Editorial: Respect process, outcome of referendum

Depending how you look at it, we’re all on the same side – we all want what’s best for Nanaimo.

There will be at least two sides to this winter’s multiplex referendum and those in favour and those opposed will go head-to-head. Then again, depending how you look at it, we’re all on the same side – we all want what’s best for Nanaimo.

We’ve known for a while that a vote is coming, and city council took another step this week in that direction, approving a referendum budget, appointing election officers and favouring a March 11 date.

In today’s issue of the News Bulletin, we had a little fun with our front-page photo, playing up the adversarial aspect of the issue. We hope, however, that the debate will be spirited without becoming mean-spirited. No one is wrong to want a sports and events centre and those who oppose one aren’t wrong, either. We’ll look more closely at some of the arguments for and against in future issues of the Bulletin, but at this time, before a referendum is even finalized, we’re mostly expressing our wishes that people will respect the process. This can’t come down to which side makes its case more loudly, because it’s important that we don’t drown out the complexities of the discussion.

For that matter, it’s essential that we as citizens understand the question we’re being asked in the first place. The wording won’t be finalized until February and in the meantime there are still fundamental gaps that probably preclude many of us from being able to take a reasoned stance: Which site are we even being asked about? What assurances do we have regarding an anchor tenant?

After respecting the process, we’ll need to respect the outcome, too. A failed vote, for example, shouldn’t exactly signal public appetite to begin consultation on other major capital projects, particularly ones that haven’t been identified as priorities.

Yes, no, maybe – any of those could be the right answer right now. The debate has already begun and it can be an argument, and at the same time, a conversation.