Nanaimo Needs Electoral Reform

I believe Nanaimo voters demonstrated an appetite for electoral reform as well as change in the civic election of Saturday, November 15, 2008. Although all five council incumbents were returned, restaurant owner Angela Negrin came within 132 votes of being elected. In the 2005 municipal election Angela got only 347 votes in her bid for mayor, but this time 6,032 Nanaimoites wanted her to be on city council. I decided to vote for Angela after hearing her proposal for a ward system for Nanaimo. At present, all eight city councillors stand at large but under a ward system each would represent a specific district. Candidates would be able to build partnerships with voters in their own local areas rather than having to reach everyone in the city. Less signs would clutter our streets at election time as council candidates would only need to have them in their own wards. They'd be able to go door to door and really meet their constituents, something which is impossible now.

Another council candidate with suggestions for electoral reform is Ron Bolin who proposed that council members be subject to term limits. Although Ron didn't specify how long councillors should be allowed to serve, he does favour two-year election cycles (instead of the present three-year cycles), as in the US House of Representatives. Said Ron, "Why councillors, upon whom the province in the Community Charter has seen fit to confer virtual dictatorial powers, should have more that two years to abuse that power is beyond me."

Personally, I'd support extending the length of each term to four years if councillors were restricted to two terms maximum with the right of recall by voters. This will be Loyd Sherry's 12th term on city council and Larry McNabb's 10th. Larry McNabb may have been a good hockey player in the 1960s and great coach for the Nanaimo Clippers in the 70s and 80s, but does that qualify him to serve as city councillor for life? Bill Bestwick's years as a hockey coach between 1988 and 2006 seem to have made him Nanaimo's most popular politician. This tells us something about ourselves. In the United States movie stars like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwartzenegger have the power to bedazzle the electorate while here in Canada we swoon for hockey stars. Wayne Gretzky for prime minister anyone?

Thankfully, Nanaimo voters decided they'd finally seen enough of Gary Korpan, who like Larry, was running for a 10th term, albeit as mayor. Frankly, I think having blustering old men running this city is an outrage. Loyd, Larry, and Gary may have done yeoman service over the years, but they appear to be well past their expiry dates, in my honest opinion. I wish ex-Mayor Korpan a peaceful retirement. What Nanaimo needs is fresh blood on council and it's a real shame that excellent young candidates like Angela Negrin and Simon Schachner were beat out by the old boys.

On Saturday 19,539 Nanaimo residents voted for mayor, down from 20,737 in 2005. It's not surprising that most people couldn't be bothered to vote when an entrenched old guard is reelected every time with the support of special interests. Once elected, they treat this city as their personal fiefdom and do as they please at the expense of taxpayers. The old council put this city tens of millions of dollars in debt to build a conference centre and there will now be heavy pressure on the new council to rubber stamp urban sprawl projects on the edges of city, such as Cable Bay. Like that old pirate Frank Ney who lined his pockets by developing far flung suburbs while gutting downtown during his long tenure as mayor, the new lineup will soon vote on projects designed to feed the automobile while corrupting our environment. The developers are already barring their teeth.

Diane Brennan, who got 6,975 votes for mayor compared to John Ruttan's 9,032 and Gary Korpan's 3,119, will be sorely missed on council. John Ruttan will have to watch his back, because if he underperforms between now and 2011, Diane will be back. Brennan sent this post-election message to her many supporters:
“Even though we didn't achieve the outcome we wanted, we did change the face of politics in Nanaimo for some time to come. No council will be able to sidestep social issues or deny that the "cycle of prosperity" must have meaning for all if it is ever to be truly achieved.”

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