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Murray cabinet appointment could be good news for AIDS research

'I'm not the minister of interior decorating,' says gaybourhood MPP

Glen Murray

It took a few months, but one of Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s star queer MPPs is sitting at the cabinet table.

Glen Murray, the gay former mayor of Winnipeg who won a Toronto by-election last March, represent’s the province’s gayest riding — Toronto Centre.

He will take over the research and innovation portfolio from John Milloy, who will remain the minister of training, colleges and universities.

Murray was excited about taking on the task of driving the province’s “innovation agenda”, and he complimented his boss for appointing cabinet ministers based on their work ethic and qualifications, not because of their skin colour, gender or sexual orientation.

“We have a premier who is blind to our sexual orientation,” he said. “I don’t get slotted into a gay job. I’m not the minister of interior decorating.”

Murray’s promotion was widely expected. He made waves when he announced his candidacy in Toronto, and many expected him to replace George Smitherman — his predecessor in Toronto Centre — at the cabinet table.

But it’s nevertheless good news, said journalist, activist and Xtra contributor Kaj Hasselriis.

“I think that he’s a colourful and charismatic person who does care deeply about the issues that he gets involved in. He’s an ideas man,” said Hasselriis.

Murray is also ambitious, Hasselriis added, which means he’s always looking for more alluring opportunities.

Hasselriis pointed to Murray’s short stints at several organizations in recent years — as a failed federal candidate for the Liberals, the president of the Canadian Urban Institute, and now an MPP — as evidence that he might have his eye on the premier’s chair, or even the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.

Murray will be well-placed to encourage greater funding for HIV and AIDS research, Hasselriis suggested. Indeed, the new minister of research and innovation was a founding member of the Canadian AIDS Society, and Murray is a former member of the board of directors of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.

Chris Bunting, the president of that foundation, was heartened by Murray’s promotion.

“He’s going to have lots of demands from lots of worthy causes in front of him,” he said. “But at least we have somebody [at the cabinet table] who has a high degree of knowledge of this particular issue and what needs to be done.”

For his part, Murray said AIDS research is “hugely important” and a priority of his moving forward.

“This is a huge opportunity to help ensure that Ontario continues to play a leadership role in HIV and AIDS research,” he said.