Election 2014: Candidates get a chance to pitch their platforms

Close to 300 people turned out to Progressive Nanaimo's all-candidates forum last week at the Beban Park social centre.

Colliery dams emerged as a top priority during Progressive Nanaimo’s all-candidates forum last week.

Close to 300 people packed the Beban Park social centre Wednesday night for Progressive Nanaimo’s first all-candidates meeting.

The citizen group has been holding forums in the lead up to the civic election Nov. 15, with aims of better informing the public about candidates. Two previous events have been restricted to new candidates only, but the organization invited incumbents to its latest and final public meeting.

Jim Kipp and Diane Brennan were the only incumbent councillors to make an appearance and while they had the opportunity to discuss why the electorate should return them to office, they were not asked about their stance on issues. According to Jeff Solomon, event moderator, people have had ample opportunity to attend council meetings or view city videos online.

Eighteen non-incumbent council candidates and seven mayoral contenders also participated in the event, expressing their views on issues from the Colliery dams to a core review and whether there should be a term limit for city manager.  The desire to stop spending money on the Colliery dams or leave the structures as they are emerged as a common goal during the two-and-a-half hour discussion, as well as civic engagement and changes in the way  council and city hall operate.

Solomon said the forum offered something, but it was just a snippet about candidates.

“It’s really increasing awareness of who they are voting for and to get that conversation going because it’s such a guesswork for a lot of people,” he said. “Whether they take that further step and connect [with candidates] or whether they feel they have enough information, it’s all good. It’s better than going and looking at a billboard.”

The discussion touched on a variety of topics compiled by Progressive Nanaimo, including how councillors would proceed with the dams, and whether mayoral candidates would continue to spend on investigations, remediation or construction work.

Mayoral candidate Al Thompson received applause for his speech on not spending any more money.

“I mean it’s crazy, Jesus, there’s nothing wrong with the dams,” he said. “I’ve been out there and they look pretty good: water on one side and it’s dry on the other.”

Rival Jim Routledge said he’d like to see nothing done and would fight for citizens’ right to do nothing, while Coun. Bill McKay said if he’s elected mayor, “we’re going to stop this nonsense and we’re going to get on to the bigger issues.”

Gary Korpan asked if people believe, given the secrecy with the current council, all the information has been released yet and questioned how anybody can make a decision either way until they’ve analyzed all the information. Council candidates Geraldine Manson and Wendy Pratt prefer leaving the dams where and as they are.

Candidates also talked about changes they’d like to see at city hall, from greater civic engagement and attention to the wishes of the electorate to a term limit for the city manager.

“Why do we need the same old, stale ideas over and over again, bringing the garbage from the bottom all the way to the top without change? We deserve better,” said Jerry Hong, council candidate, about the term limit.

Mayoral candidates Alisha Neumann-Ladret, incumbent mayor John Ruttan and Roger McKinnon were absent, as well as council incumbents Fred Pattje, Ted Greves and Bill Bestwick. Council candidates Jack Arnold, Ian Thorpe and Tali Campbell also were not present.

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce All-Candidate Forum will be at 5 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.