Candidates pitch ideas for improvements to Nanaimo to voters

NANAIMO – Political hopefuls talked about ideas, current issues at the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum.

Political hopefuls floated ideas for Nanaimo during an all-candidates forum Tuesday, from taking cars off downtown roads to bus stop amenities and billboards announcing a business-friendly city.

More than 700 people turned out to the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce’s all-candidates forum Tuesday night, which featured a ‘speed campaigning’ event and mayoral discussion.

Voters had the chance to visit different tables of council, mayoral and school trustee candidates and ask questions, with topics like the potential lease of Georgia Park, community engagement and intersection upgrades dominating the discussion.

Council and mayoral contenders also took the opportunity to express  ideas for the Harbour City.

Nanaimo council candidate Ian Thompson told one resident “we should take the cars off downtown” when he was asked how he’d bring the city closer together, adding that having people walk the area is naturally a better way to bring folks together.

Candidate Jim Goldsack proposed e-mails as a different format for the city to engage the public and mayoral contender Bill McKay pitched the installation of two billboards in Nanoose and Ladysmith to say Nanaimo is open for business as a strategy for creating jobs.

“First thing we have to do is declare that we are actually open for business … then we’re going to have to prove to business that we’re actually talking the talk and walking the walk,” he said, during a mayoral discussion.

Other ideas came from mayoral hopeful Al Thompson, who said he’d like to see Nanaimo’s Nicol Street theatre turned into “Nanaimo’s Got Talent” when he was asked about how he’d support and advocate for arts and culture, while rival Brunie Brunie called for a bus station with amenities like coffee and tea as part of new transportation additions the city should consider.

Candidates also addressed current issues, including the potential lease of Georgia Park, which most candidates pointed out will need electoral assent, and the announcement that B.C. Ferries will consider axing its Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route.

According to incumbent mayor John Ruttan, while government has indicated to him this is old news, none of it was mentioned during an earlier discussion on the fast passenger ferry.

“We live on an island and we need reliable transportation to and from Vancouver and we will not give up our vehicle traffic going to Horseshoe Bay,” he said. “It’s absolutely essential.”

Mayoral candidates Alisha Neumann-Ladret and Kendal Csak were absent from the forum.