COLUMN: Election onslaught set to get going

The nomination period for civic politicians – regional district, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Islands Trusts and school board – opened last week and closes Friday (Oct. 14).

Prepare for the onslaught.

The nomination period for civic politicians – regional district, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Islands Trusts and school board – opened last week and closes Friday (Oct. 14).

Voters go to the polls Nov. 19.

Campaign signs have already started popping up in a select few locations, but should soon be littering the roadside landscapes.

Some, perhaps many, people are annoyed by such campaign tactics and find it difficult to get interested in the elections themselves.

Those people need to give their heads a shake.

While they might lack the media glitz of provincial or federal elections, local elections are the most direct democracy voters can get.

If you want to effect change that you and your neighbours will actually notice, the civic vote is where you’ll make it happen.

In Nanaimo, aside from incumbent Nanaimo mayor John Ruttan’s official announcement more than a month ago, there’s been little in the way of big campaign news.

So far, no one has stepped forward publicly to announce they’ll challenge Ruttan’s re-election bid.

A few people have ‘launched’ their campaigns for a seat on council and a handful of others have unofficially announced their intentions. But the real proof will come after the close of nominations Friday, when we get the actual list of official candidates.

For voters in Nanaimo, the hottest issue this election will likely be social housing.

Although it’s been a buzzword around town for three or four years, with a Housing First plan introduced and presented to the public in 2008, it’s taken until this year for the buzz to actually reach the residents.

Few if any citizens actually cared to pay attention to the plan until they realized it called for moving people – yes, let’s refer to them as people – who require help with certain socially unacceptable problems, into their neighbourhoods.

Unfortunately, much of the buzz is from misinformation and misunderstandings, but at least people are paying attention. That’s better than nothing and is certain to make for a more interesting election.

In Lantzville, the dirt is sure to be flying, with the urban agriculture issue refusing to be put to rest.

That controversy alone has brought some council hopefuls out of the woodwork.

It’s the same story as the social housing controversy a few kilometres to the south, as misinformation and  misunderstandings seem to be ruling the conversation, while actual solutions are easily within reach.

Emotions are running high in the small community and that’s a surefire recipe for some surprises on the month-long campaign trail.

At the school board table, the primary issue hasn’t changed for years – there isn’t enough money.

Trustees have cut and cut and cut further and there’s simply nowhere else to cut.

Last election the key issue for education stakeholders was the facilities renewal plan, which got tossed in the trash as soon as a new board took office.

Since then, despite countless hours and meetings spent on the plan, Nanaimo still doesn’t have a clear idea of where we’re going with our school buildings and many of the projects we were waiting for three years ago are still on the drawing board.

If voters are unhappy with that situation, they should know who is responsible – the board majority that tossed out a provincially endorsed document that would have brought us new, revitalized schools and a better education environment for our students.