Incorrect information was published in a story in the Feb. 28 edition of the Guelph Tribune about how Coun. Cam Guthrie voted on the city’s tax-supported 2013 operating budget. It was incorrectly reported that only councillors Gloria Kovach and Bob Bell voted against the 2013 budget, when it was actually Guthrie and Kovach who voted against it. The Tribune apologizes for its error.
By Doug Hallett
City hall’s financial management has received a strong vote of confidence from what some might regard as a surprising source – Coun. Cam Guthrie.
“As the chair of the audit committee, I can honestly say this city is being run very, very well,” Guthrie, a frequent council critic and a potential candidate for mayor in 2014, told council Monday.
“As many know, I have been critical and vocal of where taxpayers’ money is spent, or how much of their money is spent,” Guthrie said Tuesday in an email following Monday’s laudatory comments at council.
“I still have those concerns. However, it is the role of (the) audit (committee) to oversee the council-approved spending,” he said. “I was attracted to the audit committee, because I too was skeptical as to what oversight was really being done with my money before I was elected,” Guthrie said in the email, sent in response to a Tribune query.
“Now two years later – when you push aside the white noise, the distractions, the sideshows and the misinformation – it gives me great pleasure to say with confidence that we truly have a well-run city for our residents and businesses,” he said in the email.
“Yes, there is always more to do, and new opportunities to run a city better. The status quo should always be questioned,” he added.
Last July, Guthrie led an unsuccessful bid to get council to tell city staff to show the potential implications of a 2013 city budget with a zero increase, a 1% increase and a 2% increase. Guthrie’s motion was defeated on a 7-4 vote, and council stuck with the 3% cap that had been proposed by staff.
In December, Guthrie voted against the city’s 2013 budget, which includes a 2.97% increase in the tax-supported operating budget. Coun. Gloria Kovach also voted against the budget.
A year earlier, Guthrie had voted in favour of the city’s 2012 budget, which included a 3.52% increase in the tax-supported operating budget. Only Kovach voted against it.
The most contentious budget of the current council’s term was the 2011 budget, which was approved on an 8-5 vote. Guthrie and newly elected councillors Jim Furfaro and Andy Van Hellemond joined Kovach and Bell in voting against that 3.14% budget increase.
Asked in a follow-up email Tuesday if he’s thinking of running for mayor in 2014, Guthrie replied in part:
“Although I receive encouragement from many to consider running for mayor, I have made no commitments at this time . . . When praises of the city are rightly deserved I will gladly sing them. Whether I want to lead the choir can be decided next year,” he told the Tribune.
Shortly after her re-election in 2010, Farbridge said city hall had a long way to go to convince many Guelphites that it is spending money wisely, and she said she had a plan to help fix this. She told the Tribune that she was seeking a “new path” where city hall would be able to “demonstrate that we are giving value for every dollar we spend.”
On Tuesday, Farbridge said establishing the audit committee, “with a clear mandate from council, was the first important step in ensuring council fulfills its oversight responsibilities consistently and effectively.”
The audit committee has the traditional role of overseeing the external audit process, but “the new role we have introduced is the internal auditor,” she said in an email sent in response to a Tribune query.
The city hired its first internal auditor, Loretta Alonzo, last year.
“I personally feel this is one of the most transformational decisions this council has made in the way we do business,” Farbridge said in the email. “An internal auditor moves beyond simply reporting on the quality of the financial statements and provides independent assurance to council regarding the quality of the city’s operations,” she said.
“The internal auditor has already brought value to the organization, and she is barely out of the gate,” Farbridge concluded.
Talk of Guthrie running for mayor goes back at least to March of 2010, when a local political website noted that a Facebook group called “Cam Guthrie for the Mayor of Guelph” had been started a few days after Farbridge announced she’d seek re-election that October.