E-Day, the 19th of November. Just another day?

Ron Bolin: Oct. 19, 2011

One month from today on November 19, the citizens of Nanaimo (and those who do not live here but do own property here) will have their final votes counted in an election which will bring the 25th Council of the City of Nanaimo to office.  In the meantime we are left to evaluate the possible future performance in that Council of 22 candidates for Council seats and 4 candidates for Mayor.  If past experience is any guide, the public will receive very little understanding of their backers, their issues, their desires, and how they propose to implement their objectives, let alone pay for them.  I have run in three elections:  the first as a lark; the second as part of a clearly identified slate (FPN); and the third as an independent grass roots candidate who would take no more than $50 from any single source.  I was unsuccessful in these attempts for whatever reasons.  I did, however, learn a lot about campaigning in Nanaimo.

First, it helps to be a long time, if not lifetime, Nanaimo resident.  In a small town, as Nanaimo was, the connections made at school carry over through the decades.  Second it is important to have the social and financial backing of one of the traditional two camps in town, namely the Chamber/Home Builders or the Labour Council/Unions.  An examination of the election expense filings which are available from the city on line at:

http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/departments/Legislative-Services/MunicipalElections.html

will demonstrate that these two camps are very active in supporting candidates and that the broader public is not.  Money is a great aid in an election process.  Third, the sports connections in Nanaimo are very strong.

Another phenomenon which seems to be a holdover from a previous era in Nanaimo’s history is the scrappiness with which the right and left, the south and the north, the chamber/homebuilders and the Labour Council contend.  It is a regular battle of the body parts which leaves the body itself aching and constipated.  How else could it be that a City with so much going for it could do so little with what it has for so much expense?  How else could it be that the City peddles its assets for so little in return?

Yet it continues to survive its cramps, continuing to operate almost normally from day to day with only a severe case of urban acne to scar its fundamental beauty.  How long can it take it out there on the mean streets?  Probably a very long time…

But are there things that can be done about it?  Of course there are!  And we can do them.  First we can examine why we are in the state that we are in.  An excellent brief introduction to the subject can be found in this 7 minute long examination of why we are so apathetic about municipal government.

www.ted.com/talks/dave_meslin_the_antidote_to_apathy.html

City Hall should pay attention to several of these points, particularly where transparency is involved.

We can follow this up by listening to the podcasts of interviews with candidates on CHLY radio if we go to www.chly.ca  scroll down to October 17, click on Meet the Candidates, look at the schedule and then click on “Click here to play the podcast”.  The first of these 45 minute interviews was recorded last Monday and was with Candidates Brennan, Olson and Maartman.  Listen carefully.  This is probably the longest time available for candidates to communicate with voters in the entire campaign process.  After this there will be one or two 60 to 90 second chunks, short answers to preset questions, and ads and billboards.  There is very little debate or exchange of ideas in Nanaimo campaigns.

What dialogue there is tends to be about the person, not about the primary issues, not about defining the problems and certainly not about any specific recommendations for action.  If a doctor, or a lawyer, or an engineer or a financial advisor were as vague, we would walk away from them.  Perhaps it is for this reason that far too many of us walk away –or should I say do not bother to walk to- the voting booth.  But we can demand more specifics and we do not need to let our candidates off the hook.  If we want good candidates, we need to reel them in after a struggle, not simply let them drift into our creel.

As a final note, I suggest you may wish to take a look at www.civicvote.ca.  It appears to offer full services to candidates and in so doing offers citizens an apparently easy way to compare them: at least those candidates who sign on to their service(s).  I am not touting this site or its services.  If few candidates sign on, its value will be greatly, if not totally, diminished.  But I find it a stunning example of the entrepreneurial spirit in a venue where such has been sorely lacking.

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