The annual State of the City speech by Guelph’s mayor is a chance for to tout the accomplishments of the last year, and promote policy initiatives and goals for the new year. This year, there was a lot for the City to overcome, and while Mayor Cam Guthrie did celebrate that survival success, his simple desire for 2021 is that Guelph’s residents stay the course, and not lose hope.
“I’m asking everyone to please embrace kindness as we go into 2021. That’s my vision. That’s my hope for this year, especially when it comes to online dialogue,” Guthrie said to a virtual gathering of Guelph Chamber of Commerce members and the media. “I’m seeing a real big increase of just very negative comments and negative things being said, and no one needs that right now.”
Guthrie asked everyone to figure out a way to not be keyboard warriors, and instead focus on ways we can use our keyboards to help. “Maybe you can figure out a way of communicating in a safe and healthy way with neighbours or some others in the city that you didn’t know before,” Guthrie said. “How can you extend kindness to your neighbor? How can you extend kindness to the business sector? How can the business sector send kindness back to the citizen? Let’s just embrace kindness.”
Although Guthrie’s State of the City is usually a pretty well-prepared speech that revolves around a gimmick, the mayor’s 2021 address was more off-the-cuff. “I’m going to just kind of blab and go through a lot of things that I think were huge highlights for 2020,” Guthrie said.
Those highlights included council approval for the new main library and the south end community centre, a below average tax levy increase for 2021 that still offered a lot of community assistance, and his advocacy work through the Ontario Big City Mayor’s group. In keeping with the kindness theme, Guthrie thanked Guelph for supporting local businesses through the worst of the pandemic.
“I found that the citizens of Guelph have really embraced the shop local mantra, but I think even as we come out of COVID, we must really make an effort to continue to support those small and medium sized businesses,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie also addressed other matters in his speech including a subject that comes before council on Monday, supportive housing.
“I want to thank the community for really trying to understand what supportive housing is, and I see a lot of people taking the time to educate themselves on what it is,” the mayor said. “What this virus has really done is show the upper levels of government what activist groups and municipalities have been saying for a long time: We have to get our most vulnerable out of tents in the forest, and into supportive housing for either an addiction or mental health issue.”
On last summer’s demonstrations for social justice and racial equality, Guthrie said that the City is trying to move forward on the issues raised, and has received several reports on ways things can improve in the community.
“We need to be accountable, and all of the work that I’m seeing to date has been excellent,” Guthrie said. “It’s not the mayor and council saying, ‘This is what we’re gonna do, follow us,’ it is us following beside, or following from behind, as the community leads us through these topics. I’m very thankful to the many groups in the City of Guelph and the individuals that have called me to become a part of the process and the changes that we’re looking at implementing at City Hall.
“We’re going to be doing lots of work in 2021 through our community plan, so I ask the community to be fully engaged in that,” he added.
You can watch the mayor’s speech in the video below, and you watch the Q&A with Chamber members below that: