected intense public opinion polling in at least three core-area ridings assessing Murray's strength as a federal candidate. Murray denied that he commissioned the polls, as did the Martin leadership campaign.
However, Liberal sources say the poll results, which are being widely circulated among party insiders, show that although it would be a tough fight, Murray could win a battle with Martin in Winnipeg Centre.
Few pundits believe Murray would risk his political future by running against NDP MP Bill Blaikie in Winnipeg Transcona, or in any of the seats outside Winnipeg.
The battle in Winnipeg Centre against Martin would also present some problems for the mayor. Martin has said he was promised some months ago by Murray that the high-profile mayor, formerly a supporter of the NDP, would not run in Winnipeg Centre.
Murray has also reportedly told federal NDP leader Jack Layton he wouldn't run against Wasylycia-Leis.
There is also some speculation that Murray is reluctant to contest a federal election so soon after the failure of his so-called new deal for municipal funding. The creative and controversial initiative would have seen cuts in property and business taxes offset by hikes in gasoline and sales taxes and user fees.
Many Manitoba Liberal organizers now fear the volatile reaction to the new deal could translate into a rough ride in a federal election campaign.
-- with files from Mary Agnes Welch