With less than two weeks left until the City Council election we see some ballot box issues crystallizing. These are the issues that candidates hope will be front of mind when you stand at the ballot box on October 22. Let’s look at some of them.
Should this be a deciding factor in our choice of Mayor? Experience on Council is important, but so is real life experience outside city hall. Managing the city is not in the Mayor’s job description. The Mayor chairs meetings and leads the governance process. City Council hires a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) to manage the city. The CAO is responsible for hiring and directing staff.
There is a difference between governing and managing. The Mayor and the 12 ward Councillors set priorities and goals and make decisions that move the city closer to meeting targets. The CAO and the city’s management team take direction from council and do what is needed to keep the city moving towards the agreed upon goals.
Of our two candidates, Cam Guthrie has experience as an insurance agent and eight years on Council, four as a Councillor and four as Mayor. Aggie Mlynarz has not held a public elected office yet. She has two university degrees and experience working in the precarious jobs that are the norm in our new economy. She is young and has a good vision of where our future should take us.
If Guthrie wants to manage our city, he should stand down from the election and apply for the CAO job. If he wants to govern, he should be judged equally with Mlynarz on their visions of our future.
This election is about managing development, with more factors in the equation than building new places to live. Among them are homelessness, poverty, affordability, green space, in-fill and property standards. Left to themselves, developers will not put a lot of thought into these things. They are more likely to put a lot more thought into avoiding them.
The Clair-Maltby area is a good case in point. New homes are going to be built in a very sensitive environment. Will these be large executive homes where people with money can enjoy country living in the city? Will they be mixed income neighbourhoods with an affordable housing component? Will the city move away from condominiums and encourage more rental accommodations?
Guelph has reached the limit of its ability to stretch outward. We now need to look inward and upward. We require new in-fill residential development and we need to enforce property standards for existing homes. 2160455 Ontario, owner of the apartment building at 90 Carden Street, for example, needs to be brought to heel and made to clean it up.
Matt Saunders, a candidate in ward 4, discovered what he considers to be a glaring error in the way our park and conservation lands are counted. He says some land is counted twice and we do not have as much parkland as we think. If he’s right, our Mayor has a lot of explaining to do about why and how we failed to update the parkland dedication bylaw when we had the chance.
Susan Watson raised the issue of parkland dedication at the start of the election campaign. It did not get much traction. Now it is back. It needs to be discussed in greater depth than saying Saunders doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We’re running out of time.
Which of the candidates has the political will to defend and enforce regulated development?
Crime and Driveway Widths
While Guelph is one of the safest communities in Ontario to call home, petty theft and other property crimes have increased. These are fuelled by the opioid crisis gripping most of Canada. Drug addiction is an illness. We can’t police it out of existence. We have to restore full funding to the social service agencies trained and equipped to deal with it.
I find it comical that people who claim to be tough on law enforcement are also in favour of suspending inconvenient bylaws that might cost them votes. If the law governing driveway widths is inadequate or out of date, it needs to be studied, assessed and fixed.
If some candidates want to make an issue of law and order, they cannot credibly begin by ranking the laws, saying these ones need to be enforced, those ones don’t.
There’s nothing like a looming election to make a tough law and order guy want to have his cake and eat it too.
Admittedly, Mlynarz is new to public life. She cut her teeth as a provincial candidate and is now the only person running for Mayor whose name is not Cam Guthrie. She has never done or said anything that would lead us to question her motives or her integrity.
Guthrie, on the other hand, said at an all-candidates debate that he hopes 13 like-minded people can be at the Council horseshoe after the election. That’s his excuse for campaigning door to door with a cobbled together slate of like-minded candidates. At another debate he said “the mayor must vote when a motion comes from the floor.” This was in answer to a question about why he participated in a vote to increase the Mayor’s salary which he is campaigning vigorously to receive. His answer was wrong. What he must do is declare a pecuniary interest and excuse himself from that portion of the meeting.
Six months ago, it looked like we were in for a boring election. Quite the opposite has come to pass.