The following is a report by Mayor Cam Guthrie reproduced from the city website. The questions regarding the content are by guelphspeaks and are in italics.
Mayor Guthrie: I have remained somewhat silent on the issue of the Compliance Audit Committee (CAC) events for the past several months. I wanted to allow the process, as we currently have it laid out, to run its course.
Since late last week I have been asked by some council members, and many from the public, if council would be discussing this issue.
GS question: Does this mean that this CAC decision will be debated in council?
Mayor Guthrie: I attended the final meeting of that committee last Thursday, and now that this issue has come to an end I believe there are several items for us to consider as a council moving forward.
GS question: What do you mean it has come to an end? Are you saying that Susan Watson is not responsible for challenging the Municipal Elections Act (MEA)? Does the independent audit outcome absolving both Mr. Tolhurst and GrassRoots Guelph Voters Association of contravening the Act, not count for anything?
Mayor Guthrie: I reached out to the city clerk and he has indicated to me that the Province opened up consultation on the Municipal Elections Act for quite some time already this year. To comment on it any individual had to do so before the end of July.
GS question: Did the city advertise this deadline for citizens to contribute their opinions of future MEA changes? Particularly when the city had an ongoing CAC audit process involving the MEA.
Mayor Guthrie: The recommendations coming out of this provincial review will ultimately be brought forward through our city clerk to then be discussed with our Governance Committee and then with all of city council.
GS question: What have future MEA recommended changes have to do with the current CAC case? The CAC is obligated to make its decisions based on the current MEA model.
Mayor Guthrie: I look forward to discussing any of the proposed changes, and perhaps, (council willing), looking at sending to the province our collective voices on this matter.
In my humble opinion I think there are grave flaws within the act as it stands.
GS question: Sir, with respect, this process in which you are so eager to participate will take years to become law. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has to forward any changes to the Legislature. Next it is sent to committee. Then there are public hearings and meetings with the various stakeholders. When the bill has been finalized, it will be debated in the Ontario Legislature. By that time there could be a change in government. That’s a lot of fences to climb.
Mayor Guthrie: Third party advertising is one of them.
GS question: Of course you are including the third party donors who supported your election. Also there is the role of the staff unions who contributed to a number of union-friendly candidates. Last but not least, is the $4,200 donated by Ms. Watson and her husband? I recall they did not contribute to your campaign.
Mayor Guthrie: However, from what I witnessed at the meeting last week, it was quite evident that there was a great deal of frustration from the committee members on one specific issue more than any other.
That issue was the inability, through the current Act as it stands, to try and recoup costs for city taxpayers from people that ultimately failed to expose what the original inquires of the election audit were intended for. Specifically, if other contraventions were found that were so minor that they don’t materially change the outcome of the financial returns.
GS question: Mr. Mayor are you buying the argument that despite absolving Mr. Tolhurst of contravening the MEA, his minor contraventions allow the CAC not to award costs to Susan Watson? Let’s look at them: The auditor reported a $198 donation that the donor intended to be split between his wife and self; not obtaining a receipt for purchasing a City of Guelph street map, $5.60; an accounting error of $1.
Mayor Guthrie: Furthermore, with an internal lens on our own processes, I believe we need to do better on how we train and inform members of the committee on their role, on legal options and clarity surrounding the MEA.
GS comment: Your final statement is dead on and appreciated. It indicates that when the Watson application was filed last April, there should have been more diligence on the part of city staff to ensure the outcome was legal, fair and clear.
Signed by Mayor Guthrie: