Did Guelph voters jump from the frying pan into the fire?

Posted October 29, 2014

The defeat of Mayor Karen Farbridge rocked the city when she lost her re-election bid by a cumulative margin of 10,417 votes. That is a devastating defeat by any measurement.

Mayor elect Cam Guthrie has a lot to be thankful for but it wasn’t entirely the result of his campaign strategy. It was boosted by a huge surge in the Internet media that resolutely exposed the mayor for her failures in judgment in doing the city’s business. The fact that Guthrie handily won the 14,000-advance poll and Internet vote by more than 50 per cent indicated Friday night, the race for mayor was over.

Congratulations Cam Guthrie.

Now the real work begins. The results of the councillor races in the wards are not conclusive. The official count has seven Farbridge-aligned councillors elected. There is one serious problem in that Coun. June Hofland was declared the winner in ward three over Craig Chamberlain with a margin of five votes.

The balance of power remains uncertain until a recount of the ward three ballots decides the winner – Hofland or Chamberlain. It will also reveal any irregularities that may be exposed during the official recount.

One major irregularity occurred at the Residences St. Joseph where residents have been complaining to the city prior to the election that they were not enumerated and were unable to vote. All of these residents are aged but still able to vote if given the opportunity. Stephen O’Brien, the chief electoral officer should investigate this situation that was reported by the daughter of a resident.

If true, and these citizens were denied their right to vote, then a special election should be called for all residents in the ward to cast their vote to determine who should represent them.

During city council’s November 17 meeting, the staff is recommending that an official ward three recount be ordered. Keep in mind that the current council, led by Mayor Farbridge will make that decision.

In the unlikely event that council turns down the recount recommendation, it flies in the face of the overall election results that people voted for change, including the office of mayor.

Pending the vote, it is interesting to note that Coun. Hofland was quoted on election night when told she had a two-vote margin, that there would be a recount.

She now faces the dilemma not to vote or abstain for a recount of the ballots as a member of the present council. Nor should defeated candidates, Mayor Farbridge, Todd Dennis and Maggie Laidlaw vote on the recount question because they are lame ducks in a council that is almost at the end of its mandate.

The decision is vital to the future management of the city. If the Farbridge majority votes not to hold a recount, Craig Chamberlain has the option to seek redress in the courts to order the recount. That has to be at his expense and he must obtain legal advice.

Craig Chamberlain will be an earnest and valuable asset to the new city council. He epitomizes the kind of councillor that the vast majority of voters wanted on Election Day when they voted for change.

There were more than 10,000 additional votes cast this year than in 2010. It boosted Guelph’s election turnout to almost 50 per cent as opposed to 33 per cent in 2010.

It is now vital for mayor elect, Cam Guthrie, to reach out to Craig Chamberlain and add his support. It’s a mathematical problem for Mr. Guthrie. He has five potential supporters for the new policies for change for which the people voted. The Farbridge supporters currently have seven councillors elected including Coun. Hofland.

The election of Craig Chamberlain will tip the balance to 6 and 6 giving the mayor- elect the crucial deciding vote.

Folks don’t be fooled by the moment of elation. The next few weeks will be pure hardball politics as each side jockeys to control the people’s business.

Failure to act now will make former Mayor Kate Quarrie’s abuse by the people on the left, look like a tea party compared to the potential dysfunction of the new council. Haven’t we seen this movie before?

This is the time to speak up in support of Craig Chamberlain and ensure the playing field is level.


Filed under Between the Lines

8 responses to “Did Guelph voters jump from the frying pan into the fire?

  1. Ruby

    I spoke with my Mom this morning (she lives in the residences of St. Joe’s) and she said she didn’t see any notice posted by the building management informing people where and when to vote as today’s Mercury article states.
    Gonna check it out more.

  2. Ruby

    There is a notice posted in the building at the Residences of St. Joe’s telling people where to vote and when. Looks like the biggest obstacle was when the the seniors went to vote, their names were not on the voters list and they had to line up for 30 minutes or more to get on the list before they could vote. During the last provincial election, a polling station was set up right in the lobby of this residence. Can’t see why the city couldn’t do the same unless there are some rules that says otherwise?

  3. Joanne Shuttleworth

    Just a minor correction to your post Gerry. The last meeting of the outgoing council is Nov. 17 not Dec. 17. And while Hofland may have to declare a conflict on the recount, all of the other councillors have the right to vote on council issues right up until the new council takes over on Dec. 1.

  4. Essie

    Another couple of potential corrections – I think saying voter turnout was “almost” 50% is a little exaggerated (you’re really rounding up from 45%), and I also think it’s quite premature to make assumptions about councillors voting as a block in either direction consistently over the next four years. There seems to be a good mixture of intelligent, committed people on the new council and I would hope that they will use informed, independent judgement to decide on issues in the best interests of the city. After such a nasty and divisive campaign, it’s not in anyone’s best interest to continue promoting that kind of “us against them” positioning.

    Regarding the St Joe’s situation – very unfortunate, but there was quite a bit of advance publicity about checking to see if your name was on the voters list before election day – perhaps the family members who are concerned about this election will be more proactive next time. Also, the residents who tried to vote must have been at a busy poll, or gone at a busy time. I worked as a revision officer on Monday in Ward 5, and no one had to wait more than 5 minutes at most to be added to the voters list.

    Have to add that I don’t think the information provided by MPAC for the list was particularly good – there’s lots of room for improvement on that end!

  5. Ruby

    Getting to a polling station and waiting in lineups to be registered to vote is often not physically possible for many seniors and not all seniors have family to assist them. Unfortunately, too many people don’t seem to understand this.

  6. Essie

    Totally agree with you on that, Ruby. It’s not just a seniors-related issue, either – anyone with limited physical mobility is affected. FYI, at my poll, we were able to provide seats for people who were waiting, and the site was fully accessible to anyone who was mobile enough to use a wheelchair or a walker. I am wondering if any of the polls were located in/near seniors’ residences for this election. I’ve worked during both provincial and federal elections in the past, and it seemed to me that there were fewer and larger polls for the municipal election.

  7. Louis

    I think what they should do is allow the residents of St. Joes to vote, or even have a Ward 3 vote by itself.

    As for the results, I am a bit neutral on them, it is good that Farbridge and Laidlaw are gone. I do wonder if they were pushing Wettstein and a few of the others to vote for stuff in their favor as Laidlaw was known to bully councilors.

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