Councillor cites erosion of trust as reason for Lantzville council conflict

NANAIMO – Graham Savage, the fourth Lantzville councillor to quit, talked to the News Bulletin about the reasons behind his decision.

Between a successful motion to look into new bike racks and a call for a byelection, Lantzville’s fourth councillor walked off the job.

With a steady voice, Coun. Graham Savage read the resignation speech he and his wife wrote together over the weekend. He was nervous. It was a big step, but it also felt necessary for the two-term councillor.

He called the last six months of council the worst and most negative experience of his working and volunteer life, where much time was spent dealing with internal conflicts rather than the business of the community and the functions and roles of governance had become confused. He said he hoped it changed for the better, but he wasn’t prepared to take the risk.

Three seats already sat empty around the council table, the name panels gone of three councillors who had quit before him.

With his resignation, he believed, council would no longer have the minimum number of politicians to carry on civic business, the meeting would come to an end and the province would intervene. The mayor was silent as Savage wound up his speech to more than 30 people who had turned out to the council meeting that Monday night.

The councillor rose with a handful of papers and a sweater draped over his arm and walked out of the room. His wife, Brenda, followed him into the hallway where people had already stopped to shake his hand and thank him.

“It’s not with any great pleasure I did what I did,” Savage said. “I am comfortable with it, but I am sad it’s come to this stage.”

Just six months after the civic election, residents are left with a three-person council, the bill for a byelection and more questions than answers.

By the time the B.C. Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development stepped in last week, two senior managers and four councillors had quit amid comments of ridicule and criticism of staff’s work in public, dysfunction and micromanagement.

Mayor Colin Haime, who has pointed out a lack of specifics in resignation letters and asked for residents to listen to everybody involved, and two councillors will continue to govern in the lead-up to the byelection. Community Minister Coralee Oakes has laid out priorities and suggestions for the trio, including that they don’t set any overall strategic or policy direction. A byelection is anticipated this August at a cost of up to $20,000.

Residents are divided. There are questions about what happened, costs and recourse. Some see leadership as an issue and have called for further resignations, while others are upset at the politicians who quit.

At an open meeting last Wednesday, resident James Brash said he’s happy “one-agenda councillors” have given notice and stepped aside so the community can move on. Glenda Barr believes the community should get full value for the byelection by seeing the whole council resign.

Savage can’t pinpoint one reason why council has crumpled. It’s mistrust, lack of respect, a clash of personalities and values – a Chinese puzzle.

“The community and the reporters they are looking for who punched who in the nose and when, and we’ve not had that kind of situation. There’s no major blow-up,” he said. “It’s just been a gradual erosion of trust between council members.”

A day after his resignation, Savage says he’d been unhappy, but when council was left with quorum this month he thought it best to pull out so the province would get involved. He doesn’t think the four of them left at the table could fix the issue.

Savage, a former government consultant, takes some responsibility and so, he believes, should the leader. They are a team and if it fails, they all have to take some ownership of the problem, he said.

The decision to resign was “tough” and involved self-questioning and guilt for the former councillor. He has a passion for community and local government, but council faced issues that culminated in respect and trust and he questioned if he wanted three and a half more years of it. Life’s too short, he said.

“But now, hey, I’m free.”

Just Posted

Nanaimo Track and Field Club athletes are off to a fast start this season after no competition last season due to the pandemic. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo athletes back on track, starting with club competitions

Nanaimo Track and Field Club registration filled up

A conceptual rendering of a commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith image)
Commercial plaza in north end of Ladysmith passes public hearing

Councillors debate proposed land use at 1130 Rocky Creek Rd.

The Nanaimo sign at Maffeo Sutton Park could be hazardous for children, says letter writer. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nanaimo sign will cause falls

Children can’t resist climbing on sign, says letter writer

John A. Read, who was inspired to leave his former career to become a professional astronomy by the purchase of a $13 telescope, will give beginning astronomers key pointers on how to set up and get the best performance from their instruments at Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s meeting June 24. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Read)
Astrophysicist will talk about getting the most out of a telescope at Nanaimo astronomy meeting

John Read’s purchase of a $13 telescope led to a degree in astrophysics and a career in astronomy

Nanaimo rapper Sirreal plays the Port Theatre on June 25. (Photo courtesy Alanna Morton)
Nanaimo rapper Sirreal and friends play the Port Theatre

Live-streamed concert the second in venue’s Discovery Series highlighting local artists

Robin Dutton, left, and Peter Sinclair are taking their mountain bikes and travelling down trails in the Mount Benson area June 19 as part of a 24-hour fundraiser benefiting Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Full-day mountain bike fundraiser gives financial support for Nanaimo food bank

Event part of Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank’s Food 4 Summer campaign

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding partnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Most Read