A public school trustee was forced to apologize to Mayor Cam Guthrie after tweeting that it was “idiotic” for the mayor to “fully trust and believe” heath minister Christine Elliott’s stance that she would work with Ontario cities to improve emergency medical care, meeting minutes published by the board revealed.
On April 17, the mayor retweeted Elliott who said “as we modernize our health care system, we will empower paramedics to improve the already great emergency care they provide”, adding “we are working with frontline paramedics and our municipal partners to ensure emergency health services can better meet the needs of Ontario’s communities.”
The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford had just announced they were merging 59 local ambulances services into 10 across the province in a move they said would “improve care for patients and reduce duplication”. The organization representing municipalities was shocked and concerned over the moves.
Guthrie said in his comment that that he believed the minister would work with the Association of Municipalities Ontario, cities and paramedics to “make our system better”, encouraging his followers to “give it time” for the changes to improve emergency services. Elliot belongs to a Progressive Conservative government that has come under fire for cuts to healthcare and several other sectors.
In response to the tweet a day later, Upper Grand District School Board Trustee Mike Foley wrote “that’s mind bogglingly idiotic to follow that level of belief. Really.” Several comments in reply were supportive of his stance, but the mayor’s response was partially sarcastic and punchy.
“How respectful [UGDSB] trustee for calling me an idiot. You’re a great example for your next anti-bullying campaign you want to promote in your schools,” the mayor typed in response.
Former trustee Susan Moziar replied to Guthrie, writing, “that’s embarrassing, Cam.” A user by the name of Chet took a more diplomatic approach, writing that “as much as we respect the mayor’s hopeful position…the current history of ‘tax-saving’ at any cost, including investing in our kids, strongly suggests an untrustworthy, short-sighted provincial government.”
“100 per cent agree” wrote Anti Roberts, saying “nothing else from the Conservatives has been true”, encouraging Foley to “stand your ground” and telling Guthrie to “cool it”. Roberts wrote “he didn’t call you an idiot, he called the belief idiotic.”
Foley says it is in the past now. He told The Post that he apologized formally in public but also met with Guthrie and apologized privately and the mayor accepted it. Foley said his response to Guthrie in April was an “unfortunate misinterpretation”, and emphasized that there was no malice involved.
UGDSB Chair Linda Busuttil, who was informed of the incident by the mayor, said that Foley’s response was not “formally referred to the Trustee Code of Conduct Committee” but rather “an informal process of addressing [Foley’s] comments on social media was followed as per the Board’s Trustee Code of Conduct policy.”
When pressed over whether Foley was pressured by the mayor’s office, the chair or if he apologized on his own accord, Busuttil and the media contact for the board did not reply.
The meeting minutes were posted recently on the Upper Grand District School Board website. The meetings are public but are not often attended by city press. The board is comprised of 10 trustees who sit for a four-year term, much like Council.
Guthrie, sometimes considered a conservative-leading politician, was re-elected last year as the mayor of Guelph for a second term. Foley is a retired corrections officer who has years of political activism under his belt, including running as a New Democrat, and won the race against longtime incumbents to be trustee for Wards 2, 3 and 4 last year.
Guthrie came under fire earlier this year for multiple retweets shared from Tory accounts, including one on the same day where he retweeted deputy Conservative Party deputy leader Lisa Raitt regarding the Alberta provincial election.
The Post reached out for comment from the mayor earlier on Friday but because the mayor was “out of town at meetings” he was unable to respond previous to publishing time, his office said. Any response will be added to this story.