Posted April 17, 2015
There is an old story: People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
But that’s exactly what Farbridge confidant, Susan Watson, is doing by requesting an audit of the campaign financial statement of ward six candidate, Glen Tolhurst, who listed a $400 donation from GrassRoots Guelph (GRG).
Tolhurst was unsuccessful in his bid to win in ward six. That didn’t deter Ms. Watson. She engaged a Toronto lawyer, Ian Flett, to represent her at a hearing of the election compliance committee, May 6.
Her lawyer says that all his client wants is “clarity” on third party spending specifically naming GRG. He further went on “If the audit finds that the donations by GrassRoots Guelph are appropriate, Guelph and the rest of Ontario needs to brace itself for essentially the municipal equivalent of a super PAC.” That’s a reference to U.S. super PACs that are not permitted in Canada.
That spooky, specious comment has no bearing on the legitimacy of GRG.
It’s a fishing trip by Watson and the remnants of the Farbridge administration to muzzle and discredit the organization. GRG is a non-profit, non-partisan corporation whose activist mission was to inform and educate electors in the October 27 election campaign. It now appears that GRG’s efforts were rewarded with a much greater participation by Guelph electors.
Why then, more than five months after the election, is Watson complaining about the right of a third party to participate in a civic election? Why does she gloss over the third parties involved in the last three elections, who specifically supported former mayor Karen Farbridge and her council team?
Let’s name a few: The Guelph Civic League, We Are Guelph, The Guelph Citizen, Politico, The Sausage party and Guelph Bugle. All these organizations flooded cyber space and the print media with pro-Farbridge messages. Some were often attacking GRG and the blog, guelphspeaks.ca.
Despite the effort, the mayor lost her fourth re-election bid.
So, Susan Watson is demanding clarity around third party spending, according to her lawyer. He’s the same guy who admits there is nothing explicit prohibiting such participation in the Ontario Municipal Act. His argument that third parties are not allowed to participate in provincial and federal elections. But this was a municipal election and has no credence in this demand for an audit of a defeated candidate in Guelph.
Lets take a look at the money donated by Susan Watson and her partner, Dr. Ian Digby. She spent $3,000 and Digby spent $1,250.
Karen Farbridge $750 by Susan Watson & $750 by Ian Digby – defeated
Maria Pezzano, ward one $250 by Susan Watson – defeated
James Gordon, ward two $250 by Susan Watson – elected
June Hofland, ward three $500 by Susan Watson & $500 by Ian Digby – elected
Mike Salisbury, ward four $250 by Susan Warson – elected
Leanne Piper, ward five $500 by Susan Watson – elected
Cathy Downer, ward five $500 by Susan Watson – elected
Note the pecking order of these donations, who received them and who didn’t receive the Watson largesse. It is obvious where the Watson/Digby loyalties lie, and their cheque books, at the ready.
More than a year ago there was a meeting held by the Guelph and District Labour Council at the University of Guelph. Councillors Maggie Laidlaw and June Hofland attended it. The meeting resolved to run pro-labour candidates in each ward.
Now if this isn’t a third party that funded and organized candidates, then why is Watson persisting in attempting to discredit GRG because it helped a candidate?
Let’s try to follow the money.
* Who is paying for Mr. Flett’s services?
* Did Watson and partner use their own money to donate to specific pro-Farbridge candidates?
* Is it possible that financial support from the civic unions for those candidates was channeled through individuals for distribution?
* Did Watson even know those people to whom she donated money?
* Is it not peculiar that a couple would focus their financial support on a specific group known to be part of the Farbridge team?
Obviously, the city compliance committee is not the venue to determine if third parties can participate in municipal elections. They don’t make the rules.
Watson and her lawyer should take their perceived affront to democracy to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for resolution.
Warning, be careful what you ask for because that door swings both ways.