The Nanaimo South End Community Association hosted an all-candidates’ meeting at the Harbour City Theatre and the event attracted 35 candidates, including two out of three mayoral candidates and 33 out of 40 council hopefuls. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Candidates talk waterfront planning, supportive housing at south-end debate

Nanaimo South End Community Association all-candidates’ meeting attracts 35 participants

Nanaimo’s south end had the undivided attention of Nanaimo city council candidates tonight.

The Nanaimo South End Community Association hosted an all-candidates’ meeting at the Harbour City Theatre and the event attracted 35 candidates, including two out of three mayoral candidates and 33 out of 40 council hopefuls.

With so many participants, each candidate had only two opportunities to speak – an introduction, then a response to one randomly selected question posed by the moderator.

Leonard Krog, who is running for mayor, suggested that good governance needs to be a starting point for Nanaimo.

“And I think that’s why so many of you are here tonight,” he said. “The last four years have not been the proudest chapter in Nanaimo’s history and I believe that I am the person best qualified … to lead a council that is willing to bring people together for change.”

Don Hubbard, also running for mayor, also said good governance is the first thing the city needs in order to move forward.

“When I wake up on Oct. 21, the first thing I want to do is start the healing with the First Nations community, the healing with the people that work at city hall and the people of Nanaimo, because I know Nanaimo is in need of healing,” he said.

RELATED: Five-candidates’ meeting held in north Nanaimo

All four incumbent Nanaimo councillors participated. Coun. Gord Fuller said people who want to vote for a politician shouldn’t vote for him.

“I’m outspoken and was elected for being such four years ago and hope to get elected for being such again,” he said. “The good, the bad and the ugly, it’s all available on the internet and some of it is bad, some of it is ugly and I take responsibility for that.”

He referenced his heart attack during this past term and said he’ll be fine no matter the outcome of the Oct. 20 vote.

“I died three years ago, I’m still alive now … and I will continue, whether elected or not, to do things for you,” he said.

Coun. Jerry Hong said unlike his first election campaign, when he could speak his mind and felt like he had nothing to lose, he went into Wednesday’s all-candidates’ meeting prepared to defend himself, then decided instead to focus on the south-end issues being debated. He talked about the Port Drive waterfront master plan.

“This council has done something in four years that was supposed to take 20. We have a master plan, we’ve communicated it with the public and the south end and you guys have done a phenomenal job with the plan of what you would like to see,” Hong said.

There was a lot of discussion of that plan and the South Downtown Waterfront Initiative’s earlier visioning work. Council candidate Norm Smith envisions a Granville Island-style market in that part of Nanaimo, but said a lot is dependent on partnering with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and developers and public consultation.

“We’ll have people coming all the time down here. Locals, visitors, everybody,” he said. “But we have to look at the plan, talk to the community, see what the community wants.”

Council candidate Don Bonner said he keeps those south end plans on his bedside table and reads them.

“One of the things I notice in these plans is they have some really nice pictures of other people’s cities the way we want them,” he said. “I want to make sure that in the future, I can go to another town and there’s really nice pictures of our city in their plans.”

Council candidate Peter Kent called the south end a jewel.

“It has not received, in my estimation, the care and the love that it should have,” he said. “There is a lot of historical legacy here. I would like to see us bring back some of that polish to this area.”

Other hot topics at Wednesday’s all-candidates’ meeting were social housing and decentralization of social services.

Council candidate Rae Kornberger noted the city needs to work with other levels of government toward supportive housing.

“Our part as a municipality is to make sure that land is available and that it’s remediated. I would like to have a land-use plan and really stick to that and have several places available so that if we are in the queue for money from the governments, that we have the available land and can start putting shovels to the dirt immediately,” she said.

Coun. Ian Thorpe referenced existing complexes in north Nanaimo and the hospital district which he said are working well. He supports spreading supportive housing around to different areas of town.

“The answer is educating the people in the community about what to expect, what are you getting and making sure that you hear what they have to say, what are their fears and what can you do to allay those fears,” he said.

Council candidate Rick Smith said NIMBYism is the product of fear, and people who are afraid are sometimes ignorant of the facts.

“People in rehab are the ones who want to change their lives. They’re the last ones you should be afraid of,” he said.

Council candidate Zeni Maartman said she thinks social services can be delivered to different areas around town where needed.

“But I think most importantly, we need to recognize that if we can raise the standards of those that are the most vulnerable and the most marginalized in our community, we actually raise the standard for all of us and that’s what I want to see in Nanaimo,” she said.

Council candidate Tyler Brown was first to introduce himself and therefore last to answer a question, so he got the last word and summed things up by repeating his belief that Nanaimo can be the best mid-size city in British Columbia.

“Everybody I talk to believes that and I truly believe that every candidate up here believes that. That’s why they’re running,” he said. “So I think it truly is time for us to elect a council that’s going to show that collaborative leadership to deliver to our community all those things that we want. Some of that’s going to be in consultation, some of that’s going to be taking a leadership role and some of that is really going to be empowering others.”

The candidates who participated in Wednesday’s all-candidates’ meeting included: Don Hubbard, Leonard Krog, Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, Guy Beaulieu, Don Bonner, Tyler Brown, Brunie Brunie, Coun. Gord Fuller, Ben Geselbracht, Pelé Gouda, Erin Hemmens, Coun. Jerry Hong, Peter Kent, Rae Kornberger, Brian Loos, Zeni Maartman, Lloyd MacIlquham, Jeet Manhas, Bill Manners, Darcy Olsen, Ken (Ozzy) Osborn, Wendy Pratt, Michael Ribicic, Richard Scott, Norm Smith, Rick Smith, Fred Statham, Kevin Storrie, Balakrishna (Viraat) Thammanna, Al Thompson, Coun. Ian Thorpe, Jim Turley, Peter Urquhart, Trent Whaley and Ashley Zboyovsky.

For a list of local government election candidates with links to interviews, click here.

Upcoming voter information events:

United Way Central Vancouver Island hosts an all-candidates’ meeting on affordable housing and homelessness on Thursday, Oct. 4, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Beban Park social centre.

Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association hosts an all-candidates’ debate for school trustees, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m., Dover Bay Secondary School.

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo all-candidates’ fair, Oct. 9, 6-7:45 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo mayoral candidates’ debate, Oct. 9, 8-9 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce/Our Nanaimo council candidates’ forum, Oct. 15, 6-9 p.m., Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

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