First Televised Debate Brings Out Best and Worst In Candidates

Monday, October 30, 2006

Written by Scott Gilbert

The Guelph Mercury hosted the first televised debate of the municipal election campaign between 7pm and 9pm Monday night at Guelph Place Banquet Hall. All four candidates attended and participated fully. This was the first chance students had to ask questions of the current mayor Kate Quarrie, yet there were only three students in attendance, likely due to the location. Unless you want to sit for an hour on the bus, you needed to have a car to get to the venue.

But nevertheless, a few did attend and they were able to get a feel for each of the candidates. Bev Izzillo-Ustation came off as a very sweet person who is trying hard, but a little out of it. Mark Briestensky was clearly trying to capitalize on the divide between Kate Quarrie and Karen Farbridge by saying over and over that he is “not left or right” and “not being supported by the unions of the developers”. Karen Farbridge handled herself well overall, but got flustered at times when certain questions were thrown at her (one man commented that she was not wearing her poppy correctly because a portion of it was being covered by the collar of her shirt). Kate Quarrie certainly received the most air time all night but this had a lot to do with the fact that she has not been answerable to many ofher constituents thus far.

She has turned down 25 requests for media commentary so far (she even got the name wrong of the moderator, who works for the Guelph Mercury) and has refused to speak on campus, even in a pre-record statement for CFRU. This reporter got to ask Quarrie how she can find the time to be mayor when she won’t address any of the 17,000 students on campus? They are, after all, one-sixth of her constituents.

She replied that she comes to campus every two weeks to speak with students, which would surely be news to many there. With exactly two weeks between now and election day, she as recently as last week refused an offer from the CSA to come to campus at any time that suited her schedule.

Briestensky really went overboard to try and distance himself from either Quarrie or Farbridge. He kept slamming both of them, yet at the same time didn’t offer anything other than “I’m not right wing or left wing”. Many initially thought he would be competing against Farbridge, but it is clear his intention is to take votes equally from both Farbridge and Quarrie, although he was not very good at it.

Izzillo-Ustation was by far the funniest of the quadrad, but in a good way; she was the only one to crack jokes, and they were pretty good ones too. She did however miss the point of several questions, and at one point asked for a “synopsis” of a question. One of her answers began with "Anything I say is because I'm on the outside, I'm just a guessin'". Izzillo-Ustation has been running every year for 25 years and her campaign slogan this time is “It’s my turn now!” She will not be winning this election and my politics differ from hers considerably, but she should be commended for coming to all the debates and standing up for what she believes in. She certainly appears to be a sweet woman who cares about the community.

Farbridge seemed somewhat flustered at times and stuttered a lot, but she did highlight her plans to extend the hours of Guelph transit, which drew support. She came off as the level headed candidate and clearly has a considerable amount of experience with the position. She served as mayor before Quarrie and has been on city council for a total of nine years. Both her and Quarrie had a considerable amount of supporters in the room.

All the predictable issues such as growth, urban sprawl, water and development were touched on, with nothing new or groundbreaking coming up. Both Farbridge and Quarrie took several hits each from well planted questions that were clearly geared to make them look bad. They worked in just about all cases. Quarrie certainly did a good job of spinning questions. She blamed her poor rating from the Guelph Civic League on her voting record as evidence of being "balanced" because a score of 52 out of 100 means that she is catering to all sides.

One thing was raised that I had never heard before. Apparently Quarrie plagiarized her inauguration speech. Of the many accusations leveled against her, she did not deny this one.

On the issue of business, both Quarrie and Farbridge did a good job of catering to the interests of Guelph enterprise. Both said they wanted to see changes made so that both industry and small businesses are attracted to Guelph and provided the incentives to make them stay.

Farbrige’s comments overall focused more on a sustainable Guelph, while Quarrie’s focused more on business in Guelph. Quarrie ended her closing statement with: "We have opened this city for business". She certainly won’t be missing the next televised debate which is hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

Although there was no clear winner of the debate, Farbridge certainly handled herself the best, Quarrie lied on multiple occasions, Briestensky came off as trying too hard to position himself as a moderate and Izzillo-Ustation, although trying her best, showed that she just isn’t cut out for mayor.

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