Taxpayers could see upwards of $50,000 spent to help Nanaimo city councillors get along.
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay has hired a facilitator with The Integrity Group to help council address internal problems that he says is affecting its ability to do business.
The work is expected to cost $50,000 and take until the end of the year, but the mayor also isn’t prepared to put a budget on something he sees as too important, adding, “if it takes more, it’s going to take more.”
It was only two years ago that the City of Nanaimo released a governance report that revealed significant tension, name calling and physical altercations among Nanaimo city councillors and city staff were undermining attempts at good governance.
The situation isn’t much different today as it was then, according to McKay, who says the division and behaviour is much worse than most councils, morale is at an “all-time low” at city hall and the business of the city is not getting done.
The search for a facilitator started in December, the same time Nanaimo’s new council was sworn in because McKay said he could see people on council were not going to work well with others. The process, which he says council is “100 per cent” in favour of, is about changing relationships and how people interact with each other. There will be no report like there was in 2013.
“It’s not important to have written reports that people can pick a part at will. This is about changing behaviour,” said McKay, who adds this is “much bigger” than producing a report and about actually getting results.
Councillors Gord Fuller and Diane Brennan agree council has its issues.
Fuller, who calls a facilitator necessary, believes the idea is to help them act more professionally together. There are a lot of strong personalities with strong beliefs, he said.
“It hasn’t worked at this point. Hopefully we can get there,” he said. “It is a pretty divisive council.”
Brennan said she’s never sat on an elected body with so much trouble being civil. Neither has she encountered such dysfunction.
She hopes a facilitator helps councillors soften their edges and be respectful.
“You might be able to argue, well that’s the rough and tumble of politics and you just have to suck it up, which I don’t believe,” she said. “But what you can’t and shouldn’t say is that staff have to take it, too.”
Facilitation started June. 1.