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Editorial: Citizens choose a little bit of change on council

Voter turnout was disappointing, but citizen engagement can happen any time
City of Nanaimo Coun. Ben Geselbracht, who was re-elected, speaks with Janice Perrino, who was elected to council, at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on election night Saturday, Oct. 15. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo citizens didn’t vote for wholesale change this election, but they did vote for enough change that it will be felt around the council table.

In a few weeks’ time, the next Nanaimo city council will be installed with three new members – representing one-third of council. Leadership has also been refreshed on the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board, where five of the nine trustees will be new to that table, and at the District of Lantzville, where three out of five council members will be newcomers.

Now that the election campaign is over in Nanaimo, it seemed to go by awfully fast when compared with the four-year council term that came before it and the four-year council term that is about to begin.

The outgoing council rarely made Nanaimo city politics a national news story, but the group did put its stamp on the city. The mayor and council gets credit and takes blame for initiatives they spearhead, and also gets credit and takes blame for staff-led projects that have sometimes been in the long-range financial plans for years.

Citizens presumably weighed what they liked and didn’t like and voted accordingly. That’s one way to read the voting results, but another major factor, of course, is the calibre of the other candidates in the race and the strength of their campaigns.

As is usually the case in local government elections, too few eligible voters troubled to go to the voting places and mark the ballots that were waiting for them there. Voter turnout in the City of Nanaimo was a disappointing 24.4 per cent, down more than 15 per cent from four years ago and reversing what had been positive trends.

The incumbents might say that low voter turnout signals a level of satisfaction with the status quo, and that’s partly true. Cities with acclaimed mayors also tend to see low voter turnout and while Mayor Leonard Krog wasn’t acclaimed, the sentiment that his re-election wasn’t in doubt certainly had some effect on voter turnout.

Some people say that those who didn’t vote don’t get to complain, but we’ve never agreed with that. We hope that even with the campaign behind us, citizens remain engaged in what’s happening at city hall and in council chambers, and the decisions that are made there that determine where the Harbour City goes from here.

EDITORIAL: Our communities are depending on us to vote

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About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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