Thursday, September 30, 2010

Council’s Past Produces Questions… And Opinions

So last week I was finally able to get down to the serious business of parsing the candidates running to be the next mayor or the next members of city council. I sent out my questionnaire to all candidates, asking them many of the same questions. The responses started trickling in almost immediately, and at press time, of the 37 total candidates, eight had returned the questionnaire with another five promising timely responses. By my count, that’s nearly a third of the candidates in just five days time, which ain’t bad.

The questionnaire was simple. It asked why the candidate decided to run for office, what they thought of the performance of the current council, and their thoughts on a variety of issues including taxation, development, city budget, transit and arts & culture. In this space, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting some of their responses. But for the whole kit and kaboodle click over to my Guelph Politico blog at

First let’s go to the head cheese, Mayor Karen Farbridge, who’s pleased with the progress the city has made under her last four years in the chair at the centre of the horseshoe. “We have made sustainability a hallmark of Guelph’s future,” she said. “We have saved our taxpayers $48 million dollars: because of our success with the Infrastructure Stimulus Funding program we were able to fix our roads and sewers while putting 800 people back to work during a recession.”

Many of the challengers for councillor seats though seem to have opinions to the contrary. “There are issues of transparency at city hall,” says Ward 6 candidate Todd Dennis. “Where is the discussion and debate expected in a democracy? This council appears to be automatically approving every project put forth. Does anyone stand up and question the project’s necessity and whether value is being provided to taxpayers.”

Others though are more pragmatic in their appraisal. “Do I think they could have made tougher decisions when it comes to spending and being financially more credible than what they tell us? Yes,” said Ward 1 candidate Allan Boynton. “We all know that there is going to be new people there and I hope the public chooses my ideas and values. The last council will be held accountable for their decisions on the 25th of October.”

Boynton’s fellow Ward 1 challenger Russell Ott agrees with that assessment. “This council did a less than average job,” Ott said. “They came in with one priority which was to change the decorum around the council table. Unfortunately, to avoid any conflict or heated discussions, too many times issues and proposals came forward which were flawed. The right questions were not asked of staff or delegations, and several councillors, including both in ward one voted in a ‘block’ and did not consider how it would affect residents in ward one.”

Still, others are looking to the issues that are not as frequently spoken about. “The Community Youth Strategy has gotten lost in the shuffle,” explains Ward 4 nominee Steven Petric. “Our young people deserve more respect and resources from us. I feel as though Guelph is well behind many others in providing much needed services and places for young people. I would make sure we implement the strategy and push for more youth services within our neighbourhood groups.”

Others, meanwhile, are just filled with questions. “Why does the south end have such a problem with absentee landlords and their tenants?” asks Ward 6 candidate Susan Ricketts. “Why doesn't the south end receive equal treatment when it comes to services like police, fire, bylaw enforcement, waste management and property standards? Why can someone downtown receive money from the City to renovate their business premises but not if your business is located outside the Downtown Business Association boundary? Are we sure, yet, what the true cost of the new waste management system will be? Has there been sufficient public input and education on that issue?”

For more questions (and answers) head over to Guelph Politico at

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