Wise and Otherwise

Jun. 13, 2018

0612 - Leonard Krog will confirm Nanaimo's worst-kept secret this afternoon when he launches his campaign for mayor. The kickoff will be at the Coast Bastion Inn at 5 p.m.

I sat down with Leonard – as he likes to be called – to discuss the move from the Legislature to city hall, specifically the mayor’s job. What stood out was the support he received from across the political spectrum that encouraged, even pressured him to run.

Read the full column here

Jun. 10, 2018

Leonard Krog had not officially announced his run for the mayor’s chair in Nanaimo when amateur pundits began serving up scenarios and conspiracies for a provincial byelection.

The one I like was the suggestion that the Greens not run anyone in Nanaimo to ensure that the NDP retain the seat – and by extension remain in government in co-operation with the Greens. Makes perfect sense, right?

Well, let’s analyze that for a moment. The next provincial election could be under a new voting process based on the total votes each party gets in the election. That’s how appointed MLAs would be determined.

With that in mind, would the Greens entertain for even a millisecond that they stand back while the NDP built up its base in Nanaimo, totally unopposed?

If you believe that, you could go to Las Vegas and get some astronomical odds on that one, if they would even take the bet.

The electoral reform plan, if it passes, will change a lot of things forever, including strategic (gang) voting.

• • •

Before people get all wound up about the provincial government collapsing, don't get into a sweat. The Legislature is in summer recess now, so no votes of non=confidence can be held until the fall session.

It makes sense for Krog to keep his seat in the Legislature until after he finds out whether he wins the Nanaimo mayoralty. Even then, that would not put the coalition in a minority.

On top of that, there are predictions that Rich Coleman of the Liberals will follow suit and try for the Surrey mayor's job. In that case, it's a sawoff, back to the same odds we have now. Premier Horgan might well take his sweet time before calling byelections.


Jun. 9, 2018

There was shock and awe when Donald Trump became president of the United States. How could that have happened? In many quarters in the U.S. the reality still has not gained acceptance, they're still looking for Russians in the wood pile.

Remember, Trump was chosen by a plurality in the voting process in the U.S. It was either him or the status quo with Hilary Clinton. They made that choice and the result has been positive for their country.

Theres a lot of similarity with the election of Doug Ford, Ontario’s Trump clone. Ford swept to a resounding electoral victory. Many Ontarians are baffled how voters could have turned to the Ford Conservatives – throughout the campaign there we dire warnings of the sky falling, comparing Ford to the U.S. president. 

The anti-Trump and anti-Ford noise is coming from the well-known swamp, which both have vowed to drain. The anguish is emanating from the swamp creatures trying to retain relevance. 

Instead of wringing hands and gnashing teeth, the swamp creatures should look at the real reason voters in both countries rejected the old politics – they wanted ass kickers. They had enough of the old style of politics. Ontario voters knew what they were getting when Ford was compared to Trump, that was the right prescription after 15 years of disaster at the hands of the Liberals.

Ontario voters also had the proof of the pudding in Saskatchewan where Brad Wall took no prisoners while bringing that province to huge success.

Albertans are assessing their options now for next year's election. Cowboy country has long been known for it's ass kickers.

In British Columbia, voters did not have the same option to kick out the status quo. In default they almost rejected the stale B.C. Liberals for something new but have had to settle for more same-old, same-old with the same Liberals and NDP/Greens. We didn’t have a Ford or Trump and as a result got the convoluted mess we have to put up with for another three years plus. 

Voters know what the old political establishment is offering, and they are not buying it any longer. But they have to have options.

Jun. 3, 2018

It does not take much guessing that the City of Nanaimo and suspended Chief Adminstrative Officer Tracy Samra signed a non-disclosure agreement upon her departure from the city. The city's clam-up about the case was a dead giveaway. Two sentences, that's all.

That’s not unexpected or out of the ordinary, this type of exit has become common-place in public institutions.

So, we’ll never know what the settlement was, unless of course, the details get leaked the same way that the voting record at the in-camera dismissal meeting came out. Councillors Bill Bestwick and Gordon Fuller reportedly went down with the ship with Samra, not supporting the dismissal. Councillor Jim Kipp left the meeting before the vote.

Enough hints have come out to indicate that there was no financial severance agreement, but nothing about any write-off of questionable credit card charges and any other details. If there was no bundle of cash at the end of the line, we need to know that.

To repeat, this type of parting of the ways is quite common, however, that does not make it right. If this were a private corporation the shareholders would be clamouring for details of where their money went. It should be no different with a public body, we are the shareholders and should be entitled to know what our elected representatives committed us to.

Agreed, personnel matters need to be kept from the public domain. We don’t need to know the intimate details regarding internal politics and performance. But in this instance, as high profile as it was, the very least we should know was there or was there not a golden handshake? Was there or was there not a write-off of other financial issues on top of the full salaries collected while under suspension from the jobs. 

This applies to both Samra and dismissed Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Victor Mema. And also to the host of other city management staff who were pushed out of their jobs.

The provincial government tinkers with municipal governance legislation from time to time, and this is one topic that should be addressed. Make necessary changes so municipalities can no longer indulge in secret payouts when it comes to parting ways with employees. It’s called accountability. There needs to be greater disclosure of dismissals about whether they were with or without cause – dismissal with cause should not be rewarded.

Some of the dismissals can be personality clashes between management and other non-union employees. In that case the public should know how much such a spat cost the city.

There has been a raft of dismisssals at city hall, going back for a number of years. Taxpayers don’t know how much money was flushed with parting gifts, deserved on not deserved.

Merv Unger is a retired journalist and former Nanaimo City Councillor, living in Nanaimo.

Jun. 2, 2018

At lunch the other day a group of self-important purveyors of wisdom kicked around our city’s recent happenings as balanced with our past. Sitting around the table were Member of the Legislature, a former mayor, a Nobel Prize winner and a couple of ordinary folks. (Bet you didn’t know we have a Nobel Prize winner in our midst. Neither did I).

The general discussion seemed to conclude that in spite of the warts that may show up in public, Nanaimo has some outstanding achievements in the past 25 years, something of which we should be grateful and proud. There's a real beauty waiting behind those warts.

The discussion got around to what the greatest achievements or events of the past quarter century had the greatest impact on our community. Projects like the Vancouver Island Conference Centre and the Port Theatre came to mind. The growth of Vancouver Island University is another foundation our future is building on. The expansion and upgrades at Nanaimo Airport and the expanding role of the Port of Nanaimo rate up there as well. And who can overlook that waterfront walkway?

“We should ask the people,” opined one of the wise sages, admitting they don’t know everything. So that’s where you come in – what do you feel merits as a major achievement or accomplishment for Nanaimo in the past 25 years – a bricks-and-mortar facility, an event or an achievement of which we are all proud?

There’s no need to sweat the little stuff, it doesn’t really matter, focus on the big picture, be Nanaimo Proud. Think about it, kick it around in your own mind and submit your wise analysis to us at News@nanaimonet.com. You will likely be surprised by what comes up.

All negative images will be filed in the dust bin of history, so don’t even think about it. Get your thinking caps on and give us your moment of pride in our fabulous community.