The former mayor of a Toronto dormitory community alleges that Winnipeg mayoral candidate Glen Murray promised to file a complaint about her “leaving” if she approved a large-scale residential development.
Murray, however, says he has no memory of twisting his arm in a 2013 meeting that took place at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislative building, when he was minister. of Infrastructure in the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne.
Marolyn Morrison, who served as mayor of Caledon, Ontario. from 2003 to 2014, Murray says summoned her to her office at Queen’s Park and asked her to overturn a land use decision.
Morrison claims Murray told him to drop his longstanding opposition to a proposal to build housing for 21,000 people in south-west Bolton, the largest residential and commercial center in mainly rural Caledon.
The owner of the land, Solmar Development Corp., wanted Caledon to rezone the agricultural fields for residential use.
Morrison claims that Murray told him to change the designation, without mentioning Solmar by name.
“He just told me he had a complaint against me, and it was quite serious and it could be dropped or gone if I returned this residential area,” Morrison said in an interview in July, elaborating on the allegations reported for the first time. speak Globe & Mail in 2018.
“I refused. I said, ‘On my corpse.'”
“He was not even the responsible minister”, says the former mayor
Solmar first offered to build residential homes on its land along Bolton in 2004. There was a strong demand for new homes in the Greater Toronto Area, and sparsely populated Caledon had much more land available. than Brampton, its neighbor in Peel Region to the south.
Morrison opposed the plan, initially opposing sprawl and later insisting that the land should be set aside for industrial development. Caledon’s nine-member city council actually voted against Solmar’s proposal in 2008.
The ongoing conflict between the mayor and the developer, however, ended in the pages of the Toronto Star and Toronto life, while Morrison used a column in a Caledon weekly to argue against rapid development and the owner of Solmar invested in another weekly to make his own case.
Morrison said Caledon was waiting for the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to approve a zoning change to allow a Canadian Tire distribution center to proceed near Bolton when Murray requested his presence.
She said she traveled to Queen’s Park with Caledon’s chief administrative officer and planning director to meet Murray and his aides, who she said did not speak as Murray berated his staff for having mismanaged development.
“He wasn’t even the minister responsible for that file. He was in infrastructure so he really had nothing to do with that portfolio,” Morrison said in a phone interview from his new home in the area. of Kootenay, British Columbia.
“He never, ever mentioned the developer, but he marked these lands on our maps and he said these lands were going to be residential.”
Morrison said his administrators tried to argue that Caledon based his land use decisions on Ontario guidelines. She claims that Murray responded by ordering all aides out of his office, leaving him alone with Morrison.
“If I had a brain in my head, I probably should have gotten up and left too,” she said, adding that it was then that Murray promised to make a complaint go away. specified. “He basically told me that this land had better be residential.”
“It wasn’t a particularly important meeting,” says Murray
Murray said his recollection of the meeting was very different.
“It wasn’t a particularly important meeting at the time,” Murray said in a phone interview Wednesday, saying the town of Caledon called the meeting, not him.
“The basic facts are that there was never another follow-up meeting. I made no decisions. I certainly didn’t expect her to make any decisions.”
Murray also said he did not recall discussing Solmar’s development with Morrison.
“It was almost 10 years ago. I really don’t remember much about it,” he said.
The former MLA said he remembers talking to Morrison about the Go Train service, rapid transit lines, new roads, the effect of transportation on population density and the Canadian project. Tire, which finally took place.
“It’s really sad that she was able to walk away from that feeling that it was less than a positive experience,” Murray said, adding that he had many meetings over his 35-year career. as a nurse, councilor, mayor, MPP and businessman.
“In all of these meetings, I would say literally thousands of meetings, the only objection I ever heard – and it came after the fact – was from a mayor.”
Solmar declined to comment on Morrison’s allegations, saying she had no knowledge of his request.
The development corporation donated $20,000 to Wynne’s Liberal leadership campaign in 2012, according to Ontario campaign donation records.
A Solmar spokesperson told the Globe & Mail in 2018, the company also made donations to other political parties.
Morrison said she complained to Wynne about Murray, to no effect. He resigned as an MPP in 2017 to work for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, and returned to Winnipeg a year later.
Caledon’s story won’t torpedo Murray, professor says
Aaron Moore, who chairs the University of Winnipeg’s political science department, said he doesn’t believe Caledon’s story will affect Murray’s new campaign to become mayor of Winnipeg.
Most voters, he said, won’t pay much attention to it.
“The fact that this happened in Ontario while he was away and the fact that this happened in a municipality that most Winnipeggers have never heard of, therefore, may not speak to them,” Moore said.
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said while it’s important for municipalities to make independent land-use decisions, Morrison’s claims remain unproven.
“If stronger evidence had existed, the story would likely have persisted and he might have been forced to resign,” Thomas said.
The professor said Murray was so confident he could convince others of his views that he could be ‘aggressive and dismissive of other people’s perspectives’ when locked in disagreement.
“History will confirm the impression of a certain segment of the voting population – I don’t know what percentage – that Murray is self-centered, important, opportunistic and not entirely honest,” Thomas said.
“He won’t torpedo his candidacy.”
Morrison said his advice to Winnipeg voters is to screen all mayoral candidates.
“Look at the history of people running and choose wisely, because you want people with integrity and honesty,” she said. “If you find a person of integrity and honesty, you can transform your city.”
Murray is one of 13 candidates registered to run for mayor of Winnipeg. The election is October 26.
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