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Murdoch keeps spirits up, looks back over his years in politics – Owen Sound Sun Times

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During his more than 30 years in local and provincial politics, “Bognor” Bill Murdoch was never short of things to say.

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So it was Wednesday, when Murdoch held court from his bed in Chapman House, sounding strong and philosophical, though looking physically diminished. He’s been in hospice one week.

“Might have come to the end of the road, hey? Who knows,” he told a visitor.

“With you, who knows,” the visitor quipped.

“Well, I really don’t know. But we’re prepared for it.”

He talked about his years as Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound’s maverick MPP; a Progressive Conservative whose put his constituents before his party, all while displaying a keen ability to find the spotlight.

Murdoch’s Montreal Canadiens jerseys, signed by Habs greats, and other hockey memorabilia occupy the wall opposite his bed. He has a collection of 800 jerseys.

Hospice staff came and went. One smiled and asked him how much lunch he’d eaten. Family and friends have been visiting to wish him well.

He’s had a two-year fight with bouts of cancer and when he entered a coma in Owen Sound hospital, he was moved to the hospice. But Murdoch surprised everyone by waking up, hungry for a meal and hopeful.

It’s been 11 years since the 77-year-old left provincial politics. But the four-term MPP was never far. He’s been was on the air hosting the Open Line radio show on CFOS 560 AM. On Friday, people will be invited to call in with memories of him and he plans to listen in.

He helped found the Bruce Grey Music Hall of Fame, which fire destroyed this past January, along with the legion in Hepworth. Murdoch mentioned a concert fundraiser is coming up for it.

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And Murdoch added his voice in 2017 to the ultimately successful pleas of fellow past Grey County wardens to keep Grey Gables a Grey County long-term care facility.

Murdoch lost his first run at the riding in 1987 to Liberal Ron Lipsett. But he won in 1990, beating Lipsett who placed third behind New Democrat Peggy Hutchinson. Murdoch handily won the following three provincial elections and chose not to run in 2011.

He was a passionate fighter who chose an independent path at Queen’s Park, where he felt power was too centralized and too many decisions were made for the elected members like him.

The premier picks the ministers, their associates and chairs of committees, which Murdoch has said caucus should do. And he’s suggested people should elect candidates who vow to do what the voters want, not what the premier tells them to.

“There’s not the democracy that we think we have in Canada. We elect dictators. There’s no doubt about it,” he said when he announced his retirement.

Wednesday he said it’s getting worse. Nothing personal, but the premier’s appointment of Rick Byers as the party’s nominee in this riding offended Murdoch’s guiding principle that locals should decide, he said. Byers won the election in June.

Murdoch also resented the expectations of party allegiance and said MPPs should only have to toe the party line on financial votes. He never was given a cabinet post and it’s easy to imagine why. But he was told why by then-premier Mike Harris.

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“Mike sat down with me, he said Bill, I can’t put you in cabinet. I’d like to but you won’t do what you’re told,” Murdoch recounted Wednesday. “So I said, ‘I know. I’ll do what I think’s right for my riding.’”

Murdoch has admitted he probably attended the legislature the least of any MPP then because he said he saw no point in being there when he could be attending constituency events and serving local needs.

Sometimes his positions were controversial.

He was a ceaseless opponent of the Niagara Escarpment Commission because it overrode local say. It’s become “less intrusive,” perhaps because of the years of pushback, he said. Groups should buy land to protect it, and he joined and supports one which is doing this.

His popular opposition to industrial wind farms was based again on government overriding local decision-making.

An though he fought for an inquiry in to the Walkerton water disaster, opposition parties called for his resignation in 2003 when he suggested his Tory government bore no responsibility for the disaster and refused to apologize.

Dave Hiscox dropped by to see his old friend Bill Murdoch at Chapman House in Owen Sound, Ont. on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (Scott Dunn/The Sun Times/Postmedia Network)
Dave Hiscox dropped by to see his old friend Bill Murdoch at Chapman House in Owen Sound, Ont. on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (Scott Dunn/The Sun Times/Postmedia Network)

The Bognor beef farmer was an outspoken critic of his own government. And he despised the “Toronto mentality” in which unelected “bureaucrats” decided what’s best for rural ridings like his.

Some called it grandstanding and said he’d have achieved more for the riding by going along with his party. But that wouldn’t have been Murdoch’s way.

Murdoch says he understood media play an important part in the game of politics and he took advantage, whether he liked the media or not.

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“You played the game the way you had to play it. I think. And I wasn’t always right either. I’d be the first to admit that.”

He was temporarily kicked out of caucus in 2008 after he opposed then-PC Leader John Tory’s support for funding private religious schools, suggesting Tory should find a new job. Yet he said he liked Tory.

In 2003, he threatened to embarrass Tim Hudak, then the consumer and business services minister, by calling for his resignation in the legislature the next day if government plans to close land registry offices in the morning happened — and they didn’t.

During his time in Mike Harris’ government, he stood up and demanded the resignation of a government minister, Bob Runciman, who tried to close Owen Sound Jail. Ultimately it was closed.

The inquiry into the Walkerton water tragedy was achieved after a standoff with the premier. At first Harris wanted a committee to study it, Murdoch has said. When the opposition demanded an inquiry, Murdoch told the Tories he would vote with the Liberals and NDP, which would look bad for the government.

Shortly before the vote on the Liberal motion, which was defeated, Murdoch was again urged to side with his party and was told Harris would call an inquiry the next morning if he did. Both men kept their ends of the agreement.

“I’m not bragging. But that’s why Mike broke. Because he couldn’t have a member from the area vote against him,” Murdoch said Wednesday.

Murdoch said he got what he wanted from Harris concerning Walkerton, including the Walkerton Clean Water Training Centre, which opened under the Liberal government. But he was irked that he wasn’t invited to help open it.

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In fairness, Murdoch didn’t only target his party members.

He called Dalton McGuinty, when he was Ontario’s Liberal premier, a liar, in the legislature, for not consulting widely as promised about the new harmonized sales tax. Murdoch was tossed out then, too, but wouldn’t leave for two days.

And many times he directed his wrath at The Sun Times, even calling for a boycott of the paper after a Sun Times editorial endorsed another candidate.

Before provincial politics, Murdoch served 12 years on the former Sydenham Township council. By the mid- ’80s, concerns had grown about the many rural lot severances granted by Grey County’s planning approvals committee, which Murdoch chaired.

It ultimately led to the province assuming temporary planning authority in the county in 1991 and criticizing Grey’s planning procedures. At the time, Murdoch blamed a “Toronto mentality” for the takeover and “socialism to the very limit.”

His private involvement as a development partner in Sydenham Mills, a 25-lot luxury subdivision proposed for a hardwood bush lot in the township, which the Ontario Municipal Board ultimately rejected in 1990, also stirred up concerns.

It pitted provincial ministries and environmentalists against Murdoch, who was reeve of Sydenham at the time, and his development partners.

Though not especially religious, Murdoch remains open to a miracle, he said. He doesn’t want to die but acknowledges he doesn’t have much say about it. He feels badly for his family but they’ll move on, and so will the world, he said.

“The disease, whatever it is, is in my lung. They can’t operate. And we’ve quit any medication.” They’re keeping him comfortable, he said. “I know they feed me well.”

“I think he’s remarkable,” said his wife Sue. “And all the support we’ve seen, really over the last two years that he’s been ill, is amazing. And since we came here, just incredible.”

“But that’s a tribute to him, because he has a way with people,” she said, her voice catching at the thought.

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Speculation Grows Around Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro as Potential Running Mate for Kamala Harris

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With President Biden ending his re-election bid, there’s growing chatter that Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro could be a potential running mate for Vice President Kamala Harris.

Why it matters: Shapiro, who’s positioned himself as a moderate Democrat, has many advantages for a national ticket, including representing a pivotal swing state that former President Trump’s campaign has indicated will be central to their campaign strategy.

The former state lawmaker and attorney general has decades of political experience, and some swing voters view Shapiro as Democrats’ next rising star.

The big picture: Shapiro is among several Democratic governors getting attention for the VP spot, as well as North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Some Democratic officials and operatives have even floated Shapiro’s name as a presidential contender should delegates and party members decide Harris isn’t the strongest opponent to take on Trump. As of Sunday, no major Democratic lawmaker had indicated their intention to challenge Harris for the party’s nomination.

Reality check: Democrats are unlikely to leapfrog Harris in favour of another candidate for several reasons — including the millions of dollars held in the Biden-Harris war chest that could easily be given to her, but not to any other potential candidate.

Catch up quick: President Biden announced in a letter posted on his X account Sunday he’s stepping aside as the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential contest and endorsing Harris.

Biden, who has been in Rehoboth, Delaware, since last week recovering from COVID-19, faced intense pressure to withdraw from the race following his shaky debate performance on June 27 against Trump. Harris is emerging as the leading contender weeks before the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 19, but some advisers worry the VP’s record may not outweigh her years-long battle with public image and low favorability ratings, Axios’ Avery Lotz reports.

What they’re saying: “I will do everything I can to help elect Kamala Harris as the 47th President of the United States,” Shapiro said in a post on X Sunday.

“I’ve known Kamala Harris for nearly two decades — we’ve both been prosecutors, we’ve both stood up for the rule of law, we’ve both fought for the people and delivered results,” Shapiro wrote in a statement. “She has served this country honorably as Vice President and she is ready to be President.” When speculation was swirling before Biden stepped aside, Shapiro said he was committed to staying put as Pennsylvania governor.

His spokesperson Manuel Bonder told Axios earlier this month that any scenario of the governor replacing Biden or becoming Harris’ VP pick was “baseless speculation” and a “distraction” that doesn’t help Democrats “defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box.”

Zoom in: Shapiro, a first-term governor, has navigated the state’s divided government and could appeal to constituents in Philadelphia’s purple suburbs.

Shapiro has been outspoken about the ongoing war in Gaza and was credited for his leadership in getting I-95 reopened in less than two weeks after a deadly collapse.

Between the lines: St. Joseph’s professor emeritus and political commentator Randall Miller tells Axios that Shapiro is better off remaining at the helm in Pennsylvania and positioning himself to run in the next cycle. He could decimate future political prospects by joining a potentially “sinking ship.” “He’s very independent, very shrewd,” Miller said. “He has a controlled, directed ambition. He doesn’t need to do it.”

What’s next: Harris will not automatically pick up Biden’s delegates, meaning her road ahead has to focus on accumulating a majority at the DNC.

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Kamala Harris: A California Political Odyssey

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SACRAMENTO, California — Understanding Vice President Kamala Harris’s political journey requires tracing her roots back to California. This backstory gains renewed significance amid the Democratic Party’s election-year turmoil, with increasing calls for President Joe Biden to step aside and discussions about Harris’s potential to secure the party’s backing and defeat Donald Trump in a presidential race.

Pressure on Biden intensified this week when California Rep. Adam Schiff, a close ally of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, publicly suggested it was time for Biden to “pass the torch.”

The Rise of Kamala Harris

California is where Harris’s political journey began, leading to her historic election as the first Black, Asian American, and female vice president. It’s also where she developed her political acumen and first encountered the critiques that continue to follow her.

“There’s the Kamala Harris people think they know and now there’s the one they will get to know in an entirely different way,” said Brian Brokaw, a former adviser to Harris based in Sacramento.

For those who have followed Harris’s career from her early days as San Francisco district attorney to her tenure as state attorney general, here are seven key insights that highlight her trajectory and her impact on the national stage.

1. Early Career Boost from a San Francisco Kingmaker

Harris’s political rise paralleled that of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a prominent Biden surrogate and potential future presidential contender. Both Harris and Newsom received early career support from Willie Brown, a former California Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor. Brown, who dated Harris in the mid-1990s, appointed her and Newsom to key city boards, giving them footholds in San Francisco politics.

Harris and Newsom also tapped into the same networks of Bay Area wealth and enlisted the same consulting firm for their statewide campaigns. However, Newsom has maintained closer ties to area power players like Pelosi and the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

2. The Death Penalty Stance That Shaped Her Career

Harris’s decision not to seek the death penalty for the killer of San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinoza in 2004, just months into her tenure as district attorney, was a defining moment. While consistent with her campaign stance against capital punishment, the timing of her announcement was politically risky and drew significant backlash, including a public rebuke from Feinstein at Espinoza’s funeral.

This episode has been a recurring issue in Harris’s political career, resurfacing during her 2020 presidential bid and likely to be used against her in future campaigns.

3. A Different Legislative Approach

Unlike Biden, who is known for his legislative deal-making, Harris has shown less enthusiasm for engaging in legislative battles. During her tenure as California attorney general, she avoided the Capitol debates on police accountability measures, focusing instead on policies she could implement independently, such as mandating body cameras for special agents and creating an online criminal justice portal.

However, she has championed specific legislative priorities, such as anti-truancy measures and efforts to combat maternal mortality, especially among Black women.

4. Limited Experience Running Against Republicans

Harris’s electoral challenges have rarely come from Republicans, particularly in federal races. Her most significant contest was her first race for California attorney general in 2010, a close battle against moderate Republican Steve Cooley, which she won after a last-minute surge.

Her subsequent races, including her 2016 Senate campaign, were against fellow Democrats, giving her limited experience in the kind of partisan battles that characterize today’s political landscape.

5. Tackling Student Debt

As California attorney general, Harris took on for-profit colleges like Corinthian Colleges, accusing them of misleading students and saddling them with unsustainable debt. This work laid the foundation for the Biden administration’s student loan relief efforts, with Harris playing a key role in announcing significant debt cancellations for former Corinthian students.

6. Suing Fossil Fuel Companies

Harris frequently sued fossil fuel companies during her tenure as attorney general, securing significant settlements and launching investigations into their practices. Her stance against fracking, which drew criticism from then-President Trump during the 2020 campaign, highlighted her environmental priorities but also created a conflict with Biden’s more moderate approach to energy policy.

7. A Bicoastal Vice President

Though she began her political career in the Bay Area, Harris has since become a resident of Los Angeles’s affluent Brentwood neighborhood. She regularly returns to California, balancing her duties as vice president with visits to her home state, where she maintains strong connections to Democratic donors and supporters.

Looking Ahead

As the political landscape shifts, Harris’s California roots and her experiences will continue to shape her approach and influence her political future. Whether she steps up to lead the Democratic Party in a presidential race or continues to support Biden’s administration, Harris’s journey from San Francisco to the White House remains a critical narrative in understanding her role on the national stage

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Is Ivanka Trump plotting a return to politics

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If you’re a woman freaking out about the imminent possibility of another Trump term, don’t despair quite yet. Yes, Project 2025 is hoping to turn the US into a Christian nationalist country. Yes, JD Vance, Donald Trump’s running partner, has been primed for the job by Peter Thiel, a man who has mused that women having the vote is problematic. Yes, experts are raising the alarm that “a Trump-Vance administration will be the most dangerous administration for abortion and reproductive freedom in this country’s history.” But it’s not all doom and gloom: there may well be a beacon of light and female liberation coming into the White House as well. Signs suggest Ivanka Trump is considering a return to politics. Ladies and gentlewomen, the patron saint of female empowerment may selflessly serve us once again!

To be clear: the younger Trump hasn’t explicitly said that she’s interested in another go at being Daddy’s special adviser. In fact, she’s spent the last few years getting as far away from politics as possible. A renaissance woman, Trump has sold everything from handbags to shoes to real estate – but her most valuable product has always been herself. The former first daughter has always been very careful about protecting her personal brand. And, for a while, that meant staying well clear of her father.

With Donald Trump now formally the nominee, it can be hard to remember just how bad things looked for the former president a couple of years ago. After an underwhelming performance by GOP candidates in the 2022 midterm elections, a lot of Trump’s former acolytes started turning on him. High-profile Republicans complained that Trump was a drag on the party. Even the New York Post, once Trump’s personal Pravda, thought he was a joke: “TRUMPTY DUMPTY”, a post-midterm front page crowed. And then, of course, there were Trump’s mountains of legal problems. A lot of people wrote Trump off.

Ivanka was noticeably not by her father’s side during his hours of need. The moment that Donald got kicked out of the White House, Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, followed him to Florida but kept a safe distance from the political goings on at Mar-a-Lago. Can’t have an insurrection ruining one’s image, after all.

A company called College Hunks Hauling Junk helped them clear out their DC mansion and the pair decamped to Miami’s “Billionaire Bunker”. They didn’t go empty-handed, of course. The couple reported between $172m and $640m in outside income while working in the White House and Saudi Arabia gave Kushner’s private equity firm $2bn to invest. Enough to keep them busy for a while.

For a long time, Javanka stayed fairly under the radar. Ivanka Trump would pop up in headlines now and again in Fun-loving Mother and Caring Philanthropist mode. Behold, a flattering headline about Ivanka helping deploy medical supplies and meals to Ukraine! Look: here’s an Instagram slideshow of the whole family skiing! Now here’s a fun picture of the Javanka family at the flashy Ambani wedding!

A cynic might say these carefully curated images were designed to humanize Trump and erase her messy political past. Aiding this was a consistent drip-drip of mysterious sources telling the press that Javanka had no desire whatsoever to return to politics. Even this year, when Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee, media “sources” kept insisting that the former first daughter wanted nothing to do with the White House. “She is very happy, living her best life,” a source told People in March. “She left politics totally in the rearview mirror and so this time around, even if her dad is the leading Republican candidate, she basically doesn’t care. She told him when he said he was going to run again that she didn’t want to be involved.”

Mary Trump, the woman who has made a career out of being Donald Trump’s disgruntled niece after a legal battle over her inheritance, has been blunt about why Ivanka seems to have retreated from politics. “I think Ivanka made very clear that she doesn’t get enough out of [her relationship with her father] any more,” Mary Trump told CNN at the end of May. “She’s barely been heard from for months; she could not be bothered to show up at [her father’s] trial [over falsifying business records].”

As the election inches closer, however, Ivanka seems to have reassessed the value of her relationship with her father. In early May, the media outlet Puck reported that she was “warming to the idea of trying to be helpful again … She’s not like ‘Hell no’ any more”. A similar report from Business Insider soon followed: according to a “friend of Ivanka”, the entrepreneur wasn’t ruling politics out. A spokesperson for the couple told Puck that this was all nonsense but rumours of a political comeback kept mounting.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Ivanka jumped back into the spotlight with an appearance on Lex Fridman’s highly influential podcast. (Fridman has more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube.) In this she opened up about how working at the White House was “the most extraordinary growth experience of my life” and how privileged she was to have been asked by her father to help so many people. During the conversation, she also carefully recapped some of (what’s she’s claimed as) her key achievements in the White House, such as boosting the child tax credit. It wasn’t so much an interview as it was a hype project by a friend. It felt lot like it was teasing Trump’s return to political life should her dad be re-elected.

So, after years in the Floridian wilderness, has the Maga Princess officially returned to the family fold? It’s a tad too early to tell but it increasingly looks that way. As one would expect, Trump has spent the last few days close to her father after the attempt on his life: she’s very much thrown herself into the role of doting daughter again.

And while Ivanka has been absent from the Republican national convention so far, she and Jared are expected to be at Donald’s side on Thursday when he formally accepts the party’s nomination. And if that happens and images of Ivanka standing next to her father hit the headlines, it won’t just be a celebratory photoshoot – it’ll be a preview of Trump’s second term.

 

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