Thursday, October 7, 2010

Issues and Arguments Continue in Campaign ’10

With the 2010 Municipal Election now just over two weeks in our future, let’s visit some more of the comments from the various mayoral and council candidates, as provided to me in the Candidate Questionnaire. The questionnaire’s are still coming, and can be found in their entirety at my Guelph Politico blog at

Let’s start with someone running for the mayor’s seat. This week, we’ll hear from Ray Mitchell, former proprietor of The Family Thrift Store. Given the somewhat unique circumstances that befell him in the last couple of years, let’s ask his opinion of last council’s performance. “I thought it was horrible,” he said empathically. “They demonized the young, built walls between our city and the county, spent too much on the wrong things, and raped the wild. And now they’re trying to put a positive spin on it all.”

Mitchell had further harsh words when asked about the issue of transit. “Transit is the fallback position to cut when money is needed as it primarily hurts the poor, and we know they don’t vote,” he said. “Cutting bus services was probably the meanest thing this council did.”

Ward 3 incumbent, and vocal environmentalist, Maggie Laidlaw pressed the importance of transit and promised that improvements will be coming to our transit system in the next couple of years. “We must make our transit system as convenient and reliable as the private automobile while remaining affordable to all,” said Laidlaw, who added her voice to the chorus of regret about the cuts to service this past summer. “Like other members of council, if I had known that voting for five days off without pay for all city staff, including members of council, would have meant cutting bus service, I would not have supported it. If we want to increase our ridership, we MUST keep fares down and service consistent and reliable.”

Still, it seems that the quintessential issue of the election remains the twin devils of taxes and spending, at least according to Ward 3 challenger Craig Chamberlain. “This past council was out of touch with most people’s realities,” Chamberlain explained. “It spent too much, too fast on a special interest-driven agenda, committing taxpayers and future councils to capital expenditures people cannot afford and many do not support. It seemed as though the recession was an inconvenience for this council.”

Chamberlain also accused the last council of group think and mischaracterizing people that don’t agree with them as being out of touch. “We need to get away from needing villains and scapegoats for our problems, and take responsibility for the ways we have failed,” he said. “We need to own our role in the debacle with the County, and not make city staff defend themselves for wanting to go to work in the morning and pay their mortgages.”

Still, the argument for experience is strong, at least in the view of Ward 4 incumbent Gloria Kovach. “The future will provide challenges and opportunities around growth. The Province through legislation, Places to Grow has mandated that the City grow to 175,000 by 2031 – that’s 54,000 more people and 32,000 more jobs,” she explained. “Experience is needed to deal with the challenges of the density requirements and to ensure growth is sustainable and is compatible with existing neighbourhoods.”

Bringing things full circle, Ray Mitchell wasn’t the only candidate to bring up the plight of the impoverished in our city in his questionnaire. Candidate for Ward 3 Mark Enchin related a story about a poverty briefing he had with members of Onward Willow and the United Way. Enchin was confounded by the lack of funds seemingly reaching the poor in the City of Guelph and just how much help they really need once you start digging into the issues.

“I was ashamed to be a Guelphite after leaving that poverty briefing,” said Enchin. “All the talk, all the studies, all the bullshit and still these people can’t be given a few extra dollars to help them live in our city. […] I was born and raised in the Willow Road area. I was there when they were building the townhomes on Valleyview and Willow. Things were better for them back in the 70s , at least the units they were living in were brand new! After that meeting I realized that nothing ever will change for these people. They have no voice, they have no representation, and they have no hope. That’s why I’m still in the race.”

For full questionnaires and more election news and coverage go to:

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