Guelph’s two mayoral candidates squared off in their first debate and while it wasn’t a heated discussion for the most part, there were a couple of moments where tensions flared.
Aggie Mlynarz and Cam Guthrie discussed a variety of issues for just over an hour in front of a packed room on Wednesday night at the Italian Canadian Club.
Most of the fireworks between the two candidates came from a discussion about protecting public sector workers.
Mlynarz said the last year has been “incredibly difficult” for Guelph Transit operators and riders, and the city has not done enough to support them.
“To be spending $120,000 sometimes a month on overtime to be working drivers to the bone and to allow this to go on for a year, I think is unacceptable,” she said.
Mlynarz criticized Guthrie and council for not reacting quickly enough to address transit issues.
“I’m pleased to say that within the last month, we now have the full complement to support the routes across the city of Guelph,” Guthrie said in response.
He added that a service review into Guelph Transit currently underway will help address some of the issues.
BELOW: Cam Guthrie and Aggie Mlynarz meet in the first Guelph mayoral debate of the 2018 campaign
Mlynarz got under the mayor’s skin when she brought up an arbitration hearing between the city and Guelph’s firefighters.
“Why are we taking our firefighters to arbitration when they’ve asked for a seven per cent increase and taking them to that negotiating table?” She asked.
In his response, Guthrie accused Mlynarz of having inside information from the firefighters’ union.
“The fact that you know some inside information from the fire union and you’re negotiating with that in the public right now just shows me that you are not experienced at all to take a leadership position as the mayor,” he said.
Before being cut off by the moderator, Mlynarz tried to explain the details of the arbitration hearing between the two sides was made public.
She later tweeted an article from January 2018 detailing a judge’s decision to dismiss an appeal by the city and award the firefighters a 7.47 per cent pay increase, retroactive to 2015.
The president of the Guelph Professional Firefighters Association also weighed in on the claim.
“There is a report in the media about arbitration, she did not hear it from us,” said Colin Hunter in a series of tweets. “Never have I broke our confidentiality agreement with the corporation and nor would I.”
When asked on Thursday, Guthrie said it wasn’t clear whether Mlynarz was referring to previous negotiations or one currently underway.
“When Ms. Mlynarz raised the subject of fire department negotiations, I was immediately concerned as it is inappropriate to use a mayoral debate to discuss an ongoing labour issue,” he said in a statement. “I appreciate the clarification that has come since the debate and trust that the city and fire union can continue to have productive discussions.”
He also addressed going door-to-door with certain candidates — a strategy of his that has come under fire lately.
Guthrie said he’s doing that because there are candidates misrepresenting themselves by telling constituents they support his platform when they actually don’t.
“They’re using me as an association to try to get votes at the door,” Guthrie said to groans from the audience. “I have been transparent to make sure people are actually aware of those that are supportive of some of the common themes that I have in my platform.”
Mlynarz said consolidating power before an election is not a way to create collaboration with councillors who will be eventually elected.
Guthrie and Mlynarz will meet for a second debate on Monday at city hall that will be hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.
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