McKay sets priorities for upcoming term as Nanaimo mayor

NANAIMO – City's new mayor earmarks committee structure, Colliery dams and Leadercast investigation as priorities.

New city committees, an investigation into the Leadercast event and a decision on the Colliery dams are actions proposed by mayor-elect Bill McKay as he prepares to take on Nanaimo’s top job.

McKay, a first-term city councillor, won the leadership race Saturday, defeating Bill Holdom for the title by more than 2,000 ballots and with 30 per cent of the vote. He also unseats two-term mayor John Ruttan.

In a post-election interview, McKay talked about the win and his new council, the tasks ahead of them and his spending over the last term, which remains the highest on council.

The victory was surreal Saturday night, according to McKay, who says the “three amigos” –himself, Bill Bestwick and Jim Kipp – are sitting in the centre three seats after being significantly marginalized for the last three years.

“At one o’clock in the morning Val and I were sitting out … on the back porch having a drink with each other and it seemed a little bit strange then. It did. A wee bit surreal. Now … I’ve got to get some ideas together, I got to get my council together, we got to get going. We got a lot of work to do.”

When it comes to his new council, McKay believes voters made the right choice.

Bill Yoachim, a former Snuneymuxw councillor and the second highest vote-getter, for example, will open “a whole new set of doors,” McKay said. “When I watch municipalities in other areas, in other jurisdictions, that are having real struggles trying to get along with their First Nations people … wow – imagine the opportunities we’ve got now.”

When McKay steps into the leadership position this December, he says his first task will be restructuring city committees. He wants to see eight committees based on a model used in the City of Langford that he says makes sense, and would cover areas of the city like public works, protective services and labour management. City councillors would fill chair and vice-chair positions and he’d be looking for their buy in.

There will also be a budget process to work through, he said, and he’d like to see a decision made on the Colliery dams by the end of February. McKay also wants a program and services review and third-party probe into the cancellation of a live leadership simulcast scheduled at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

City council had opted against launching an inquiry into the issue, instead releasing a redacted version of  a report on the sequence of events leading up to the cancelled event but McKay said it’s incomplete and lacks recommendations.

“I don’t ever want us to find ourselves in that situation again. Ever,” he said.

The new mayor is coming out of a one-term as city councillor where he was a top spender. A 2013 Statement of Financial Information showed McKay had $14,972 in expenses that year and $22,509 since 2011 compared to Ruttan, who spent a total of $22,499. Between January and September this year, McKay’s expenses tallied an additional $8,859. The number is 14 per cent higher than the expenses of the city’s current mayor.

Earlier this year, McKay said the majority of his expenses were tied to conferences, explaining that he was eager to learn and study best examples from other communities and he got information, experiences and knowledge “from every single one of them.” This year’s numbers show all but $461 was spent on conferences and events.

“I think you are dealing with the trivial to be quite honest with you … we have a $190 million budget and you are worrying about whether I spent $8,000 or $4,000, really?”

He suggests a personal development budget if other new council members want to attend conferences, and said people will probably not see the same level of conference attendance from him this term. He might, however, take people back to communities like Saskatoon to look at best practices.

The new council and mayor will be sworn in, Dec. 1.