Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation refuses to sign city’s new agreement

NANAIMO – Corporation’s chief executive
officer calls lack of consultation by city ‘irresponsible.’

Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation will not sign the city’s new partnering agreement, according to John Hankins, chief executive officer, who calls removal of tourism from the organization without explanation on what it’s going to look like “irresponsible.”

The corporation told the city it will not sign a partnering agreement on the advice of its lawyer that it would cause conflict with articles of association and concerns of the board with regards to indemnity, Hankins said.

He said the board will come up with a revised partnering agreement it believes will be more acceptable to both parties.

The city made public last week an in-camera decision to pull tourism from the corporation and see it focus solely on economic development under a new partnering agreement and accountability strategy.

Tourism, destination and conference service marketing will be handled by one or more yet-to-be-determined alternative providers.

The city also proposed the corporation move into Square One, its own co-working space, as a cost-saving measure, and gave the board until Friday to respond to the proposed agreement.

In an interview with the News Bulletin, Hankins said the city has engaged a lawyer on the partnering agreement, which he said Tracy Samra, the city’s chief administrative officer, advised economic development to do.

Hankins questions the use of taxpayers’ money and the time of the volunteer board of directors, among other issues, in an editorial “Perplexed and silent no more,” which was sent to media.

He also takes issue that the city’s decision was not an action recommended in its recent core services review and that removing tourism was made without input or feedback in regards to consequences for Hankins and his team.

“I am not hung up on the structure that tourism needs to stay in NEDC,” said Hankins. “I would be quite open for it to potentially move out, but that needs to be a properly thought-through process, looking at the pros and cons. To just announce that tourism will be removed without any explanation as to what it is going to look like to me, I have to point out as the CEO, that is in my view … irresponsible.”

Hankins said the city has experienced an outstanding year in tourism, has an increased social media following and one of Tourism Nanaimo’s marketing campaigns won an award this year. He said council’s decision has created “chaos” in the market and has made a highly motivated team that was winning awards concerned about its future.

He also said he repeatedly asked how the decision came about and why the corporation was not involved, adding it was promised it would be at the table for further consultation.

The city’s core review looked at the corporation and made recommendations around funding models, but not tourism. According to Hankins, the review as a whole found the corporation is doing a good job, although, he said, as in every organization, there are areas in which to improve.

Samra has been contacted for comment.

Op-Ed Perplexed and Silent No More by MelissaFryer on Scribd