Nanaimo still has some semblance of small-town feel, but the numbers don’t lie. With more than 100,000 residents, we’re not the small town we once were.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog, at a council meeting earlier this month, acknowledged that the city’s population has now reached 100,000, which he said is a big number worth celebrating.
The city considers itself B.C.’s fifth-largest urban centre, but no matter if we’re going by city limits or blurrier boundaries, our population puts us somewhere between fifth and ninth in the province.
Growth is generally a good thing, though that depends on who you ask and how you’re measuring. As a big city, we get big-city benefits, but they come along with big-city issues. As a small town, we retain small-town spirit but struggle with small-town shortcomings.
Nanaimo has grown by 10,000-plus since the 2016 census tallied us at 90,500 strong. Our picturesque Harbour City has proven appealing. Enough of us see enough that we like to keep us here and keep our community growing.
With greater population will come more social and economic diversity and better opportunities for young people to stay here for their education, career and everything else. Growth might help to solve some of our problems, for example, through its role in downtown revitalization.
At the same time, growth will exacerbate some of our challenges and create new ones. We have a housing crisis and minuscule residential vacancy rates that will cause a lot of hardship and tip some people into homelessness. Crime and disorder on the streets won’t go away, though maybe we can keep out some of the most serious crimes and gang violence. Traffic congestion and ferry sailing waits over the coming years are foreseeable.
It’s up to all of us to shape the future of Nanaimo for the 100,000 residents who live here now and those who will call this place home one day. We make small impacts just going about our daily lives, whether it be our commuter and consumer choices or our interactions with people.
We can participate, if we like, in Reimagine Nanaimo, a master planning project centred on creating the municipality’s next official community plan. The city has collected Phase 1 feedback but wants to hear from people throughout the process; to stay in the loop, visit www.getinvolvednanaimo.ca.
We all want what’s best for Nanaimo, but that means something different to each of us. Even one voice out of 100,000 deserves to have a say on how Nanaimo grows from here.