Murray aims for the top

(Photo by Shaun Merritt)

Sunday saw the announcement of the first official candidacy for Ontario Liberal leadership, as Glen Murray announced his intentions to run, a decision which required his resignation from his position as minister of training, colleges and university.

His position has been assumed by John Milloy, the MPP for Kitchener-Centre and the minister of community and social services for Ontario, as well as Government House Leader.

Milloy, who previously held the position from 2007-11, said he was offered the position following Murray’s resignation on Saturday, which he was happy to take.

“We’ve seen some amazing investments,” he said. “There’s an excellence [in Ontario’s education].”

Milloy felt that his experience in the position made him an appropriate person for the position for what he described as an “interim period.”

Murray is now one of two people who have announced a decision to run for leadership as Katherine Wynne started her campaign on Monday.

Political analyst and professor emeritus of the University of Waterloo Peter Woolstencroft was not surprised by the announcement.

“[Murray] is a high energy, ‘I like new ideas’ kind of person, so that may be very much to his favour in the leadership race, because the Liberals have to get away from the unpleasant memory of Dalton McGuinty’s last few years as premier,” he acknowledged.

Woolstencroft expects that Murray will emphasize his work as minister to gain popularity with particular demographics, such as students.

“I think he’s going to make a big pitch on that and I think he’s going to say ‘look, I hear you.’ He will cultivate that constituency and he’ll see that there’s a lot of potential for him to win votes,” Woolstencroft predicted.

“Overall it’s been really positive,” said Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) president Alysha Li on the lobby group’s relationship with Murray. Li was also optimistic about the potential for working with Milloy, stating that “we definitely look forward to continuing that relationship as he takes this portfolio on again.”

Li did, however, express some concerns about what will happen to discussions on reform in Ontario’s education system, which has been a priority over recent months.

Over the past few months the Liberal party has generated a lot of dialogue on the topic. Earlier in the year a discussion paper, titled Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge, was released, highlighting various controversial proposals such as shortening university degree programs and expanding online education.

“There’s still conversations that need to be had,” she said. “Especially with the tuition frameworks being set in the next little while, we’re hoping that these conversations are not lost, because we’re very engaged with them and we’re hoping we’ll be able to continue them in the future.”

OUSA submitted their own discussion paper, Education Reform, with recommendations based on discussions with member universities.

Woolstencroft added, “I suspect that everything will be on hold until … somebody else becomes leader of the Liberal Party.”

In the meantime, Milloy said that he looks forward to connecting with students again, particularly after having built a relationship over recent years with local universities.

Having held the position before, Milloy expects to be able to balance it with his job as MPP locally and plans to still make time to attend events and be attentive to constituents while dividing his time between Kitchener and Toronto.

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