Newly minted Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Glen Murray is heading back to Queen’s Park with butterflies in his stomach.
“It’s a little intimidating, it’s the third largest ministry in the government,” said Murray. “So I’m feeling a few butterflies in my stomach.”
Murray, who previously served as mayor of Winnipeg, realizes he has a challenging job ahead, but says he’s ready to tackle his new portfolio because he feels his previous position, as minister of research and innovation, helped prepare him.
“There were some linkages because a lot of the research and innovation funds go into our college, university and training programs,” Murray said.
In his new job Murray will be in charge of implementing his party’s three-point plan to improve access to post-secondary education. The first plank is a grant aimed toward students whose parents earn less than $160,000 a year, tied with a goal to reduce tuition by 30 percent.
The second piece is to expand the college and university system so more students can be accepted. Murray said while the provincial government has added 200,000 seats to colleges and universities, and is working on adding another 60,000 spaces.
“Qualified students are still being turned away from colleges and universities,” Murray said.
The third and final piece focuses heavily on the trades. The goal is to remove barriers for people who wish to enter the skilled trades by creating bridge programs that will utilize their current experience and get them accredited with professional associations.
While his ministerial portfolio will surely keep him busy, there’s no shortage of local infrastructure projects in his ward, either. Murray cited the First Parliament site and the West Don Lands new neighbourhood as some priority projects.
Murray cruised to victory on Oct. 6 with more than 54 percent of the vote. His nearest rival, NDP candidate Cathy Crowe, trailed by more than 13,000 votes.
Despite the low provincewide voter turnout, Murray said he believes his strong win is a testament to the faith his constituents have in him.
“It demonstrates that there’s a growing consensus in Toronto Centre that this idea of local democracy is something that resonates with people,” he said.
Murray attributed his work with his partnerships with the area’s other politicians.
“I think people were looking for a high level of collaboration between city councillors, the MPP and the MP in the area.
“We have to keep moving on a collaborative positive agenda,” Murray said.
“People wanted to be respected and listened to and we’re going to double our efforts in that area to make sure people’s voices are heard at Queen’s Park.”
Murray was first elected in Toronto Centre in a 2010 byelection following the departure of George Smitherman who decided to run for mayor.