Thursday, October 21, 2010

Election Day Parts 1 and 2

Better get your voting shoes on because the polls open at 10 am on Monday. To see if you’re on the voter list or to find out when and where to vote, go to What do you need to bring? Well, according to the Municipal Elections Act you’ll need either one piece of identification that shows your name, qualifying address (where you currently live or own property), and signature, or two pieces of identification, one with name and signature and the other with your name and qualifying address. For a list of what’s cool to count as I.D., go to this site to learn more:

But that’s enough about the boring instructions on how you will exercise your franchise this Monday, and let’s talk instead about who you will use it for. There are 37 candidates in all running for positions on City Council; from the big Mayor’s Chair in the centre to one of two seats in each of the six wards. So what drives people to seek out elected office in the City of Guelph? Let’s ask someone running to sit in the highest office of all.

“I ran for Mayor out of a yearning to dig out the pertinent and otherwise nitty gritty bits of information on how our particular council runs,” says Scott Nightingale. “I am finding the minutiae of municipalities to be rather muddled and inaccessible. I have a mind for what may to some seem mundane and boring. As long as I may use this mind to help those around me understand and in some small cases control their environment, then this is truly a good thing.”

But others already know what they’re getting in to. “I was on Guelph City Council for nine years between 1991and 2000 [and] I am not impressed with the direction we are headed,” says Ward 1 candidate Gary Walton. “I feel the spending and the direction the council is taking is not where our city should be going.”

Meanwhile, Walton’s fellow Ward 1 challenger Karolyne Pickett sees a different story coming from last council. “I support the strategic initiatives taken on by last council with respect to reducing our water consumption, developing community energy consumption goals, and looking at how to improve our transit system,” she explains. “My concern rests with development plans and zoning decisions. I want the City to shift to mixed-use zoning, because people want residential areas to include grocery stores, cafés and small local businesses.”

Development is a concern for many candidates, and while most feel that future construction projects are inevitable, we should follow the plan as outlined by the city and not by the developers. “Development has to follow the official plan and be able to integrate into the neighbourhoods it’s going into,” says Paul Mahony, Ward 2 candidate. “It also has to make sense. I saw the last council meeting and a great deal of time was spent around a development just off Arkell Road. The person addressing council made reference to many parts of the development not being in compliance with the city's official plan. Despite this, the developers were going ahead with what he had proposed. This can't happen. If it does if I am elected, I will vote against it every time.”

But everybody has their own idea about what the craziest decision made by this council has been. For Ward 3 candidate Dimitrios "Jim" Galatianos, that decision was made earlier this year when council agreed to a plan to convert the city’s waste management program to a bin system rather than bags. “Really that is what broke the preverbal camel's back for me,” says Galatianos. “We just went through a summer where the city had to turn out the light and put out the ‘closed for business’ sign because they had over spent – I mean failed to generate enough revenue – $8 million and then they go and do this. […] Some hard decisions will have to be made and the previous council has shown they are not the ones to do it.”

Since that budget shortfall is probably going to haunt the next council as it has the last couple of years of this council, the problem at hand should definitely by able to bring out big ideas from the candidates, and one thinks that he’s found a way to save the city some cash. “I'd like to introduce you to the Budget filter that I will use on your behalf,” says Cam Guthrie, a challenger in Ward 4. “It's called the ‘FREE BUDGET.’ I am the only candidate that will ask these tough questions. F - What can we Freeze? R - What can we Reduce? E - What needs to be Evaluated? E - What needs to be Eliminated?”

Others though have ideas on how to improve things that already exist in order to get the maximum benefit for the City of Guelph. “Personally, I would love to see the Italian Festival become as big a landmark as Kitchener’s Oktoberfest,” says Linda Murphy. “Now that would help our tourism problems also. Guelph is a culturally diverse community and we need to embrace that and build on it.”

Murphy’s fellow Ward 1 candidate Tamara Williams also sees Arts & Culture as part of the plan when it comes to tourism in the Royal City. “Guelph is unique because of the large population of artists and musicians within the city,” she explains. “This represents a large group of very talented people giving to the city. We should continue to support the arts and our cultural heritage which would also promote tourism and result in good business for the city.”

Still, there is something to be said for pragmatism. Which is where some of the incumbents come in, like Ward 1’s only returning councillor Bob Bell. “We will have trouble keeping them down next term because of all the money that was spent this past term,” he says. “We need to do a better job here, forecast 3.66 per cent and having expenditures for 7 per cent, then correcting it by cutting transit and garbage collection.”

Still, there is reason to hope, according to Ward 6 incumbent Karl Wettstein. “Although we have made progress in a number of key areas, we need to be diligent in making sure these changes take root,” he says. “This requires a Council and Senior Management team that clearly understand the critical roles that strong financial policy, good corporate governance, positive and constructive teamwork, and the ability to find consensus solutions play in running an effective and efficient $300 million complex corporation.”

But no matter what any of the candidates say, what’s important is that you have your say. Make sure that you get out and vote on Monday October 25th. And for full candidate responses to my Candidate Questionnaire, go to

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