In 2016 Cam Guthrie gave some advice to students. People who experience racism or extreme prejudice, he said, should never play the victim card. He would know. As an English-speaking white male with a background in insurance sales, racism would have touched his life in countless ways, wouldn’t it?
This wisdom was shared in an interview with the campus newspaper The Ontarion after completing his first year in the mayor’s office. Now, three years later, he ought to take a long look at himself. He is busily playing the victim card as he runs for re-election.
He played it a couple of times at the debate on September 26. Most commonly, he is prevented from fulfilling his mandate by a group of obstructionist councillors. If an election gave the victor a “mandate”, there would be 13 mandates at the table. The mayor and all twelve councillors got one when they were elected.
What do you do when there is one Council and 13 mandates? You do what very other Council in Guelph’s history has done. You work it out. It may be hard to believe after listening to Guthrie defending his wish to have 13 like-minded people on Council, but this is exactly what has been happening. They do work it out. If you have 13 people but only one mandate, there’s nothing to work out.
There’s a flip side to the victimization business. While complaining about being unable to do the things he wants, Guthrie claims credit for things other people accomplished. Things like:
- “Embedded First Nations acknowledgement in procedural bylaw”
- A search of the Council meetings archives credits Gordon, Hofland and Allt for this initiative.
- “Rezoned east end land to create new commercial opportunities
- A long process beginning with the 2003 – 2006 Council term which still hasn’t brought shopping to the people living there.
- “Led Council to endorse redevelopment of Baker Street District including new main library”
- Another long process predating his term as mayor. This process would have been a lot shorter had he not opposed and obstructed it as much as he did.
- “Successfully lobbied the provincial government to deliver high-speed rail”
- We don’t have it yet, and the new provincial government isn’t going to deliver it.
- We don’t need high speed rail to Toronto, we need high-frequency rail.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
I am always willing to give credit where credit is due, and Mayor Guthrie did not fail to get everything he wanted. He participated in a discussion and vote that increased the mayor’s salary by a whopping $36,110. During his term of office, the mayor’s gross salary has gone from $95,383 in 2014 to $116,390 in 2018 and to $152,500 for 2019.
What an incumbent mayor says and does ultimately boils down to questions of integrity. Or questionable integrity.
As soon as Councillor MacKinnon made the motion to increase the salary beyond the recommended amount, Guthrie should have declared a conflict of interest and left the room until the debate and decision were finished. He didn’t. This “broke every rule of governance in the book,” retiring councillor Karl Wettstein said in a Guelph Today article on July 27.
Matters of integrity are often a matter of perception. By claiming credit for things he did not do by himself, and by denying his pecuniary interest in a decision about the 2019 mayor’s salary, Guthrie creates the entirely wrong perception.
Disclaimer: It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway. The opinions posted in this blog and the photographs taken are my own and no one else’s. I don’t get paid for this stuff because I don’t work for anyone. I have not taken an active role in any election campaigns since putting up signs for Andrew Seagram in 2015. I observe Guelph from the comfort of home and comment on it when I see fit.
Google is my friend and could be Cam Guthrie’s undoing. That won’t be anyone’s fault but his own.