Colleagues remember former MPP Bill Murdoch

·4 min read

Long-time MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Bill Murdoch has died.

Murdoch passed away on Aug. 16 at Residential Hospital of Grey Bruce - Chapman House after fighting cancer for the past few years. He was 77.

Murdoch served as local MPP from 1990 to 2011. He was an outspoken MPP and a passionate defender of his local constituents. Hailing fom Bognor, Murdoch never forgot his roots and proudly wore the moniker: Bognor Bill. He earned the nicknames “Wild Bill” and “Maverick” and once had to serve as an independent MPP after clashing with Progressive Conservative Party leadership.

“He was quite the character. He truly was one of a kind. He was a fantastic colleague and I loved him dearly,” said former Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, who retired from Queen’s Park earlier this year. Wilson was first elected in 1990, the same year as Murdoch and served with him in caucus for many years.

Wilson recalled during one election cycle that the Municipality of Grey Highlands was taken from Murdoch’s riding and added to Wilson’s riding of Simcoe-Grey. He remembers going door-to-door in Grey Highlands and seeing “Bill Murdoch” signs on lawns everywhere.

“I called Bill and said: they have no clue I’m the PC candidate. He offered to go door-to-door with me,” said Wilson, who said they later co-authored a letter to the public advising of the riding redistribution. “Bill added a very touching line and said: 'Jim is a very good friend of mine and will do a very good job for you.' We won every poll in Grey Highlands.”

Wilson said Murdoch’s memory will live on.

“He’s going to be missed. I think of him almost daily in my life. Before I retired, I would be running around my riding and there was something that would remind me of Bill Murdoch. I just loved the guy,” said Wilson.

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Alex Ruff released a statement praising Murdoch’s service to the community.

“Bill’s reputation for speaking his mind and ‘fighting for the little guy’ was known throughout the province and I daresay country. Any elected official would be hard pressed to find a better constituent politician in the country to seek advice and learn from,” said Ruff. “More importantly, Bill just cared. He cared about the people he represented. He cared about farming. He cared about conservationism. He cared about local music culture and helped found the Bruce Grey Music Hall of Fame. He cared about his radio shows. He cared about the Owen Sound Attack and his beloved Montreal Canadiens. He cared about his friends. Most importantly, he cared about his family. Bill cared.”

Former Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller worked with Murdoch for many years.

“He was a mentor and a friend and most importantly, Bill was a character. Not everybody agreed with his style and that’s fine, but this country, this province and this area could use more characters,” said Miller. “He was true to his area and when you called him Bognor Bill, we wore that as a badge of honour.”

Bill Walker succeeded Murdoch as MPP in 2011.

"Those were big cowboy boots to fill," Walker said. "He really was that maverick guy and he always tried to stick up for the people of his area."

Walker said he visited Murdoch at Chapman House shortly before his passing and said Murdoch was still himself laughing, joking and delivering plenty of one-liners.

"He was still asking about things pertinent to the community. He was genuine and he stayed true to what he felt was right," said Walker. "This is a big loss for our area. He did lots for our community."

Murdoch’s political career started at the municipal level. He served on Sydenham (now part of the Municipality of Meaford) council and eventually became Reeve. He was Grey County Warden in 1987, chaired the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority and was a member of the Association of Municipalities Ontario.

After retiring from political life Murdoch promoted local music acts around the area and was instrumental in founding and creating the Grey Bruce Music Hall of Fame at the Hepworth Legion, which was unfortunately destroyed by a fire recently.

He also hosted radio talk shows on Bayshore Broadcasting. He was well-known for his extensive collection of hockey/NHL jerseys, which he once used for a special display at the Meaford Public Library, and his support of the Owen Sound Attack junior hockey team.

At publication, details about Murdoch funeral and/or celebration of life hadn't been announced.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca