McKay sets priorities during first meeting as Nanaimo mayor

NANAIMO – New city council sworn in during meeting on Monday.

Nanaimo’s mayor invited councillors to join an effort to set a new course and achieve new goals, after he pledged action on the Colliery dams, the city’s permit process and a programs and services review.

Former city councillor Bill McKay became Nanaimo’s 25th mayor during the inaugural meeting and swearing-in ceremony at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre Monday.

McKay and eight newly elected council members were led by bagpipe into a ballroom with more than 200 people who watched as councillors were sworn in, the mayor made his inaugural speech and outgoing politicians were given gifts. City representatives were also announced for the Regional District of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island Regional Library boards.

Outgoing mayor John Ruttan handed McKay the chain of office during the event and thanked the people of Nanaimo and the councillors he served with, calling his time as mayor a great honour and privilege.

In his inaugural speech, McKay said he would be asking his new council to adopt his campaign agenda and that they’ve already signaled a readiness to get started on several initiatives.

“To begin with, we will resolve the issues surrounding the Colliery dams quickly and conclusively,” he said to applause. “We’ll find answers to questions surrounding the Vancouver Island Conference Centre; we will establish terms of reference for a program and services review; we will streamline and speed up the permitting and development process, review the need and effectiveness of the city’s committees … and ensure we create a sustainable plan for the delivery of city services.”

McKay said citizens will guide and drive decision making over the next four years.

Coun. Diane Brennan said she’s looking forward to getting to work, but has not agreed to McKay’s promised action. While she said she’s eager to see what the mayor is proposing, nothing has been laid out to her and discussions have to be held in public. First-time Coun. Ian Thorpe also said there hasn’t been discussion about what exactly the mayor has in mind, but that any way the business of the city can be done more efficiently is worth considering.

In a post-event interview, McKay said in order to move onto new initiatives, council will have to deal with things that have been left dangling.

“We’ve got work to do,” he said.

McKay and councillors Jim Kipp, Bill Bestwick, Wendy Pratt, Bill Yoachim, Ian Thorpe and Jerry Hong will sit on the regional board, with Gord Fuller and Brennan acting as rotating alternates. Brennan will get the primary seat on the library board with Pratt acting as her alternate.