On Campus Mayoral Debate Well Attended

Friday, November 3, 2006


Written by May Warren

After months of knocking on doors and debating the issues Guelph’s mayoral candidates faced what may have been their biggest challenge yet: a room full of stressed out students. On November 2nd Mark Briestensky, Karen Farbridge and Bev Izzillo-Ustation gathered in Peter Clark Hall to answer questions from U of G students and community members. Unfortunately, current mayor Kate Quarrie was unavailable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict.

The candidates began by offering their opening statements to the assembled crowd of about one hundred people. Candidate Mark Briestensky spoke about the importance of moving past ideology and mud slinging in politics. He insisted he has many good ideas for the city and urged people not to vote strategically.

Karen Farbridge spoke about her involvement with the University of Guelph, as both a former student and professor. She described her term as Guelph's first female mayor and her desire to be reinstated in order to develop a more pedestrian friendly city with an affordable rate of growth.

“It’s my turn now” responded candidate Bev Izzillo-Ustation who argued that both Kate and Karen have already had their chance to run city hall. “I’m a people person, I care about everyone,” she told the crowd, adding that the university community is a city within a city and deserves to be treated that way.

After the opening statements, students were invited to quiz the candidates on the issues. Questions that came up included police presence downtown, growth, water conservation, transit, and city hall accessibility.

Izzillo-Ustation stressed the importance of an increased downtown police presence and even the development of an anti-terrorism plan for Guelph. She said she agrees with the idea of the campus bus pass but did not speak about expanding or improving Guelph’s Transit service. Nonetheless, she feels students are an important part of the city. “Students should be part of city hall,” she argued, pledging that if elected students can “knock on her door and have coffee.”

Farbridge used a lot of he time to speak to environmental and conservation issues, including the importance of carefully planned growth. She spoke against the controversial idea of a pipeline shipping water from Lake Erie into Guelph. “It’s not for Guelph, not now, not ever,” she argued.
Farbridge calls herself a “strong supporter of the bus pass”, and says she will push for an extension of Guelph's Transit service. Farbridge also argued for the development of a pesticide bi-law, which so far has only had a first reading in city council.

“The pesticide ban didn’t go through because the current council didn’t want it, just like Kate Quarrie didn’t really want to be here,” agreed Briestensky who also says he’s in favour of such a bi-law.

A common theme in Briestensky’s comments was cleaning up the “dysfunctional” behavior in city hall and creating a more functional council. “So far there have been two different administrations, left and right and they just won’t work with each other,” he argued.

Cleaning up municipal politics and increasing public consultation also appeared in Farbridge's comments. “Citizens are not welcome at Kate Quarrie's city hall,” she told the crowd. All of the candidates spoke passionately about the role of municipal politics in student’s lives and urged them to get out and vote on November 13.

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  1. Posted by: Sue Richards on Nov 4, 2006 @ 10:05am

    It seems pretty simple to me. Kate can't relate to students.

    And yet, you are an integral part of what makes this city terrific.

    As an alumni that ended up staying, I urge you to vote for a mayoral candidate that can relate to your needs and concerns.

  2. Posted by: John L on Nov 4, 2006 @ 10:15am

    No doubt Kate, or her advisors, determined that she could give it a miss.

    Students have a miserable history of voting, even in their own CSA elections. That should be a big issue for the CSA Executive; if you can't get your own membership to vote in your elections how credible are you in the big picture?

    The few students who will vote are not likely to vote for Quarrie anyway.

    The organizers at Unigoo may not be neutral toward the various candidates.

    Quarrie had nothing to gain from appearing here.

  3. Posted by: tom on Nov 4, 2006 @ 10:40am

    Are students votes really important to the city?

    I am a student but from what i can see at the csa the views presented on our behalf encompass the fact that we are only here for 1,2, or 3 more years(for the most part) and only for part of the year. The views presented by the CSA tend to be ideological and do not take into account the realities of living here for life.

    Gross exaggeration maybe. but then again maybe not.

  4. Posted by: Gonzalo on Nov 4, 2006 @ 12:46pm

    Hey Tom,

    The CSA does not "take into account the realities of living here for life," as you put it, because it is a student union that has a mandate to take care of its members - undergraduate students. The CSA will defend what they think is the better option for students, not for the population at large.

    As for the "1,2 or 3 years" argument, Guelph has to assume that it has a very large floating population of people that come to live here and leave 4 years later. It would be fair if City Council reflected that, because it is the reality of the city. There are a lot of non-students that will vote in this election that will end up living in Guelph less than the standard 4-year degree time, and that does not make their votes less valid. Thinking that our votes are less worthy because we're in this permanent "transitory" status is precisely what Quarrie is banking on.

    Food for thought.

  5. Posted by: Bre Walt on Nov 4, 2006 @ 1:14pm

    Hi Tom,

    Student votes are important, and the issues that arise in the city are important to us which gives us an obligation to vote. Issues involving Guelph Transit hours and service, housing bylaws, and the image of students within the community. These are all important and I hope you will realize your importance within this city.

    As students we now have an obligation to stand up to a mayor that refuses to recognize our importance. We have more students registered to vote than ever before, and that's the bottom line. We have the power to make real change, for ourselves and for the rest of the Guelph community.

    If you would like to talk about CSA elections, we spend a lot on advertising and promotions, as well as doing tons of classroom speaking. We would love to hear any ideas you have to increase voter turnout.


    Bre Walt

  6. Posted by: on Nov 4, 2006 @ 2:56pm

    Hi John L:

    Re your comment: "Students have a miserable history of voting, even in their own CSA elections."

    Quorum for CSA election is 10% of the student body, which is actually much higher than most schools. Given that quorum for referendum questions ia 20% of the student body, the CSA regularly exceeds their quorum by a huge amount. Once quorum is reached, the polls are closed. Try calling other universities and asking them what their quorum is for student elections. Also try making constructive suggestions to increase voter turnout.

    Further, Quarrie probably didn't have anything to gain from attending here because she has not done anything for students. Maybe this should be of consideration. A mayor should encourage students to vote, and should engage them, particularly when they represent one sixth of her electorate.


  7. Posted by: John L on Nov 5, 2006 @ 9:03am

    I'm not convinced that comparing low expectations at Guelph with even lower expectations elsewhere proves much. At the end of the day about 90% of the membership don't vote in multi day, multipolling station elections. The question is why and what the plan is to increase student interest in their CSA. I do applaud the current CSA Exec for evolving past the "students are outraged/appalled/ shocked, etc." rhetoric

  8. Posted by: Sue Richards on Nov 5, 2006 @ 10:59am

    Council will sit for 4 years. Students attend Guelph for an average of 4 years.

    A voice is a voice. You are entitled to vote. If you don't believe your voice is important, why would anyone else?

  9. Posted by: jim on Nov 6, 2006 @ 9:18am

    Just a question

    How can our students association be appalled that Kate Quarrie wants to take a serious look at composting and guelphs 3tiered garbage system, after the current composting structure is severely corroded after only half its supposed life due to... emissions given off during composting, when the CSA has not even convinced the university to implement 3-tiered garbage in residences.

    probably because students do NOT care

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