Jan. 5, 2018

What we've all been waiting for, election year is finally here

Rejoice! It’s here. This is what we’ve all been waiting for – the New Year.

The new year marked an important milepost, probably nowhere more important than in Nanaimo – 2018 is the year residents get to judge their city council. Since a faction of council has been obsessed with censuring some fellow members, city voters will have the opportunity to turn the tables and censure them.

There is a lot of coffee-row talk about who will be our Mayor, come October. Whoever the candidates for mayor are could be a game changer in who will run for city council to support their favourite candidate. Incumbent Mayor Bill McKay has said he will run, then he won’t and then he will again. Retired Mountie Norm Smith declared a year ago that he wants to be mayor.

We don’t know about Coun. Bill Bestwick who has basically had the mayor’s job by coup since the last election.

Some high profile names are examining the pros and cons of entering the race, but until they announce it would not be fair to name them due to other commitments they have at the present time. If and when they enter the race it could be a very interesting summer and fall in Nanaimo.

I also keep hearing the name of former City Administrator Jerry Berry as a possible candidate for mayor. I’m not hearing it from him though. That could make things interesting, to be sure. I wonder if Jerry would consider taking back his old job as CAO. If the over-all makeup of council changes dramatically there’s a likelihood that there could be an opening.

A group that was formed during and after the soundly-trashed ice centre referendum (defeated by 80 per cent) has been meeting to plan strategy. The group, known as Our Nanaimo, say they won’t run what is often seen as a slate of candidates, but are conducting a search for people they would like to unofficially support – the same thing by a different name.

So far, no prominent names have sprung up other than the usual suspects, and that does not bode well for those wishing to put a completely new face on council. In past elections, with 30 or more candidates in the field for eight seats, it could take less than 30-per-cent support to be a winner. If higher profile candidates do not enter the race, it only increases the chances for incumbents to stay in office because of name recognition. Many voters check off the names they know rather than what they know about those names.

There is also the possibility that some present councillors will see the writing on the wall and not seek re-election. Coun. Diane Brennan is not planning to run, but in politics the nomination deadline can be a magnetic force that drives some back into the field. As of now, the only sure bet is Coun. Sheryl Armstrong who won the by-election in a landslide.

Also, when people see who is likely to be the mayor of a new council they decide to get on board.

A number of the candidates in last year’s by-election stated then that their candidacy was a dry run for the real race this October. If some of the higher vote-getters from the by-election follow through it could turn out to be an interesting race, even though most of them have no background in municipal politics.

Stay tuned, no matter who or what happens, it will be an interesting summer.