In our Dec. 27 issue, the News Bulletin detailed our story of the year for 2018, Discontent City. That article can be found at this link. Here is one of the runner-up stories of the year:
A municipal election gave citizens the chance to vote for the change that they clearly wanted.
A new mayor, six new councillors and only two incumbents comprise Nanaimo’s city council at the end of 2018 after an election that seemed to last a lot longer than the official campaign period.
In the first few months of the year, events at city hall – including a police investigation and firing of upper managers – had more and more citizens expressing dissatisfaction with civic leadership. Council candidates began to declare their intentions early, most notably then-MLA Leonard Krog, in June.
In the end, there were three mayoral candidates and 40 councillor candidates on the ballot in the City of Nanaimo. Only four of the nine members of the previous council sought re-election: Sheryl Armstrong, Gord Fuller, Jerry Hong and Ian Thorpe. Former mayor Bill McKay was among those who decided not to run in 2018.
“I did the best that I could under extremely trying circumstances,” McKay said.
Forty council candidates made voter information events such as all-candidates’ meetings unwieldy. The voter engagement group Our Nanaimo and the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce took leadership in organizing two forums and there were a few other debates and question-and-answer gatherings, some organized by candidates themselves.
On voting day, Krog was voted in as mayor in a landslide ahead of runner-up Don Hubbard (and Ray Farmere, who asked for a recount) and many council candidates were elected with strong voter support. Erin Hemmens led the polls and other successful candidates, in order of vote count, were Armstrong, Ben Geselbracht, Tyler Brown, Jim Turley, Don Bonner, Thorpe and Zeni Maartman.
Krog said on election night that Nanaimo is fortunate that it will have a good council and maybe a great council.
“Obviously Nanaimo is anxious to get on with progress and change…” Krog said. “It is about bringing people together for change and I think the candidates who are leading tonight speak to that as loudly as they possibly could and the voters obviously supported that message.”
Nanaimo’s new mayor and council were sworn in on Nov. 5, but even before then, the municipal election had already had impacts on other levels of government. Just four days after Nanaimo voted in Krog as mayor, then-Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson was introduced by B.C. Premier John Horgan as someone who would be putting her name forward for the provincial NDP nomination in the riding. She later won the nomination unopposed, and will run against B.C. Liberal candidate Tony Harris, B.C. Greens candidate Michele Ney and others in a byelection in 2019.
What’s more, Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding now has no federal representation and it’s possible a byelection will also be required in advance of the fall 2019 federal election.