Agreeing to Disagree about an Agreement

Ron Bolin: Oct. 16, 2012

At Monday’s Council Meeting, Mr. Bernie Dumas, President and CEO of the Nanaimo Port Authority presented a sketch of the Marina Development Project which is being undertaken via a 30 year lease arrangement between the Port Authority and the Pacific Northwest Marina Group. Under this agreement the City’s commercial boat basin will receive an estimated $9.3 million dollar upgrade which will allow for a greater number of slips available to be re-leased to boat owners by the PNMG.  This will presumably relieve the Port Authority from the task of routine management of the boat basin as well as provide income to it. The nature of the benefit to the Port Authority was not touched upon.

There was a nearly full house at the meeting which was cautioned to refrain from outbursts and  those in attendance for this subject maintained decorum despite the fact that it was their lives  that were under discussion. They were not allowed to ask questions.

The heart of the matter revolves around the insecurity which has been raised about the relation between the two geographically separated parts of Nanaimo, i.e. that part on Vancouver Island on the one hand and the part on Protection Island on the other. Protection Island residents and their visitors depend on a privately operated ferry service which is located in the boat basin as well as their privately owned boats which are allotted either paid slips or a free 3 hour tie up in the basin.

Assurances were given that the number of small 20 foot slips available for rent or lease would be  increased from those currently available and that the space available for tie ups would also be  somewhat increased.

The problems lie in two areas of the agreement.

First in the lease times involved: while PNMG will get a 30 year lease for their part, the lease agreements for Protection Island residents who require access to the City where they work, fill their requirements for living and to which they pay their property taxes are unclear. The Port Authority indicated that they would be concerned should problems arise in these areas but, in the end, washed their hands of any prescribed action.

Second, there was a great deal of hand wringing by the City about their ineffective role in this  affair, asserting that it was a matter between the Port Authority, an agency of the Federal  government and the PNMG, a private corporation. This ignored the fact that in the unique circumstance involved, Protection Island, a tax paying part of the City, could find itself effectively cut off from it by lack of access.

The question of how the City could have let this matter get so far without representing all of our citizens was raised during Question Period by Cathy Davis who pointed out that there was an existing agreement between the City and the Port Authority which should have brought this matter to the attention of the City and from there to its citizens at the start of this process.  The City denied knowledge of such a document.

The City owes us all a debt of informing our Citizens of matters which may impact their lives and their livelihoods as soon as they learn of such matters. Either the cooperation required by the 2004 agreement was not carried out, or the Citizens were not informed of such negotiations when the matter became known.  Either is an offense to the dignity of Citizens.

The Agreement, which was provided by Ms. Davis, can be found here: