Cam Guthrie jumped at the opportunity to point out the inexperience of his sole competition for the mayor's seat in the Oct. 22 election during a mayoral debate Wednesday night.
Roughly 350 people packed into a room at the Italian Canadian Club for the debate between Guthrie and Aggie Mlynarz, with the two fielding prepared questions from event organizers then questions from the audience submitted in written form.
Sparks flew during an otherwise civil 90 minutes during responses to a question about about private sector employment and if the candidates would protect secure, decently paid jobs for public service workers.
Mlynarz talked about the city "working bus drivers to the bone," wage rollbacks at the Waste Resource Centre and then struck a nerve with Guthrie when she turned to the city's ongoing contract negotiations with its firefighters.
"Why are we taking our firefighters to arbitration when they've asked for a 7 per cent increase, and taking them to that negotiating table?" Mlynarz asked.
Guthrie bristled in response.
"The fact that you know some inside information from the fire union and you negotiating with that in the public right now just shows me that you're not experienced at all to take a leadership position as mayor, because you shouldn't be negotiating with labour in the public realm. That's unacceptable and that's not what you do," Guthrie said.
Mlynarz tried to interrupt the mayor, saying "that's public information."
But her attempt to further respond was cut short by the debate moderator, University of Guelph vice-president Charlotte Yates, who pointed out that the rules of the debate dictated it was Guthrie's turn to have the last word.
Maynard later tweeted a newspaper article indicating firefighters were awarded a 7.47 per cent raise by an arbitrator, an award the city appealed.
Mlynarz would actually address the issue of her lack of political experience at the end of the night during her closing remarks.
"I recognize that I'm a different type of candidate," she said. "Over the last two weeks or so, what I've been hit with the most is the question of experience."
She said her generation, the "millennials," is that they feel they are not properly represented.
In the last 10 years Mlynarz has held several jobs, earning two university degrees in the process.
"I think what this experience has taught me .... is that my passion wasn't being met and I have so much more fire to offer. And that was my motivation in running for office.
"This generation's voice matters, my voice matters, and I think we do deserve a seat at the table because we offer an incredible perspective on what is happening to us now and also an unrelenting hope to make it better."
Guthrie highlighted his accomplishments during his term as mayor in saving the city millions of dollars.
"Guelph is on the right track, but I know there is work to be done," Guthrie said. "A stronger and safer community requires the whole community."
Mlynarz got her own barb in late in the evening after Guthrie espoused his support for the building of the new main branch library.
"I'm glad you changed your mind," Mlynarz said dryly, referring to Guthrie's position from years past.
"So am I," Guthrie replied. "It was the right thing to do."
Most of the questions on the night covered familiar ground that both candidates have repeatedly stated their positions on, including answers straight from their platform: housing affordability, protecting the water supply as Guelph expands south, addressing the opioid crisis among them.
Mlynarz repeated several times the issues with Guelph Transit and drivers being "worked to the bone."
Guthrie responded that it was a result of new hires not making the grade during driver training that led to a situation of increased overtime and dropped routes. He said the ongoing service review of Guelph Transit that he initiated would also help improve the system.
Both candidates support the removal of single-use plastics, such as bottled water, from city facilities.
The recent hot topic of Guthrie going door to door campaigning with certain candidates also came up.
Mlynarz said it would lead to divisiveness for the next council and was introducing a "party mentality" to the council horseshoe.
Guthrie said he did it because certain council candidates were "misrepresenting themselves" at the door and saying they are in favour of Guthrie's "stronger and safer" platform that includes spending an additional $700,000 a year on more police officers.
"And yet on October 23rd, when the lights are on with the camera, they're going to completely switch things around. They're using me as an association to try and get votes at the door," Guthrie said, which drew a loud reaction from members of the audience.
"I go to the doors and I do my own communication," Mlynarz said in response.
A second mayoral debate, hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, is planned for Monday, Oct. 1, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Guelph City Hall.