01/02/2013 05:56 EST | Updated 03/04/2013 05:12 EST

Early civics lessons shaped Murray

Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray was the first to declare his intention to run for the leadership of the Ontario Liberals.

At the time, the former Winnipeg mayor joked that he went first move so he could claim to be the race’s front-runner.

“I have great sense of humour, I think. I love to laugh,” he told CBC News.

Murray made the comments during an interview as part of a CBC series profiling all seven candidates vying to be the next leader of the Ontario Liberals and the province’s next premier.

And though Murray’s wit was apparent, he said some early struggles pushed him toward politics.

As a gay man in the 1980s, Murray worked to help AIDS victims stricken by a deadly disease that did not yet have a name.

“When the AIDS epidemic hit, it probably changed my character more than anyone else,” he said. “I'm not sure I would be the person I am today or have gone into politics if I hadn't, on my 30th birthday, not gone to the 42nd funeral for a friend of mine who'd died of AIDS.

“I realized the fragility of human life. I also realized how hard it was for families dealing with a crisis. A hard time but it really defined my character in being able to make tough decisions."

Murray began working in community groups, starting a progression that would propel him toward civic politics. He was elected to Winnipeg city council in 1989 and would become that city’s mayor 10 years later.

After an unsuccessful bid for a federal seat in a Winnipeg-area riding in 2004 and a move to Ontario, Murray was first elected as the MPP for Toronto Centre in a 2010 byelection. He was subsequently re-elected in 2011.

Murray’s platform includes tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses, as well as establishing a "no-money-down" program that would allow college and university students to start their post-secondary education without having to provide large tuition fees upfront.

Murray said he also wants to have cities and towns that "work" and a government that listens to Ontarians.

His final plank relates to so-called "smart government," or utilizing technology and reorganizing and modernizing the government to make it more efficient and effective.

When not politicking, Murray enjoys cycling, reading and music.

"I want to become a sax player, I'm saving that for my old age,” he jokes.