Guelph mayoral candidates meet in final debate
Guelph mayoral candidate Aggie Mlynarz came out swinging in the final debate between her and incumbent Cam Guthrie before the municipal election.
“We don’t need a cheerleader, we need a strategist,” Mlynarz said in her opening address to the crowd gathered at city hall on Wednesday night.
“Someone who can take a team that is Guelph, our government, our community stakeholders and coordinate our efforts towards common goals, not just play games,” she added.
Guthrie continued to preach that Guelph is on the right track and touted what has been accomplished over the last four years.
“We’ve invested in local infrastructure, like roads and sidewalks in every corner of our city,” he said. “We also initiated service reviews to ensure programs are being delivered in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
The debate was hosted by the Guelph chapter of the Council of Canadians and moderated by former Guelph MP Frank Valeriote.
But the two candidates answered questions from the audience, either by those stepping up to the mic themselves or writing their questions down for Valeriote to read.
While there weren’t many more jabs from Mlynarz or Guthrie for that matter, there was a bit of an argument over an increase to the mayor’s salary.
Earlier this year, council voted to increase the mayor’s gross salary by $30,000 ahead of a move by the federal government that will eliminate a tax break on 33 per cent of the gross salaries of all mayors and councillors in Canada as of Jan. 1.
Mlynarz argued that Guthrie should have recused himself from voting on the motion, which he ultimately voted in favour of.
“I do feel that was a conflict of interest in doing so,” she said.
Mlynarz added that residents do not have the privilege of increasing their own salaries and when taxes go up they have to make their own adjustments.
In his rebuttal, Guthrie explained that the mayor has to vote on any motion put on the floor from council.
“It’s important for everyone to recognize too that even if I had not voted, it still would’ve passed,” he said.
Guthrie added that he has declined annualized salary increases for the eight years he has been on city council.
“This is something that I am respecting the taxpayer on because this is something I said I was going to do and will continue to do,” he said.
Guthrie chose not to defend himself when he was accused by a resident of flip-flopping when it comes to balancing new developments and maintaining parklands.
“I am almost sick to my stomach because there are two Cams. There’s the public Cam and there’s the Cam who sits here and votes,” she said.
“Why do you flip-flop all the time?”
Guthrie declined to answer the question and said the woman was entitled to her opinion.
Mlynarz said it was a good example of the fracturing relationship between citizens, council and development.
“This is the broken relationships from that governance and lack of policy making that are now coming to fruition,” she said.
Property taxes was another topic that was brought up several times.
“People need to see the value from the taxes that are being collected and that’s something I believe we’ve been able to achieve here under my leadership,” Guthrie said.
Mlynarz said strong leadership, governance and policy are the stepping stones to good services.
“It’s the job of city council to set a budget that reflects the needs of the community and to meet them using those taxes to ensure that the delivery of services is to the best of its ability,” she said.
Voters go to the polls on Oct. 22.
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