A few days before Halloween, Nanaimo citizens should be spooked about our city’s economic development and lack thereof.
A city council decision this month to take away tourism oversight from the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation seemed to be poorly thought out, and as it turns out, it was. The corporation’s CEO John Hankins was fired this week in a blaze of rhetoric after authoring an op-ed defending himself and his team and criticizing the city’s decision and decision-making process. Hankins probably deserved to be fired for distributing his 1,700-word tell-all. But according to his version of the sequence of events, the city’s shakeup to the NEDC mandate came without even cursory consultation with the corporation.
The city has expressed that it wants to roll tourism together with conference centre marketing, and will seek proposals from one or more private partners. But that hardly constitutes a plan of action, and now, with economic development descending into turmoil, we’re in a worse position than we were.
Council is attempting to develop new destination marketing strategies, a recommendation in two recent studies. Instead, it’s destabilized the economic development corporation, right after the core services review found that a lack of stability over the years had limited the NEDC’s effectiveness.
Lurking below all of these developments is the forensic audit of the corporation, which isn’t public, but may have impacted council’s trust of the NEDC and its leadership.
Whatever its reasons, the city is now stumbling forward blindly on economic development and tourism and has left wreckage in its path. We have a dearth of leadership on these critical files, and whether we have leadership in the future, we need competent caretakers now.
Important city affairs are a mess. It’s Halloween havoc, and it could come back to haunt us.