BY CAROL MATTHEWS
The News Bulletin is presenting a series of guest columns co-ordinated by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and the Our Nanaimo voter engagement group.
When my husband and I left Montreal to move to Nanaimo in 1970, our friends advised against it. Nanaimo was a mill town, they said, with no arts and culture, no remarkable architecture, no interesting people. A backwater. We were making a mistake.
At first I wondered if they might be right, as I missed many of the things I’d enjoyed in the big city. Before long, though, I began to enjoy attractions such as the proximity to beaches, parks, all sorts of outdoor activities, the slower pace, and the easy access to the Gulf Islands, Vancouver and Victoria. I learned to appreciate the culture, history and strengths of our indigenous community on whose territorial land we live and work.
Through the years, the winding walkways along our beautiful shoreline have been developed. The college has moved and become a university. The population has grown and become more diverse. We now have the Port Theatre, a wonderful art gallery and an excellent museum. Many attractive shops and fine restaurants have located here. In my work at Malaspina University-College, I frequently had the opportunity to review applications from top-notch individuals, nationally and internationally, who viewed Nanaimo as the best place to work and raise a family.
We already have everything in place to make Nanaimo the most liveable city in Canada, so what more do we need to make that happen?
Above all, we need a city council that supports opportunity and doesn’t block initiative. We need to re-establish groups such as Tourism Nanaimo and the economic development corporation. We have a vibrant and talented arts community in Nanaimo. Let’s find out how best to sustain and grow it.
As well, we need a council that will work with other levels of government to create affordable housing, instead of turning down provincial funding and leaving us with the tragic situations at Discontent City. Let’s elect a council that will support innovative low-cost housing such as the beautifully designed units developed by the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre.
Let’s elect a council that implements effective environmental planning and recycling and creates a new official community plan to replace the current outdated one. A council that generates a visionary transportation plan, including the fast ferry to Vancouver – perhaps even working with others to bring back passenger rail. An inclusive council that welcomes community participation and works effectively with partners, in particular the Snuneymuxw band and council.
Ongoing community engagement enriches the planning process, so let’s ensure that our new council respects and acts on recommendations from committees such as the South Downtown Waterfront Committee without having to hold a referendum to hear the messages that people are sending. Let’s elect councillors who act collaboratively as effective ambassadors for our city so that our council’s dysfunctional behaviour isn’t headlined in local, provincial and national newspapers.
Nanaimo has enormous potential but, if we are to realize it, we need a council that really works. The time is now. Some good, knowledgeable, ethical and experienced people have stepped up as candidates. Find out who they are and hear what they have to say. Vote smart.