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Sign of civic engagement

It was encouraging to see more than 90 people out for GrassRoots Guelph’s public launch on Wednesday morning, a breakfast fundraiser at the Guelph Golf and Curling Club. It’s a sign of good civic engagement in Guelph in the lead-up to what is shaping up as a hotly contested civic election here in October.
Former mayor Kate Quarrie and David Birtwistle, who came second in the 2010 race for mayor, were there along with many other supporters of this citizens’ organization, which is highly critical of Mayor Karen Farbridge’s administration. The prevailing sentiments in the room were made clear by the loud appreciative chuckling that greeted the featured speaker’s remark that giving more money to governments is like “giving car keys and whisky to teenage boys.”
But the event wasn’t just a case of having this speaker, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Ontario director Candice Malcolm, preach to the converted. GrassRoots Guelph invited all current city council members and all registered candidates for council in this fall’s election to come to the event. It was clear some of those who came weren’t people likely to identify with the group’s way of thinking. Their presence should be taken as “a sign of open-mindedness, if you will,” GrassRoots Guelph communications chair Paulette Padanyi graciously observed.
The event brought up issues that are likely to be debating points during this civic election year. Is city hall’s bureaucracy too big? Should more city services be contracted out to be delivered by the private sector? Expect to hear more about such topics before the Oct. 27 election.
It’s highly debatable whether Guelph should try to follow the example of Windsor, as Malcolm said it should. Windsor has had to cope with a grim local economy, and Guelph can afford to do more than unfortunate cities like Windsor. But where’s the happy medium when it comes to how much city governments should try to accomplish? This too is likely to be part of the debate as Oct. 27 nears.

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