Some Election Notes 103 days before the Election

Ron Bolin: August 8, 2011

In 2005 there were 8 candidates for Mayor and 39 candidates for our 8 Council positions.   42 individuals and companies each gave between $500 and $5000 to the winning candidates and funded nearly 90% of all the money spent for their election in the 2005 campaign: 42 out of over 60,000.
Over half of the money spent by the winning candidates came from only 12 donors!  Twelve out of 60,000+ !!!  There are very few grass roots in Nanaimo politics which is dominated by corporate/company and union donations.

In 2008 there were only 4 candidates for mayor and 26 for Council.  Mayoral candidates spent between $54 and $34,316 expending between 13 cents and $4.78 per vote received.  Candidates for Council spent  a total of $86,475 ranging from zero to $12,475 each with an overall average expenditure of $0.72 per vote, and individual averages ranging from zero to $1.64 per vote.   Again, only about 30% of eligible voters bothered to vote with the winners getting between 30 to 50% of these votes cast, i.e. about 10 to 15% of the eligible vote.  No grass roots here either.

There were 6 candidates in the 2011 byelection for one position on Council.  To date only 4 have declared their expenses which ran from $2,290 to $12,733.  Only about 10% of registered electors bothered to vote and the winner got approximately 25% of those voting.In the 2011 general municipal election there are no declared candidates of whom I am aware.  I an unclear as to whether this is because the incumbents consider that they have completed the work which they wanted to carry out as members of Council and do not need to perform further public service, whether they consider that their work has not been successful and wish to let new talent into the game, if they have not yet heard from their sponsors, or if they are considering their platforms in the light of the last three years and considering  the changes in course which may be necessary.  One would think that by this late date such decisions would be clear.  This is an election, is it not, rather than musical chairs.

An examination of city finances over the period 2008-2010, though it isn’t entirely congruent with the period of our current Council, comes as close as we can come.  A quick review of the City’s Financial Statements for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 show the following:

  • Overall Revenues increased from $142,853,448 by 1%;
  • Taxes increased from $74,210,940 by 10%;
  • Expenditures fell from $137,608,591 by 10%; and
  • The Surplus rose from $5,244,857 by 289%.

Similarly in this same period, overall Staff salaries:

  • Increased by 46% for those making over $75,000;
  • Decrease by 7% for those making less than $75,000; and
  • Increased by 2% for our elected officials.

I grant that these figures need further interpretation and no doubt there are some tedious definitions of some of these terms.  But, there are what is given in the Statements of Financial Information given by the City on their web site.  See:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/departments/Finance/budget-and-financial-reports/financial-reports.html

Read these documents and ponder your election strategy.  Perhaps this time it needs to be something more than entering the voting booth (if you go to the election at all) and trying to remember some of the names shown on the ballot.  You may also wish to contact the members of your current Council to ask them about their interpretations of these financial figures as well as for their assessment of their years in office.

And remember, none of the above takes into account the nearly $90,000.000 in new expenditures which Council has added in the last couple of months, i.e. the City Hall Annex, the Water Treatment Plant, and the Emergency Water connection to Harmac, all essentially insurance expenditures.

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