Last Wednesday, the Guelph Mercury and Conestoga College hosted a debate between the city’s four mayoral candidates at the Guelph Place Banquet Hall. Because, I was concerned with job applications and other money-making endeavours I was unable to attend, but thankfully the whole thing was being streamed live over the internet. As I tweeted during the debate, I wasn’t sure if the debate was good politics, but it was certainly good theatre.
Overall, I will say that while the debate started off kind of heated when Ray Mitchell took a swipe at David Birtwistle, the debate did quickly settle into an honest, free-flow exchange of ideas. It was easily the most engaging debate I’ve seen this election cycle, and probably the one where there’s been the most obvious ideological division between candidates. We’ll see what becomes of the Chamber of Commerce’s mayoral debate on Tuesday.
Anyway, without going into my typical blow-by-blow of the debate, I jotted down some impressions of the candidates.
David Birtwistle – Strangely enough, he’s the candidate that impressed me the most. I appreciated his honest answer to the question about the raid on the Medical Cannabis Club of Guelph saying that it turned him on to the idea of medicinal marijuana. He said that pot should be treated like alcohol, and that the fact that some people will abuse it is not an excuse for prohibition. Birtwistle then called some graffiti “interesting art work” and said that he’ll look into returning bus service to stat holidays. I’m not sure if Birtwistle won over a lot of new support, but he definitely made an impression that he’s not a Quarrie-repeat.
Karen Farbridge – The mayor was clearly the most polished politician in the room, and managed to hold to her talking points while speaking positively and convincingly of her last term in office. I was somewhat less impressed with her answer concerning the medicinal marijuana question as she basically said go ask Frank Valeriote. Technically, she is correct because it is a federal issue, but still this is something that’s seriously affecting people in her own backyard.
Ray Mitchell – After introducing himself jokingly as Rob Ford, Mitchell came out swinging and didn’t stop swinging until the debate was over, even hitting a few runs in the process. Answering a question about nightlife, Mitchell pointed out that “people in Paris don’t talk about the nightlife in Paris” and spoke passionately about the poor, the youth and arts and culture in the City of Guelph, or at least spoke with more authority on those topics then some people would give him credit for. If nothing else, Mitchell proved he was a serious candidate, even if he says he’s not.
Scott Nightingale – Let it be known far and wide that Scott Nightingale will forever be called the “Bathroom Guy.” Nightingale bolted after his closing remarks to go to the bathroom. Still he scored some decent points suggesting that better training of bar staff might mitigate some of the drunken antics downtown, and also suggested that one of the things affecting participation in the arts in the city was the cost of a ticket to the River Run Centre. If nothing else, Nightingale proved his own declaration that a vote for him is a vote for the everyman.
The next mayoral debate will take place in the Guelph Council Chambers on Tuesday at 6 pm. It will also be shown live on Rogers Cable 20.