By Doug Hallett
Coun. Cam Guthrie says Guelph can do better than it’s doing now, and he’s making this the central theme of his run to be the city’s next mayor.
“The common theme is we can do better,” the first-term Ward 4 councillor said Thursday. “The nitty-gritty, the details will be coming out” as his campaign unfolds, he said when asked about his election platform. “But the overall theme is that in all aspects we can do better.”
Guthrie, 38, described himself in an interview as a “centrist” who wants to challenge the status quo at city hall. “I am a centrist. It’s just that so much of what has been done in this city has been controlled by the left that the centre looks too far right,” said Guthrie, who has worked on political campaigns for Conservative candidates.
He was campaign manager for Bob Senechal, the Progressive Conservative who came second to Liberal Liz Sandals in the 2007 provincial election. Before the Senechal campaign, Guthrie said, he worked for the campaign of Brent Barr, the Conservative who came second to Liberal Brenda Chamberlain in the 2006 federal election.
Guthrie wasted no time getting his mayoralty campaign started on the opening day for nominations for the Oct. 27 civic elections.
After filing his nomination papers at city hall at 9 a.m. Thursday, he officially announced his candidacy at 12:30 p.m. in front of more than 75 cold but enthusiastic supporters. Many were holding “Cam for Mayor” placards in a parking lot behind Zehrs, across from the site where a big Costco store is going up in his ward.
“Today we start the journey forward to fiscal responsibility, less government waste and a renewed openness to business,” he told the crowd, reading from a prepared speech. It has been posted on his new campaign website:
Guthrie said he has delivered what he promised in 2010 to Ward 4 voters. This includes increased communication, carefully watching city hall spending, creating an online graffiti reporting system, voting against increases to council salaries, and working for more choices in commercial opportunities and jobs.
“I delivered what I promised. And now I want to extend those promises beyond Ward 4,” he said.
Guthrie, who has worked for 16 years as a professional insurance broker, made the announcement while standing with his wife Rachel, son Anakin, 11 (who is named after a Star Wars character), and daughter Adelaide, 9.
“The Guthrie family has been rooted in Guelph since 1919,” he told the crowd. “We are entrepreneurs, bakers, health care professionals, ministers, insurance brokers, IT professional and teachers. We understand that if you want success in life, you work hard.”
Guelph needs new leadership, but not from outside of city hall, Guthrie said in an interview afterwards. He said the city needs someone like him who understands how city hall works and who can “hit the ground running” after the next election.
He described himself as someone who “can break the status quo and do things differently.”
One of those things is looking at how the city delivers its core services, said Guthrie. He has promoted the idea of contracting out some city services, notably waste collection, since he was first elected to council in 2010.
He also said he would pay a lot of attention to city hall’s bottom line, which influences taxes. “Somehow there is a feeling at city hall that the bottom line doesn’t matter,” he charged. “And I am going to fix that.”
Asked when he decided to run for mayor, he replied: “I think it’s been in my heart and my mind for a while. But I decided definitely to run this past budget time . . . that was the final straw.”
Mayor Karen Farbridge, who is expected to seek a fourth term as mayor, has described the 2.38 per cent budget increase for 2014 that was approved by city council in December as Guelph’s lowest budget increase in years.
“That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been lower,” Guthrie responded when asked about this. “It doesn’t mean we had to hire 11 more employees” as part of the city’s 2014 budget.
Guthrie made it clear recently that he is against building a new main library on upper Wyndham Street. The library plans are tied to city hall’s desire for redevelopment of the Baker Street Parking Lot area, onto which the proposed new library would back.
Guthrie has other priorities when it comes to capital spending. “A new main library right now is something that I have heard loud and clear from the community is not needed,” he said.
The city has more pressing needs for capital projects than a new main library, he said, and “a south end recreation centre is my main example.”
Guthrie, who turns 39 on Oct. 18, said he doesn’t think his relative youth will play any part in the mayoral campaign.
“I have proven myself to be a leader in this community even before I served as a councillor, and that (his age) is just not an issue,” he said.
By Doug Hallett