If city council meetings have become political theatre, then Nanaimo citizens are like the two old guys on The Muppet Show who can’t bear to watch and yet can’t look away.
Nanaimo city council teetered toward dysfunction last week as councillors revealed that seven of them had signed a letter expressing non-confidence in Mayor Bill McKay and calling for his resignation. There were allegations of bullying of city staff, and councillors also blamed the mayor for a lack of communication and poor attendance at meetings. The mayor refused to resign and finally spoke up this week, dodging accusations and suggesting all involved should forgive and move forward.
The citizens don’t know all that has happened in camera, in the bowels of city hall and behind the curtain, and we won’t, unless this situation escalates. We do know that there is plenty of blame to go around and all councillors should be accountable for bringing our city’s governance to this degenerated state.
We watched grimly last year as neighbouring Lantzville made national headlines when its civic leadership imploded, and yet Nanaimo’s councillors missed the warning signs, failed to rise above and make things work, and have now made national headlines of their own.
While expressions of non-confidence and allegations of bullying should be taken seriously, de-escalation should be the preferred course of action. Councillors have shamed the mayor, for right or wrong, and hopefully all involved will come out of this humbled by their mistakes and well-intentioned to move the city forward.
We do like the municipality’s decision to introduce portfolios for city business so that even if councillors can’t get work done while united, perhaps they can still get work done while divided.
This is the cast of characters that Nanaimo elected, and the show must go on. It’s time to cut the drama and get to work, the way a city council should.