On June 26th, 2014, I had the honour to interview Newfoundland and Labrador politician George Murphy. See the transcript below:
Matt Barter: This is Matt Barter here with George Murphy, the MHA for St. John’s East.
George Murphy: Hi, Matt.
MB: How are you doing?
MB: So, Mr. Murphy, what did you want to do when you were a young lad?
GM: Oh my, there’s so many things, but I guess in high school pretty much set the course to where I’m at now because, of course, in high school, I was involved in such things as debating and youth parliament and I set my mind back when I was just a teenager back in high school from my experiences there that I wanted to serve the public. And one of my lifelong dreams was to serve in the House of Assembly, and here I am.
MB: Here you are in the house. The lifelong dream of Geroge Murphy has come true.
GM: Yeah. It was a life dream, you know, and I guess there’s a big lesson there in holding on to your dreams and working towards them and everything and yeah, I’m living it right now.
MB: What did you do before you entered politics?
GM: Well, actually, I was a taxi driver. I drove a taxi for 23 years, and I did a lot of volunteer work, mostly with the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices and got to know the oil markets pretty good and advocated for such things, for example, the HST off all forms of heat, we got that in the budget, heating rebate programs worked towards all that, conservation programming worked towards that, a lot of things like that. And right now, of course, we’re still working on getting regulations for fracking put in place. For example, footed a bill in the House of Assembly having to do with the protection of roadside workers, emergency workers. So, we got that through the House of Assembly. That’s something that I pursued, and yeah, we’re getting things done.
MB: So, you find that a lot of the things you did before you entered politics is helping you now?
GM: Oh, absolutely. Advocacy is a big part of it, and getting to know the community is even bigger than that. Getting to know people that are in the community and the needs of the people that are out there and basically having your ear to the ground all the time that’s pretty much what politics is all about, doing what’s right for people, what feels right for people and what people are telling you is the main reason why you get into it, and that’s it.
MB: So, when you were a taxi driver, you got to talk to a lot of different people. Do you find that helpful now?
GM: Oh yeah. Just driving the taxi, of course, getting to know the people and everything that were out there. We were driving all kinds of different people, everybody from the bottom end of the salary scale, for example, getting to know their issues with regards to low wages and everything, that’s most of the people who you meet. And including people who were up there in the higher level just headed out for a good night on the town, and yeah, I met a lot of people doing that. It was great—one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
MB: So, how do you get into taxi driving?
GM: How? Well, you got to have a driver’s license, obviously, a certificate of conduct, a good driving record, and a good knowledge of the city helps. Good with people is a real plus.
MB: What is the most difficult part of being a MHA?
GM: Hearing the stories that sometimes you can’t do anything about. There are some things that you can’t do as a MHA that you’d like to do, but people with a lot of issues, you don’t run into them a lot, but when you hear a sad story, you know you keep working towards ends and hopefully try to make things better for them so I guess you can say in some ways that’s a plus about the job too because you get to see how the other side lives and you get to help out a lot of people that are out there and it’s a stark realization that you know there are some difficulties that people have. I find most about it is that the needs of the one sometimes outweigh the needs of the many. And there are other issues, too, where the needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few, just to borrow a line from one of the Star Trek movies. And that saying is pretty much true.
MB: What would you say is the best part of your job as a MHA?
GM: Meeting people is probably the most fun part about the job, the best part about the job. Just getting out there in the community and saying hello to folks, it’s a real opportunity.
MB: What would you say is the highlight so far of your political career?
GM: The highlight of my political career would probably, it would have to be the move-over legislation, that and getting Government to institute a moratorium on fracking. Fracking is a new form of drilling, of course, relatively new anyway to us and getting Government to sit back and look at that. The real highlight, I think, was the move-over legislation because, again, something that took a very short time to do even though we had it in the pocket, as you could say, for a long time. You know, again, it has to do with helping out people, and it was a justice issue too, at the same time as much as it was an issue about keeping workers safe, and I think that was a real highlight.
MB: How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
GM: That’s hard. It is very hard because right now, for example, my family is going through a lot. There’s a lot of sickness in my family right now. My dads in hospital and that, so you have to balance your events sometimes with having to look after the news of your family. The saying is true when they say that blood is thicker than water sometimes, and so sometimes your attention gets diverted by that and necessarily so. That’s what we’re at right now, dealing with that.
MB: What are some hobbies that you have outside of politics?
GM: Outside of politics, I like to play with old radios, in particular CB radios. I play around with them a lot, fix them up a bit and talk to people on them too. It’s a great little hobby, and I guess some of your viewers might remember seeing radios back in the 70s in old movies like Smokey and the Bandit and all that you know. There was a little bit of fun back then and was part of my childhood, and I’ve been playing with radios ever since, probably about 40, 45 years of history of radios in my blood somewhere.
MB: Do you have any other hobbies?
GM: I play music a bit. I play guitar. I pick around with a mandolin. I haven’t mastered that one yet, and a little bit of banjo.
MB: What’s your favourite music?
GM: Favourite music? Well, that got to be Irish Newfoundland-type music. Anything having to do with a feeling of heritage about it, I call it. My favourite artist of all time would have to be Stan Rogers, one of my lifelong favourites.
MB: What’s your favourite novel?
GM: Favourite novel? I read a lot of military history, and there’s one book that stands out in my mind, not really a novel, I guess as such, but, well, two books, basically. There’s a book called Air War by Edward Jablonski that I’m reading right now, I think probably for my twentieth time, and there’s another book called 199 Days at Stalingrad is a book by Edwin P. Hoyt, it has to do with of course the German attempt at taking Stalingrad and the Russian victory there so I’m big reading into military history quite a lot.
MB: What’s your favourite movie?
GM: Favourite movie? Forrest Gump. I think right now would be Forrest Gump amongst my favourites, I guess. Again, military history, I can get into that. Schindler’s List would have to be a favourite and Saving Private Ryan. Favourite actor was John Wayne. I’m into old-time movies.
MB: What’s something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
GM: Something about me that most people don’t know? That’s a good one, Matt, because I think everybody knows George Murphy now, and I don’t think that I’ve ever kept anything hidden. What you see is what you get, and yeah, there’s really nothing I can think of other than I’ve been lousy at catching a few trout lately.
MB: So, you started off as a Liberal?
GM: Yeah, I did some work with the Liberal Party years ago, and it didn’t conform to my beliefs, and so I changed over and worked as a New Democrat later on and got elected as a New Democrat.
MB: What were some of your beliefs that made you want to be in the NDP party?
GM: Well, I’m a big advocate, if you will, of consumers out there. I like consumer advocacy. I have a strong belief in the healthcare system, the preservation of it and the expansion of it; that would be number two, I guess. In regard to that and number three, I’m very big on environmental work too, and the New Democrats have pushed a lot of things when it comes to the environment, and they continue to pursue it, and that’s one of the reasons. There’s several reasons I guess I would be a New Democrat today. You have to be a big strong believer in some of their policy platform ideas, and I happen to be one of them.
MB: Do you feel that your leader Lorraine Michael is doing enough to lead you into the next election?
GM: Sure. Absolutely yeah. She went through the leadership review process and scored 75 percent on the vote.
MB: Do you see yourself as being leader someday?
GM: I think that you can’t be in politics if you don’t have aspirations to lead; you shouldn’t be in it. One of these days, maybe, it’s going to take a few more years and if those few more years are there.
MB: Maybe when Lorraine retires?
GM: Well, you never know. It’s a long way down the road for me.
MB: Do you see yourself running in federal politics?
GM: I haven’t really thought about federal politics, to tell you the truth. It’s not that I don’t have an interest in federal politics or anything, but the simple fact is that I’m happy in the spot where I’m at right now, and If ever the opportunity came up to run federally, I don’t think that I would be able to say that I can’t look at it and see what it is, but you know federal politics involves a lot of time away from home, and I think I would miss my boys, miss my family a little bit too much for that right now at the age that they’re at so that’s going to be a long time down the road if that ever happens right. A lot of thinking and a lot of commitment that a politician has to make, you’re looking at, for example, a Newfoundland and Labrador politician would have to leave here, and pretty much you’re only getting two or three days home and then your four days away up in Ottawa and a lot of time spent on the airplane too besides that so you know there’s a huge commitment to become a federal politician.
MB: I do know that being a federal politician is to, like, travel more and go to different events and stuff like, say, around Canada and even, like, around the world. So, how much do you travel as a MHA?
GM: As a MHA, it all depends on what the issue is really like for example, when I’m in my own district, I don’t have very far to go, or Confederation Building right now is within my district, so I’m in my district all the time, and I’m out around on the doorstep, I’m out around at different events and everything, but sometimes there’s a provincial issue, a really serious provincial issue that needs to be dealt with, fracking would be a big issue. So, I would travel the province and talk to people about fracking and got some relatives and everything on the west coast, so I like to get over there every now and then so there’s also opportunity there to mix business and pleasure, two at the same time. But fracking is a big issue that’s affecting this province. It’s a very serious environmental issue, not to mention an issue having to do with concerning the province with its own wealth and development of the development of its resources, so I like talking about fracking an awful lot, and there’s been numerous times that I’ve been over on the west coast talking about that issue.
MB: How many times did you get to travel outside the province?
GM: Outside the province? I haven’t been outside the province yet. Not as a MHA and as a private citizen, the only place I’ve ever been to different provinces of Canada. I’ve never been outside the country. So, it’s you know I love this place. Don’t want to be anywhere else. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t travelled a lot. One of these days, I’ll travel somewhere and see some of the military history, for example, of Normandy or something like that. I’d like to see the invasion beaches of D-Day, and you know those are in my dreams right now and probably not happen for the next couple of years, but yeah, the MHA work has not taken me outside the province. Quite happy with being in the province too.
MB: Where do you see yourself in the future?
GM: I don’t know. You know, a new door opens every day, and we don’t know what direction God is going to be pointing us in, and that’s the way I look at it, and I’m serious about that because you know I don’t know what my calling is going to be the next day. I do know that I got a lot of things on my bucket list, and one of these days, I hope to fulfill and God’s giving me the chance right now to be a member of the House of Assembly and practice a little bit of wisdom and learn a little bit more about wisdom and just do right by the people, and I’m just happy with that right now.
MB: So, someday, when your political career ends, what do you see yourself doing?
GM: What do I see myself doing? One of the other things that’s on my bucket list one of these days, please God it’ll be there one of these days is to have a little stint as an open line talk show host. You know, I think a lot of people think about that, and I’m no different, but I still like talking to people, and I still like meeting people, and that’s one of the things I want to try one of these days.
MB: So, you brought up about God. So, how does religion play a role in your life, and how much does it help you?
GM: Well, I can’t say that I practice religion a lot. I’m not a very big church goer but anything that I do, anything that I’m thinking about, usually has the right thing in mind, and it doesn’t matter what the name of your God is as long as he’s the right God for you. God can take many different forms and everything, but still, at the same time, I keep some of the old teachings, I guess you could say in mind whenever I’m talking about an issue. Well, you got to do right by people, and I like to keep that in mind all the time.
MB: Thank you, Mr. Murphy, for speaking with me today.
GM: Mr. Barter, keep up the good work.
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.