Shelagh McFarlane wants to see the position of mayor become one that better represents the wishes of residents rather than global and profit-driven interests. That’s the main reason she decided to throw her hat into the ring and run for the city’s top elected job this fall.
“I’d like an opportunity to fix what I feel is the problem here,” she said.
“The mayor should actually be very impartial, very just, fair, (and) should not come in with any motives or agendas,” McFarlane added, explaining issues should filter up to council from residents through their councillors. “Then they come to council. … We do not have a representative political council, which is your voice.”
She believes the mayor’s position has diminished in status during recent years, with many issues coming down from a global perspective, such as promotion of sustainable development, without fully taking into account their impact on Guelph residents or residents’ wishes regarding those issues.
McFarlane likens the mayor’s position to that of a rooster guarding a hen house. They are to warn of any coming intruders such as weasels and foxes, and services the hens (in this case, Guelph residents).
“If you take (a rooster) down from the post and you put him in the house, he can’t do his job and weasels will take over. That is what’s happening now,” she said. “We’ve taken our head of local government and put him in the corporate house and castrated him from all other duties.”
Beyond governmental reform, McFarlane’s campaign isn’t tied to her opinion on any particular issue.
“You can kick and scream all you want about libraries and arts funding and roads, but you don’t have your filter,” she said referring to issues being raised by residents. “Control is out of the people’s hands.”
McFarlane has lived in Guelph since 2015, currently residing in Ward 3. She initially moved here in order to be closer to her aging parents in Bronte, a section of Oakville.
“I like the feel of Guelph. My sister went to university here. It’s friendly,” she added. “I made some friends here and just kind of stuck around.
“I like it a lot.”
She previously lived in Kincardine, where she ran for a councillor’s position in 2014.
While she lost that election at the ballot box, she feels like it was a win because the campaign allowed her to raise concerns about plans to establish an underground nuclear waste facility in the area – a plan that has since been abandoned following public opposition.
At the very least, she’s looking to have a similar impact in Guelph. Even if she doesn’t win the election, she’s looking forward to discussing her concerns about governance with area residents and her fellow candidates.
McFarlane spends time in the downtown area volunteering as an “addictions services support worker.” She doesn’t do this as an employee of local agencies, but as an individual.
She hadn’t seriously considered running for political office until earlier this year, inspired in part by the trucker’s convoy earlier this year in Ottawa. She was part of that protest for nearly three weeks.
“All of a sudden we went from a very peaceful, wonderful, Canadian celebration on Parliament Hill … to an overbearing War Measures Act, horses and troops we didn’t even recognize, all because the truckers were asking for proof of the science that they had to quarantine (for 10 days after re-entering the country),” she said. “They weren’t bucking vaccinations.
“It’s one thing to say ‘OK, science’ but if you won’t stand behind it, then we’ve got some problems.”
McFarlane, who said her bank account was frozen after, took her concerns to the home of incumbent mayor Cam Guthrie in an attempt to provide him with a letter and documents that outline both the truckers’ efforts and her concerns about how governments are operating.
Guthrie confirmed the incident and said he reported it to police later that night because he felt threatened and out of concern for others he said McFarlane intended to approach with her concerns.
McFarlane states she had no intention of threatening him.
Also running for mayor are Guthrie, Danny Drew, Nicholas A. Ross, John Edward Krusky and William Albabish.
The municipal election is set for Oct. 24, with the next term of council beginning in November.