Editorial: Debt philosophy has implications

There was examination in the core review of the city’s debt and a recommendation to develop a philosophy on assuming new debt.

City councillors are regarding the core services review as not only an analysis, but a sort of affirmation.

The review, delivered this past spring, praised, for the most part, the City of Nanaimo’s operations and finances. Council anticipated the document for the first year and a half of its mandate, holding off on certain kinds of decision-making. Now that the numbers are there in black and white and red, citizens should expect some big-ticket announcements.

There was examination in the core review of the city’s debt and a recommendation to develop a philosophy on assuming new debt. When we leave debt for future generations, are we leaving them with an unreasonable burden or their fair share of the bill?

At this week’s e-town hall meeting, the subject of debt came up again, with council seeming to brace citizens for new borrowing. “Money’s never been so cheap,” said Coun. Bill Bestwick. Interest rates are low, added Coun. Ian Thorpe, and “we have a large capacity to be able to assume debt.”

Taxpayers, it can be assumed, are being asked for a sort of loan pre-approval for some of the coming projects, presumably ones of which we’re already aware. Councillors agreed earlier this spring on a list of strategic priorities that could include capital costs connected with south downtown waterfront development, support for a multiplex, Port Theatre expansion, and attention to parks, green spaces and walkways. Some of these priorities leave a lot of room for interpretation and some vastly different levels for public-private partnership.

The core review covers a lot of ground and includes some interconnections that aren’t always explicitly stated. Examining Nanaimo’s debt and capacity to take on new debt is part of the conversation when we talk about existing services and potential new projects and services. So we’ll watch closely as council continues to consider any and all core review recommendations, because they’re all connected, and they’re connected to all of us.

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