The two candidates for Guelph mayor had their first debate last Wednesday. Cam Guthrie confirmed something originally revealed in my blog column on September 17 when he answered a question from the audience. Local radio station CJOY has an audio file of the meeting.
“Hopefully,” Guthrie said, “after October 22 we will have 13 like-minded people who put Guelph first.”
The question was about him campaigning with candidates who are challenging incumbent councillors who have not always agreed with him. These are Bob Bell, James Gordon, Phil Allt, June Hofland, and Mike Salisbury. Guthrie and ward 1 councillor Dan Gibson put together a slate of like-minded candidates. These can be counted on to vote with Guthrie on contentious budget and development decisions
There is so much that is so wrong with Guthrie’s statement. Most astonishingly, he strongly insinuates that these five councillors do not put Guelph first when going about the city’s business. This is insulting and unethical.
The mayor should offer a public apology to them and to the voters of wards 1, 2, 3, and 4. Failure to do so will show us all that Guthrie does not really want 13 people who put Guelph first.
He wants 13 like-minded people who put Cam Guthrie first.
By coincidence, the blog column was released almost three years to the day after a special city council meeting dealing with a shared agenda workshop. This would have remained a low-profile event that only the councillors would remember except for one thing: it became known around City Hall as the “Periscope Incident”.
The agenda, minutes, and audio recording of the meeting are available on the city’s web site in the council meetings archive. Easy to find if you want to look. About 40 minutes into the meeting, one of the councillors rose on a point of personal privilege, asking if the meeting was being recorded. The mayor acknowledged that it was. They were using the council chamber’s audio-visual system.
Rogers Cable usually broadcasts regular council meetings but seldom covers special meetings. They weren’t there that night. Guthrie said it wasn’t going out over Rogers, but the audio file would be archived for the record.
What he failed to say was that he was using his own cell phone to broadcast the audio through his Twitter account using the Periscope app. Periscope is a live video streaming app that works on either Android or Apple devices. It has run into a lot of privacy and copyrighting issues related to broadcasting images of people without their knowledge or permission.
City council agendas and minutes always contain a cautionary statement:
“Please turn off or place on non-audible all cell phones, PDAs, Blackberrys and pagers during the meeting.”
This admonishment applies equally to the mayor, councillors, staff, and observers in the gallery. Guthrie’s use of his cell phone to broadcast the audio portion of the meeting without informing the councillors was a serious breach of ethical protocols.
After being told that a visit to the Integrity Commissioner’s office could be in his near future, the mayor apologized to the councillors.
Cam Guthrie’s crew are starting to realize they can’t credibly point to his record for support. It’s not that strong. What they turn to instead is minimizing his opponent. They have taken to saying that Aggie Mlynarz doesn’t have the real-world experience to manage a city of Guelph’s size. This is obvious nonsense.
Mlynarz has twice as many university degrees as I do. She is very able to apply herself and to learn from the things she does. She also has a wealth of experience in the precarious work that people are getting these days. She understands the lives lived by the people she will serve.
Before his election , Guthrie’s work experience was as an insurance salesman. This is undoubtably a very important job that involves a lot of glad-handing, back-slapping, and telling clients what they want to hear. How that makes him any more qualified than Mlynarz is one of the big mysteries of the political universe.