When people think of politicians, they often get an image of a smiling, blustering, smooth talking individual. When they look at Marty Morantz, they see an unassuming, self-effacing man with a shy smile who keeps on keeping on, no matter what the odds.
In his heart, in his gut, he knows he has a mission and he is determined to pursue it until the end. It is hard to describe a better candidate for any office – a person consumed by the knowledge that he has something to offer for the greater good.
Not that he talks that way. If anything, he is fairly reticent about his emotions, even when speaking about his dearly beloved younger son, who passed away two years ago. He prefers to talk about his father, about his friends, his brilliant son Jeremy who wrote a wonderful book about the family and his departed brother, about the good people he has met along the way. He refuses to say anything negative about the political foes who have defeated him in the past or whom he himself has defeated.
Nor does he have anything negative to say about those who tormented him over the South Wilkes controversy. He tries to explain their side of the issue rather than brag about his own. But he does have something to brag about. In spite of the unfounded accusations and rough treatment he received at the hands of the South Wilkes Association, Marty acknowledges their concerns. But a check of the record shows that he is the one who called for an audit to support the truth he told about the information flow. That’s just who he is.
And as for keeping on, keeping on, that’s just what he did in this case, until the issue was resolved in favour of his constituents.
Marty Morantz grew up in a family that talked politics and issues over the dinner table. He just thought that’s what everyone did. His dad would bring home concerns over tax issues and how policy would affect small business and impact on the family. Being in the property management business, his father was very concerned about Ed Schreyer’s announcement of rent control, wondering how the business could keep operating in a world of escalating maintenance and other costs. Young Marty absorbed it all. It just seemed natural that a person needed to know what was happening in the halls of power.
One day, when Marty was 11, the doorbell rang as the family were still having dinner. At the door was Sid Spivak, campaigning for the upcoming election. Thus began a consolidation of Marty’s political views. Sid had has finger firmly on the issues that affected the Morantz family. “I learned right then,” said Marty, “what an impact government policy could have on personal lives.”
Later he became more involved, helping out in various election campaigns, supporting the Gary Filmon team. At university, he majored in political studies and looks back fondly on the vibrant world of ideas that proliferated at the University of Manitoba under professors such as Wally Fox Decent, Geoff Lambert and Paul Thomas.
He was called to the bar in both Manitoba and Alberta and joined the firm of what was then Levene Tadman. As a lawyer, he was involved with his brother in the family business, Globe Property Management, helping it to scale up and grow beyond Winnipeg to other cities. He married Lisa and they had two boys.
But the political bug had bitten and, in 2011, he ran for the Progressive Conservatives against Liberal leader Jon Gerard in River Heights.
It was no walk in the park. Firstly, the nomination was contested, always a test of strength and endurance.
“We started working on it in March 2010,” said Marty. The election was held Oct. 4, 2011. “The first call I made scared me to death. Here was someone I didn’t even know and I am calling and asking for their support.” He soon learned that when it’s a candidate calling, there is nearly always interest whether they support you or not. He lost this election but found the experience invaluable when he next put his name out there for City Council.
Elected, he was appointed finance chair. “I got the call from the Mayor on the day of my father’s funeral,” recalled Marty. “We were at the hotel waiting for the limo to the cemetery when my cell phone rang. It was a very strange day.”
Marty chaired Finance for two years and was then moved to Infrastructure for the final two years of his tenure. The first part of the term was gruelling with hundreds of hours of meetings. And Marty is the kind of guy who wants to understand and get to the bottom of things so he asked thousands of questions.
“You have to respect and rely on the public servants to do their jobs,” he says. “But it is our job to understand what they are doing and the only way to find out is to keep asking questions.” Even as a member of the powerful EPC (Executive Policy Committee), the answers were not always easy to understand and often they weren’t complete. After the conclusion of the South Wilkes audit, which examined hundreds of phone calls and emails, it was clear that this is exactly what happened. Marty and the Council were not informed about Option 4 which had been floated, according to the public servants later, merely as an idea. Marty says he learned a lot from the experience.
So what does he see for Canada as an MP? His first interest is in a national autism strategy, ensuring that families who are dealing with ongoing chronic matters, such as an autistic child, have medical and therapeutic support across Canada. “Manitoba has a fairly good system,” he says, acknowledging that this is not the case everywhere. The other health issue is access to respite. His family was fortunate to be able to afford ongoing support for their autistic child, but he doesn’t know how families on marginal incomes manage. He realizes that changes to the medical system will take long term negotiation between the provinces and the federal government, but he feels that national standards of care are deliverable through the current health care system.
In addition to supporting balanced budgets, and a green infrastructure (trees), Marty has worries about small family businesses and how they will be affected by previous Morneau budgets. He was incensed to hear the Prime Minster say that it was only “tax cheats” who were accessing allowable tax breaks.
“I am also concerned about jobs for Manitobans,” he said, referencing the changes to federal legislation that will now allow Air Canada to move our long protected maintenance work out of the province. He questions why infrastructure dollars that were promised to Manitoba have not flowed when we have such an infrastructure deficit.
Can this quiet, unassuming fellow deliver on these and other matters of interest to his constituents and for Manitoba? So far, Marty Morantz has proven that he has what it takes to win, despite the odds, however daunting they may seem. He is just the kind of person most people really want to represent them in Ottawa.