Posted September 14, 2015
The first impression of Cam Guthrie was that he was personable, energetic and ambitious. We met in the Red Brick café just before his election to council in 2010.
Following his ward four election, he proved to be a thorn in the side of former mayor Farbridge. He was accused of breaking the council code of conduct because he dared to ask staff for a report and he was refused. The integrity commissioner was asked to judge the case and returned a “no verdict” in the matter.
Cam was appointed chair of the council audit committee in his second year and approached his new job with customary gusto. In early 2013, the Guelph Tribune asked him to comment of the operation of the city. He emailed a reply “that the city was being very, very well run.”
His followers were stunned and the resulting backlash forced him to explain the statement. That’s about the time Cam pulled away from guelphspeaks. He resented the fact that the blog pointed out several reasons that the city was not being well run. The first crack in the city stone-walling was the January 2013 beginning of the Urbacon civil trial in Brampton.
Urbacon is not dead
In last Thursday’s Mercury, the topline story was the Mayor stating the Urbacon file is now closed and it’s time to move on. Ironic wouldn’t you say?
Cam announced his candidacy for mayor in January 2014. A major event was held in June in the Delta convention centre in which Cam outlined his campaign including eliminating what he called the “Guelph Factor.” He promised, if elected, that he would keep the property tax increase to the rate of the Consumer Price Index of 2.1 per cent.
He was also advised to promise to have the city finances audited if elected.
In August, Jason Blokhuis announced he was running for mayor. He was invited to attend a meeting of the GRG steering committee to discuss his platform and organization. Blokhuis is a professor at Wifrid Laurier University in Kitchener but a resident of Guelph.
When the speaker left, it was decided that GRG should invite Cam Guthrie to address the steering committee. GRG rented the large meeting room at the Guelph Country Club to hear Cam. After his presentation he and his entourage left. The steering committee held a vote to determine which of the two major candidates GRG would support. By a 17 to 2 margin the committee supported Cam Guthrie.
A few days later, GRG Executive director, Gerry Barker, received a call from Cam inviting him to meet with his team of organizers. It was a strange meeting. Barker thought it was to discuss joining forces to elect not only Cam but also a council that supported that changes had to be made. In hindsight, the Cam people wanted to know what Barker would write in his blog rather than joining forces.
Barker did tell them that an advertising campaign was being planned and that a slate of candidates would be printed for the consideration of voters.
Guthrie didn’t want GRG support
In late September, Barker attended an all-candidates meeting conducted by the Guelph Home Builders. He spoke briefly with Cam and suggested that GRG would support him in the ads planned. Cam, said he did not want his name attached to the GRG ads.
A while later, Barker received a call from the Tribune asking whether GRG was recommending Guthrie. Barker replied that GRG was working with the Guthrie campaign to elect councillors who were supportive of change.
When the story appeared, Barker received a call from Guthrie. He literally screamed that Barker had ruined his campaign and that Barker was responsible for making Guthrie’s wife cry as well as his children.
A few minutes later Robert White, Guthrie’s team leader, called and accused Barker of sabotaging the campaign and hung up. A few minutes after that White called again and apologized for hanging up. The unwarranted attack was an immature and unnerving experience. It cast serious doubt of Guthrie’s ability to be mayor of Guelph. Barker did not discuss this outburst with anyone except his wife, who happened to be the room when the calls came in.
The outburst reaction suggested that certain promises had been made to people and organizations that were supporting re-elections of the Farbridge council.
Regardless, Barker and his wife voted for Cam Guthrie.
Well, Cam Guthrie won with help from guelphspeaks that continued the constant criticism of his main opponent, Mayor Farbridge right up to election day. The GRG post mortem meeting on the election, agreed to lay off criticism of the new Mayor and give him a chance to accomplish his promise of lower taxes and reform management.
Then in January, on a tip, Barker was told about a request from CAO, Ann Pappert, to accelerate her annual performance review by three months.
What followed was something out of “One flew over the Cuckoos Nest.”
Barker received another tip that Guthrie had sent out emails to undisclosed recipients that essentially attacked the blogger’s professionalism. Guthrie told people to ignore what Barker writes as he usually gets it wrong. His email came very close to libel but only strengthened the resolve to continue speaking out for the people of this city that have no voice.
The Mayor went on to say that the CAO couldn’t defend herself. What was to defend? It is assumed that city employees are subjected to the same labour rights as any other Ontario employee. They are no different and can defend themselves in any legal manner they choose.
Guelphspeaks numbers keep growing
What Guthrie failed to realize his email was a major political misstep to attack Barker’s credibility behind his back. The guelphspeaks numbers have been growing since he was elected. Recently, with the Watson complaint, guelphspeaks has been regularly hitting record views on the blog.
Guthrie’s first fall from grace was his failure to deliver on the 2015 property tax increase when his council voted for a 3.55 per cent increase, later revised upward to 3.96 per cent. That figure was a long way from the new Mayor’s promised limit of 2.1 per cent.
So what’s going on? Why are promised reforms not forthcoming? The same staff is still running the administration with little oversight by the elected members of council. Guelph is still mired in the same management and financial morass that existed before the election. The city still does not have a Chief Financial Officer since Al Horsman, the last official to hold the title was shifted to garbage, engineering and planning. Horsman saw the light and left the city to become CAO in Sault Ste Marie.
Our finances are now being managed by a general manager and treasurer reporting to Deputy Chief Administration Officer (DCAO) Mark Amorosi. It is just another step to tighten the circle of responsibility now resting with three executives, Amorosi, DCAO Derrick Thomson and CAO Pappert. While the executive line-up shrinks, the number of subordinates increases. Fewer chiefs, more Indians, so to speak.
The question now is Cam Guthrie becoming Guelph’s General Custer?
The previous administration’s initiatives such as increasing the number of bike lanes on major roads; the wellbeing programs are nothing but a conduit to fund pro-left community groups; excessive capital spending on projects. The list thunders on as our Mayor, the one who made all those election promises, goes along to get along.
It’s not rocket science
The greatness of a city is measured by controlled progress, fixing what’s broken and serving its citizens with affordable and necessary services. First and foremost it’s called living within our means.
The majority of this council does not agree with that. That’s why it passed a huge increase in property taxes, voted to spend $600,000 on bike lanes on a provincial highway, and reduced the previously announced replenishment of the reserves used to settle with Urbacon by $400,000.
Mayor, it’s time to serve all the people, not just the chosen few. They have your number. You can get help from the people who, you may be surprised, want you to bring about the change for which they voted.
Stop believing that the left rump on your council is going to allow you to privatize some services. Stop thinking that any change from those services approved by the previous administration will pass your council. That’s dreaming in Technicolor.
Finally, when the CAC report of the Susan Watson complaint arrives at council make sure that it is thoroughly debated. Make sure that that the city clerk doesn’t attempt to stop council from ordering Susan Watson to repay the city for the costs of her complaint. Watson’s claims were repudiated by the CAC’s own auditor.
Those councillors who received campaign money directly from Watson and her husband must abstain from voting on any motion related to Watson repaying the city for the costs of her complaint.. They clearly have a conflict of interest because of the pecuniary interest derived from the donations received from Susan Watson and Dr. Ian Digby.
As a reminder, here are the five affected councillors and the amounts they received from Susan Watson and her husband: June Hofland, $1,000; Leanne Piper, $500; Cathy Downer, $500; James Gordon, $250; Mike Salisbury, $250.
All of these recipients are supporters of the former mayor and her objectives and policies.
Cam, it’s time to turn on the Hoover and clean up the people’s house.