Referendum or Alternate Approval Process for Georgia Park

Ron Bolin: Oct. 21, 2014


This question was put to Bill McKay on his facebook page on Oct. 15:

”Hi Bill: I would very much appreciate clarification concerning your position regarding a referendum on the virtually perpetual lease of downtown city park land to a commercial hotel venture. As this use demands a referendum process, would/will you demand a full Referendum (no AAP) on the issue? If so, will/would you require the costs to the City of such a Referendum to be paid by the applicant? PS: You gave a very workmanlike presentation at last night’s Progressive Nanaimo. Good Start.” (Oct. 15, 2014)

It can be found here:


The response came yesterday on Oct. 20.

Hi Ron, thanks for your question! Just to clarify, the change of use actually does not require a full referendum process. The Community Charter states there must be electoral consent, which can be achieved either though a referendum or an Alternative Approval Process (AAP). This is a term lease, not ‘virtually perpetual’ which is new terminology to me. I believe that we will achieve a higher participation rate by petition, particularly if citizens feel as strongly about the issue as you do. A full referendum is quite costly, so I want to ensure that there is enough public support before undergoing that process. In regards to your question regarding cost, the normal process would be that the City pays. To change that would cause considerable concern for any developer, particularly when it varies so far from the normal rules. A change in the way we conduct business would have to go to Council for consideration, as we couldn’t adopt this as a one-off approach. One of the ways that Nanaimo has successfully chased away much business is by continually moving the goal posts to thwart investment. If you are interested, I would be happy to request that you be added as a delegate for the next Development Process Review Committee and have you present your approach to the group. If the committee supports the concept, I would be happy to sponsor a motion on the subject to Council. This is due process Ron.


My reply to Mr. McKay was also sent yesterday, Oct. 20.  It contains my feelings on the matter.
Hi Bill:

Thanks for responding honestly.

(It looks like your response was not to the facebook page to which I asked my question of you, but to me personally. Perhaps this is not correct. I make no claims to understand the ins and outs of Facebook. For this reason I am responding by email. If I find it on your facebook page I will be happy to post there.)

As a minor point, I think that it is quite reasonable to speak of a lease of over 60 years as “virtually perpetual”. The City will not guarantee my property taxes for more than a single year and would be willing to take it in three if I do not pay. Now I will agree that that is by no means “virtually perpetual” ownership.

Regarding your clarification, perhaps you could clarify further. I quite understand that a full referendum is not required by the CC or LGA, but the matter has been left open. Thus, I can chose to believe that the two approval processes are to be distinguished by the magnitude of the issue in question… or that the AAP negative billing process has been provided to permit the “passage” of the unimaginable by the uninformed. I suspect that at least 95% of our population are unaware of how many AAPs they have “approved” in the last few years. I also suspect that most are unaware that there are those sitting on Council who, if forced to meet the 10% approval process demanded by the AAP would not be there.

I also suspect that many have not considered the contradiction between the five year borrowing limit which demands a referendum and the 10 year burden put on all taxpayers by cost and tax exemptions which must be made up by general ratepayers and which Council seems to be both able and willing to grant without further ado.

As for the costs, timing, to a large extent is set by the applicant. The applicant neglected to put forward a proposal that could be voted on as part of our 2014 municipal election process at virtually no incremental cost to either themselves or the City. For whatever reason, they did not do so. To expect taxpayers to pay for their oversight is not in keeping with good public practices. There are costs associated with timing which are project costs. Going further, the donations to this project through DCCs, tax exemptions and density bonusing run, by my count, into the tens of millions of dollars which must be made up by City ratepayers. (See my estimates at  Thus far I have heard nothing to gainsay them – and certainly Staff, in its presentation to Council did not provide any official estimates of these costs.) The proponent given these transfers of wealth from citizens to their project, can scarcely complain if they were to be required to pay for the referendum at a time of their own choosing.



Further Responses/Comments from Candidates will be included in comments to this post.