Editorial: Petition about accountability

A couple hundred Nanaimo residents wish to give city council an ultimatum to shape up or ship out

A couple hundred Nanaimo residents wish to give city council an ultimatum to shape up or ship out.

Realistically, a petition with a 186 signatures as of press time might not effect change, but its message shouldn’t go unheard. It is a demand for accountability, which isn’t too much to ask of elected officials. This petition is another indication of the frustrations of residents as we witness behaviour at city hall that is embarrassing and exasperating.

The latest lowlights were the video, published to YouTube last month, of former councillor Wendy Pratt swiping at a video recording device presumably being operated by chief administrative officer Tracy Samra. It came amidst human resources complaints and disagreement about the content of a report on separate workplace complaints.

Previous instances of council discord are almost too numerous to mention, some of them similarly videotaped for public judgment, some behind closed doors.

Councillors aren’t going to be in agreement on every issue and that’s fine, as long as they’re informed on the issues and are arguing what they believe is best for Nanaimo. But there have been enough occasions when the language, tone of voice and actions have crossed the line for some citizens. And if council’s comportment is indeed unacceptable, then by definition, we don’t or can’t accept it. So what’s to be done? A petition is a logical starting point, though resident Matthew O’Donnell, who started the petition, was vague about the ‘or else’ part of the petition’s ultimatum.

A four-year election mandate isn’t carte blanche for politicians to behave however they like. Yes, it ensures that they’re seemingly held to account just once every four years, but we’d like to believe they’re accountable at all times.

Even if there weren’t a petition going around, our mayor and councillors should have a better understanding of where citizens draw the line.