With 2022 receding fast in the rear-view mirror there's just enough time to ordain the annual Newsmaker of the Year.
He arrived with the biggest anticipation, the biggest name, the biggest voice, the biggest lead in the polls, and the biggest hype in the press. He ended the year as the biggest loser, and that's not a reference to having the biggest waistline in the race to be mayor.
Ladies and gentlemen, say goodbye to Glen Murray.
Goodbye because his crash-and-burn campaign was like watching the Hindenberg drop gently from the sky before erupting in uncontrollable fire, consumed in minutes. That sucker will never fly again.
With an election set for October, the press treated Murray's anticipated candidacy like the Second Coming. Murray, who was mayor from 1998 to 2004, had come home to retake the reins at city hall. When would he announce?
The official announcement came on June 22. To the press, the election was over. Nobody could beat Glen Murray. His campaign rolled from triumph to triumph.
A poll from Probe Research in July gave Murray 44 percent of decided votes, more than the second, third and fourth choices put together. Has-been radio host Charles Adler announced he was endorsing Murray but real support rolled out strategically in the weeks to follow. The Firefighters Union, the Winnipeg Labour Council and philanthropist Gail Asper all endorsed Murray. He was unstoppable.
In early August a tipster alerted media outlets (including The Black Rod) to a series of stories in the Toronto Globe and Mail in 2017 which painted an unflattering picture of Glen Murray in office. CBC TV's Bartley Kives dug into the story and the station ran his report on August 4.
A small-own mayor in Ontario had been the target of an intimidation campaign involving a housing development which she opposed. Her husband was beaten up, she was framed on a criminal charge of tax evasion, but she wouldn't cave in.
A behind-the-scenes fixer offered $10,000 for someone to arrange a one-on-one meeting with the mayor. She refused any meeting. Then she found herself tricked into coming to Queen's Park where a meeting on municipal issues turned into a one-on-one meeting with none other than Glen Murray, then an Ontario Liberal cabinet minister. He urged her to reconsider her opposition to housing development in her jurisdiction before mentioning that there had been "complaints" about her and that he could make them go away.
Instead, she went away---to the press where she spilled the beans on Murray's thuggish attempt to pressure her.
The Winnipeg news media ignored the CBC story to Murray's relief.
But almost a week later, a fringe candidate for mayor drew first blood. Don Woodstock called Murray "a habitual quitter" for quitting every job he got, from mayor of Winnipeg to an elected member of the Ontario legislature to his "dream job" at an Alberta environmental change think tank. Would he sign a pledge to stay as mayor if elected, Woodstock asked.
The press protected Murray. Nobody asked about his record as a quitter. They treated Woodstock as a gadfly beneath their lofty gaze.
But Woodstock's observation resonated with the public. People began talking amongst themselves about Murray's penchant for quitting jobs. Someone else took notice, too---The Black Rod.
On Aug 17 we published a story titled "Why did Glen Murray leave his dream job?"
"There's always been something fishy about Glen Murray's abrupt and unexplained departure from his "dream job" in Alberta," we said at the time.
We looked at the timeline of his tenure and discovered that after only 8 months into the job his name was never again associated with the Alberta Pembina Institute in news releases or public appearances. Something was up.
We thought it was related to the Ontario intimidation attempt given the coincidental timing between the Globe and Mail stories and Murray's unexplained disappearance at the Pembina Institute. Were we wrong.
But it took a while to find out why. In the meantime there was another Probe poll in September showing Murray's support had slipped four percentage points but leaving him with still a two-to- one advantage over his next nearest challenger. Every story from then on highlighted Murray as the election frontrunner. Unbeatable.
Barley Kives, perhaps inspired by the Black Rod story six weeks earlier, had another exclusive on CBC on Sept. 29 -- examining why Glen Murray left his dream job. The details were shocking. We summarized the Kives story in our follow-up headlined:
Calamity in waiting. The lies Glen Murray is telling about his "dream job".
"Glen Murray began his job by creeping out Pembina employees with inappropriate and unwanted remarks about his sex life with multiple partners outside his relationship with his "life partner, Rick".
"Over the ensuing months, his behavior at, in the words of the story, "company social functions and public events" undermined his authority. He would get so shit-faced drunk he couldn't stand, is how Pembina staff described it.
"But the turning point came in March, 2018, when Pembina's staff and board gathered in Banff for an annual strategy and acquaintance building get-together.
"It was a shambles," the Institute's director of strategic partnerships told the CBC. Murray was drunk, unprepared, and started tossing out wild ideas that had never been discussed with anyone. Then it got worse.
"As the attendees relaxed later with drinks and entertainment, Pembina's Alberta director was on the dance floor when, he told the CBC, "Murray rubbed up against him, pelvis to buttocks."
"You're just like, 'Oh, come on, man.' I'm being like, grinded by my boss on the dance floor. Unbelievable."
"Was this what we thought? We searched on Google. And yes. There's a term for it in legal circles, in Section 271 of the Criminal Code: SEXUAL ASSAULT."
The Hindenberg caught fire and entered its death glide.
The public abandoned Murray. For four months the press pundits and university political scientists had been touting "frontrunner" Murray as a shoo-in. Four days before election day, even they had to give up the dream. To protect their in-the-know status they declared the election was a toss-up, neck-and-neck, anybody's to win.
Glen Murray earned the title of Newsmaker of the Year 2022 for his dominant position during the Winnipeg mayoral campaign for almost five months. His eventual and humiliating faceplant will be one for the history books.
How ill is Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson?
A small story in the Winnipeg Free Press on Dec. 21 said she was too ill to do year-end interviews. She wasn't able to attend a Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal ceremony with Lt. Gov. Anita Neville two days earlier.
Just by happenstance, a few days later we saw a copy of the December issue of Lifestyles 55 magazine. It contained an interview with Premier Stefanson. The story mentioned that she had recently gone to a walk-in clinic because of a persistent cough that had lasted three weeks. Given that the interview had to have been done sometime in November because of the lead time to printing, that suggests that whatever ailment the Premier has, it got worse through December.
We recalled that she was away from the Legislature for 40 days in 2021 after undergoing a "medically necessary procedure."
This year she caught Covid in June, thankfully reporting "minor symptoms."
Her current bout of illness seems more than minor, having lasted more than a month.