Council costs hard to bear

Councillors have to show that they can govern, and that they can get along in a respectful and positive way.

Usually all it takes is a few words of respectful discussion – and possibly a few beers – for people to air out their differences and move on.

Unfortunately for Nanaimo taxpayers, city council’s inability to resolve its conflicts and arguments in a respectful manner means that residents will be on the hook for thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees.

A governance report released earlier this year, which cost $75,000, revealed tension, name calling and physical altercations among councillors hampered their ability to properly run the city.

At the committee of the whole meeting on Monday, council voted to act on some of the report’s recommendations, hiring another consultant to create a code of conduct, define councillors’ roles and responsibilities and draft consequences for breaking those rules. The total cost to implement the recommendations will be upwards of $25,000, including $8,000 to rearrange seating in the Shaw Auditorium to make interactions between council and staff seem less adversarial.

It’s easy to be outraged at the cost to teach well-educated adults how to behave, but when the governance report points out that the toxic work environment is hampering council’s ability to run the city, it seems there’s no alternative.

Taxpayers will simply have to live with spending money on governance, rather than improvements to parks, city buildings or programming.

The code of conduct and roles and responsibilities is set to be implemented over the next year.

Councillors will have a short window of opportunity to show the city’s residents that they can govern, and that they can get along in a respectful and positive way.

If they can’t, voters will have the opportunity during November’s elections to show the real consequences of poor governance and give council a significant time out.