Karen Farbridge, Backstabbing And Her Bid For Re-election
Jan Andrea Hall, Royal City Rag
Since Mayor Karen Farbridge announced her bid for re-election this past Thursday, February 24, one or two of her supporters have publicly alluded to the fact that the Mayor has been “stabbed in the back” by erstwhile supporters during her current term.
They believe that, as many progressive Guelphites worked hard to get her re-elected in 2006, after a fairly dysfunctional term under Mayor Quarrie, we should not only be happy to have her back, but keep quiet and remain supportive, regardless of the decisions her council and administration choose to make.
Unfortunately not everyone can do that, and, for that reason, are shunted off into the “backstabbing” group of the disaffected.
I count myself in that category even though I am as progressive as they come.
As far as I’m concerned, Farbridge’s administration has been found wanting on all the ‘big decision items’ of the past three years… the upgrades to the Hanlon Expressway, the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park and the Strategic Urban Forestry Master Plan (otherwise known as the urgent need for a much stronger protective by-law).
I call them the big decision items because they will have a huge effect on this city, for years to come. Progressive Guelphites choked over the previous council’s decision to support the Commercial Policy Review setting up four large shopping centre ‘nodes’ around the city. Yet, the Hanlon Expressway and Hanlon Creek Business Park decisions will have far more impact over the coming years.
Farbridge’s supporters may say that these are done deals; the Hanlon Expressway upgrades being ordained by the province through the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (colloquially known as the Ministry for Roads) and the Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) by previous administrations.
But would it have hurt to question whether the right decisions were made or whether these proposed projects could have been improved upon, especially in the case of the HCBP, where the city is the primary developer?
That Farbridge chose to remain silent at the Guelph Civic League convened public meeting in March about Hanlon Creek at Norfolk Street United Church suggests that she may not be cut out for high office in Guelph. Instead of offering a few words of welcome she instead chose to sit at the back with body language suggesting that she really wished she was somewhere else entirely.
The fact that council barely emitted a whimper with respect to the assumptions underlying the provincial growth plan Places To Grow, and the need for Guelph to grow from 105,000 to a whopping 165,000 people by 2031 raises questions about a serious deficit of leadership at City Hall.
The bullying tactics that have been employed to stifle opposition to the Hanlon Creek Business Park, including this week’s SLAPP suit, also raises questions about the direction the city is moving in. So much for community consultation.
We have now been waiting nineteen years for a new protective tree by-law. Farbridge talked about this as a priority in 2003 (more on this in a future commentary)yet we are still waiting. And in the meantime, we continue to lose our tree canopy.
Add to that, the fact that the City had a Transparency and Accountability Committee meet for two years to, amongst other things, discuss the important (but under the Municipal Act, currently discretionary) positions of Lobbyist Registrar, Auditor General, Ombudsmen and Integrity Commissioner only for the City’s Governance Committee to recommend against proceeding with these checks and balances until after the next election. This only raises further concerns about how truly accountable and transparent the current administration wants to be.
Is Mayor Farbridge the right Mayor for Guelph?
I went into the last municipal election in 2006 with high hopes that clearly haven’t been met. Farbridge is clearly strong on process (perhaps too strong?) but is she capable of taking the big decisions and making a stand.
I hope that if her re-election is successful she will turn back to her progressive roots and move in a truly sustainable direction. Enough of the spin and green-washing, please.
People need to consider what is best for Guelph for the next four years and beyond when they go to vote.
Mayor Farbridge may like the idea of being Guelph’s Hazel McCallion, but do we really have to look like Mississauga too?
Jan Andrea Hall
Royal City Rag will continue to focus on what is important for the common good as we move forward with the election. We will not shy from bringing forward issues. Expect many more commentaries on the record of the current council and hopes for the next council as we move towards the election.