We’re having a binary election. Male or female. Older or younger. Corporate or community. Old stock or immigrant. Cam Guthrie or Aggie Mlynarz. One or the other, and nothing in between. It’s gonna be a goodun.
It’s been a long time since we had an election in Guelph with only two candidates for mayor. A very long time. Probably neither of our two were alive the last time it happened, if it ever did. This could be the only thing they have in common.
Guthrie belongs to the Conservative Party, Mlynarz is in the NDP. At the Friends of the Library book sale last October I asked Guthrie if he would be the PC candidate in the next provincial election. That would be the one we just had in June. He told me no, he wanted to get a second term as mayor under his belt before aiming higher. Mlynarz, as we know, was her party’s candidate in June. She did well, all things considered. Now she’s aiming lower.
Mlynarz increased the number of NDP votes but still came third in an eight-way race. The difference is that fourth place went to the Liberals this time. The Conservatives came second and, as we all know, Mike Schreiner of the Green Party was first past the post.
As the issues crystallize between now and October we’ll see what happens when our attention is not distracted by third-party candidates.
Both candidates will tell us they support businesses and people. They will tell us they will provide strong leadership. They both want increased transparency and integrity. They’d be silly not to say these things. It’s what voters expect to hear. We shouldn’t judge politician by what they say. It’s what they do that matters.
Guthrie is not embarrassed to dress up in a bumble bee costume when making a speech at a Pollination Guelph awareness event. I can’t think of any other big city mayor who will so readily sacrifice dignity for a photo op. And not just once. He did it again in a bizarre video with his family singing the praises of a new Taco Bell franchise coming to town. He loves a good ribbon cutting ceremony.
Mlynarz has a post-graduate degree in Theatre Studies. She has experience in political theatre. She may or may not change into a costume to highlight an issue. I don’t know. But I expect she’ll bring a level of professionalism to the mayor’s office that has been lacking for the past four years.
On the subject of integrity and professionalism, we should all be disturbed by Mayor Guthrie’s participation in a decision to increase his salary if he wins the election. All the other councillors also participated in the decision, most in favour of it, some against. The difference is that they did not stand to gain from it above and beyond the committee’s recommendation. Guthrie did, but failed to declare the pecuniary interest.
Ward 6 Councillor Karl Wettstein, who is not seeking re-election, mentioned this decision in an interview with Tony Saxon of Guelph Today.
Wettstein said a decision to ignore the recommendations of an arms-length committee and instead vote for a raise in the mayor’s salary “broke every rule of governance in the book.”
Guthrie has not been a particularly effective mayor. He has had difficulty getting some of his pet projects supported by his council colleagues. Some projects he had to drop or put on hold in the hope that he’ll get a more supportive council in October. His record in office raises several questions and we deserve to hear the answers. Mlynarz needs to hold his feet to the fire and make him accountable.
Sixty-eight per cent of the people in Guelph who voted on June 07 rejected the old ways of doing politics and voted for either the Green Party or the NDP. Will that spirit carry through to the October 22 election? If the same people who knocked on doors and campaigned for either Mike Schreiner or Aggie Mlynarz get involved in the municipal election, we will see a positive change down at city hall.
In this binary election, either one or the other will win. Nobody else can, other than the good citizens of our city.