When Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray finally announced his candidacy for a federal seat yesterday, he chose a small room behind a swimming pool that could barely contain all the politicians, supporters and media people who wanted to hear him speak.
That made his entrance to federal politics a tight squeeze, as he threaded his way through the applauding crowd and approached the lectern.
It was an apt metaphor for the delicate political manoeuvring Mr. Murray performed over the past several months.
John Harvard, MP for Charleswood St. James-Assiniboia, introduced the well-known campaigner on urban issues as a star candidate for the Liberals in the suburban Winnipeg riding that Mr. Harvard represented for 16 years. When he finished, there was a moment of awkwardness as Mr. Murray tried to decide how to shuffle past the departing Mr. Harvard, through the narrow space between the lectern and a nearby refrigerator.
Mr. Murray spent the past two months trying to decide how or whether to replace Mr. Harvard.
An influential supporter of the mayor called Mr. Harvard near the beginning of March and asked whether he might retire before the coming election.
"He asked me, is it something you could consider?" Mr. Harvard said in an interview. "I used an analogy. I said, my house is not for sale. There's no sign on the lawn. But if someone's driving by and for some reason likes the house, and comes and knocks on my door, I'll consider an offer."
The Prime Minister's Office called Mr. Harvard with an offer on March 19, saying he could replace Manitoba's outgoing Lieutenant-Governor, Peter Liba. Mr. Harvard picked up his wife, Lenore Berscheid, from work that evening and on the drive home he asked whether she would leave her career as a child counsellor and join him in the ceremonial role as the Queen's representative in Manitoba.
His wife agreed, he said, and he called Ottawa the next day to accept the offer. At that point, Mr. Harvard said, only a few details remained, such as how to handle the media and the handover of Mr. Harvard's riding organization to Mr. Murray.
The main reason for the seven-week delay before yesterday's announcement was Mr. Murray's slowness with making arrangements, Mr. Harvard said."It was mostly to do with Glen's schedule."
He said the mayor wanted to wait until he was sure of a summer election, because he didn't want to resign as mayor and be left waiting for a new job.
A source close to Mr. Murray suggested another reason: "I think he had concerns about the Liberal Party and its fortunes."
Reg Alcock, senior Liberal minister for Manitoba, shrugged when asked about the timing. "We've been busy," he said. "There's been lots of things going on, you know, just lots of negotiation."
Those negotiations never included any promises that he would get any special privileges as a Liberal member of Parliament, Mr. Murray said.
"There wasn't an offer of cabinet," he said. "That's not the way it works. I said I'd be very happy to serve in any way I'm asked by the Prime Minister to serve, and his reply was, 'I'll keep you very busy, make no doubt about that Mr. Murray.' "
Paul Martin asked him to run last year, Mr. Murray said, but he thought about it seriously only in the past two weeks. "Quite frankly, this only became a serious consideration when my friend John Harvard decided a couple of weeks ago that he was seriously considering not seeking re-election."
Mr. Murray said he plans to resign as mayor within "a couple of weeks," or whenever is suitable for the city staff who must now prepare for by-elections as city councillors resign to pursue the mayor's office.