After nearly 10 months, the next four years of the City of Guelph, and the direction they may take, will be decided by voters. At my polling station today, I encountered something unusual: I had to wait to vote. About 10 minutes. Now 10 minutes is a small price to pay for democracy, but the question now is what impact does a higher than expected voter turnout have on the race? Is it a sign that Karen Farbridge supporters have got our the vote, or a sign that people are anxious for change and going out to their polling station to get. One thing is certain though, despite the polarizing campaign, tomorrow morning, no matter who wins, we will all have to find a way to work together for the good of the city.
An already polarizing race got even more polarized a couple of weeks ago with a paid ad in the Guelph Tribune that posited a close relationship between mayoral candidate Cam Guthrie and convicted robocall conspirator Michael Sona. The ad ignored the minor, but somewhat important fact that Guthrie was neither suspected nor charged in the 2011 robocall voter fraud in Guelph, his name has not come up in investigation, there is no evidence to tie him to any facet of the scheme, and aside from his attendance at some Conservative events, there's really nothing to say he was actively involved in campaigning for Conservative candidate Marty Burke in 2011.
The next day, as the identity of the ad's messenger was still unknown, Team Farbridge rejoiced to a Toronto Star article that praised the Guelph race for being an election of ideas, while Toronto descended into a morass of personality politics. The article was quite flattering, especially if you're a fan of Farbridge's policy directions of the last eight years. I pointed out on Twitter that while the article was nice, it only looked cursorily at the affairs of our fair little 'burg and was fairly light on details, and thus the problems with the various platforms like transparency and transit. It was then pointed out to me, that a Guthrie win would mean a rewind on those progressive acts of governance that the Star liked so much because of the Ward 4 councillor's support amongst "grumpy, old, white" men and "misogynistic" "Cro-Magnons" who will usher in the "apocalypse."
I understand wanting to stand up for your candidate, but if the apocalypse falls on October 28, I doubt it will have much to do with Cam Guthrie whether he's mayor or not. More to the point, no matter who wins tonight, and no matter the position they win, they will be representing everyone in the city, or their ward, for the next four years. Cam Guthrie will not by the mayor of those that voted for him anymore than Karen Farbridge has been the mayor for those that voted for her. The city is best served when we put politics aside in order to address the needs of the many. And if the recent experience of Torontoians with an intractably corrupt mayor has taught us anything, it's that the mayor is only one vote, and he still needs majority support, which to put another way is "consensus."
On the other side, there's a lot of schadenfreude about watching Frbridge, as unofficial figurehead of Guelph progressiveness, face an uphill battle this campaign. Gerry Barker is the head cheerleader here, and in recent days he's revisited a satirical blog that mocked Farbridge's predecessor Kate Quarrie. The thing about Quarrie is not that people didn't like her because she was conservative, people didn't like her because she was a bully and acted entitled in the job. Some people jokingly call Farbridge "Her Highness," but Quarrie was the one who acted like she was a queen. It was Quarrie's obstinate nature that galvanized people against her in 2006, and the lesson there is that being elected mayor isn't, in a real sense, the end of the campaigning.
So as the sun rises tomorrow, and it will rise no matter who wins, is that we have to keep in mind that an election win isn't a blank cheque to go back to your camp and stew for four years, or reversely, to beat your chest, go to the filing cabinet and start tearing up the plans for all the projects you never supported in the first place. Tomorrow, we will start new discussions, make new plans, and have a new agenda, and we can either all be part of the conversation and be recognized by others as a part of it, or we can let partisanship and bitter feelings self-replicate in our social media bubbles until they errupt in new rounds of vitriol in 2018.
The choice, as always, is ours.
Tune in to CFRU 93.3 fm or cfru.ca to hear live election results and analysis with me, Jan Hall, Oliver Rockside, Scotty Hertz, Andy Best and Christopher Currie.