Oct. 15, 2018

Countdown under way toward Saturday election

The qualifications to become a candidate in municipal elections are extremely low while the qualifications to be a councillor are extremely high. 

Over the past 36 years in Nanaimo as a journalist I’ve constantly had people seeking my views of the candidates. I don’t endorse, this my impression of the candidates who have submitted their information to Nanaimonet readers, and from observing at various public events.

We have 40 candidates for city council, but not even close to that number have what it takes to actually do the job of councillors. Look at it as though these candidates are applying for a job, and you are the employer conducting the interviews, because you really are.

Studying the candidates’presentations on Nanaimonet.com you can read between the lines as to who stands out, and it’s quite clear cut with many of them. There are those who have studied what is required and can discuss the role with intelligence. The others, in too many cases, pontificate on issues that are way outside what council has jurisdiction over. 

Or they spiel a string of buzzwords and platitudes that have no relation to the job. There are countless examples like suggestions on having the city build a new hospital or establishing a bus route between Nanaimo, the airport and Ladysmith. 

The most-used is to build city housing for the homeless. Those candidates’hearts are in the right place, but again, that is not solely the city’s role. The federal and provincial governments have that task, and they would be only too happy download it to municipalities, shifting the burden to your property taxes.

At the mayors’debate there were a number of questions (suggestions) for audits of the city’s books. Too many candidates seem unaware that annual audits are done, as required by provincial legislation. To take it one step further, a previous provincial government established a new municipal audit division, taking accountability one step further. Those audited statements are tabled regularly by the city in an annual report.

There are a number of promising newcomers on the ballot, candidates who have demonstrated that they are well versed for the job, and that they will not require a lot of on-the-job training. A number of them have held numerous events where voters could meet them and get an opinion of what they stand for.

Here’s how I see it, based on my observations, with the benefit of statistics on how often their platform pages have been viewed on Nanaimonet.com. It’s not a scientific poll, only an overview of voter interest. See all PLATFORMS HERE. 

Erin Hemmens has done her homework and is a good communicator, a vital requirement for the job. Communication also means listening, and she appears to be on track there. That is especially true in view of the public perception that there’s too much done behind closed doors. She’ll likely be very near the top in the final results.

Brian Loos seems to have come out of nowhere. Though not well known on the civic scene, his performance at the candidate functions shows he knows what he is talking about, and is attracting a lot of attention. 

Zeni Maartmanwho has served on the school board and has experience in the business world, is also getting a lot of traction.  

Jim Turley brings a vast amount of Nanaimo’s background history with him, having been involved in business and downtown issues. Now that he’s retired from the business world he could add a lot of what will essentially be a rookie-laden council.

Those are four candidates who could bring new blood to the table. That raises the issue of having at least some experienced on the corporate board of the city, especially with an inexperienced mayor, with an interim city manager and a depleted managerial staff. When you mark your ballot ask yourself if these are the people you want in charge of spending $180 million of your tax money. Experience will be the key to getting the new council off on the right track.

Gary Korpan has that, having previously been both a councillor and the mayor. He has an extensive background in municipal governance and regulations and that could certainly help whoever becomes our new mayor. The new candidates will need a tutor, and Korpan brings that to the table.

Jeet Manhas is another former councillor, with six years on city council. He has also been a director and chairman of the Port of Nanaimo and is a successful business man.

That’s six, leaving room for two more, and this is where it gets tough – the field is loaded with talent. There are many more worthy of a serious look.

Michael Ribicic, a student at Vancouver Island University, has drawn a lot of reader interest, but may have his priorities mixed up by including a provincial party leader to kick off his campaign. City council is supposedly non-partisan.

Norm Smith and Guy Beaulieu also score high in reader interest along with other newcomers.

Tyler Brown is an urban planner, and to some that would seem like a drawback. Hopefully he would not become council’s resident stumbling block in an-already constipated development services process. He vows that would not be the case.

Ben Geselbracht is another impressive newcomer. His resume shows he’s been around the block with various community-related projects, not the least of it, the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange. 

Then there are the incumbent councillors who are familiar with the job – Ian ThorpeSheryl Armstrong, Gordon Fuller and Jerry Hong. The voters will pass judgment on them, if they haven’t already. If reader interest is any indication the odds for them are not good.

Wendy Pratt served in at least part of the last term of this council, enduring a lot of abuse, leading to her resignation. She feels that with a new group on council she will be vindicated.

Don Bonner has attracted a lot of interest from readers. I’ve had a number of conversations with him over what appears a desire to spend tax money on anything and everything, including the city joining in “partnerships” with causes – urban farming, public events and festivals, and even sponsoring refugees with civic tax dollars. We have agreed to disagree.

There are no bad people on the ballot, some just seem to stand out above the rest when it comes to being job ready. Some have put in the effort to get to know the job while others have not. We expect them to do their homework, now it’s our turn as voters to get the facts before the vote.

If you’re still not sure, study the candidates’platforms here on Nanaimonet.com. Study them carefully, and then make up your own mind – you have less than a week. Most important, don’t pass up the opportunity to vote. That’s how you can help determine Nanaimo’s future.

Remember, you don’t have to vote for eight – take a look at whom you really want and mark only those names on the ballot. When you add any more just to fill the ballot you may very well bump out your favourites.

PS –I have not commented on the candidates for mayor because we have two excellent candidates for the job in Don Hubbard and Leonard Krog. Voters will make up their own minds on that ballot. You can’t go wrong here either way.