CHRIS BUSH AND KARL YU/The News Bulletin Members of Nanaimo’s next city council were all at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Saturday. Top row, left to right: Erin Hemmens, Sheryl Armstrong, Ben Geselbracht. Middle row: Tyler Brown, Leonard Krog, Jim Turley. Bottom row: Don Bonner, Ian Thorpe, Zeni Maartman.

OPINION: Nanaimo not only voted, but voted with purpose

Nanaimo’s civic leadership will see the change that so many wanted

It sure seems like Nanaimo’s civic leadership will see the change that so many wanted.

Though two incumbents return to Nanaimo city council, it feels like sweeping change has come. The days after an election should be a time of optimism, so why not in Nanaimo? There’s every indication citizens have elected smart, forward-thinking, reasonable, competent people to our next council.

For so much of the lead up to the election campaign, there was a widely held sentiment that the current council needed to go. But as the campaign went along, I think another element was added to citizens’ mindsets – the sense that Nanaimo wasn’t just voting against something it didn’t want, but voting for something it did want.

Some of the candidates ran top-notch campaigns. They backed up their slick production values, too. There were messages worth hearing and candidates worth voting for, and a Nanaimo electorate, already compelled to pay attention, took notice. The ballot became more than an alphabetical list of names and became linked with ideals of hope, belief and trust. Voters developed rooting interests and began to feel personal stakes in the outcome of election day.

ELECTION DAY: Krog voted in as Nanaimo’s next mayor

Voter turnout was upwards of 40 per cent this year and while that might not sound impressive, it’s significantly higher than the 34 per cent turnout in 2014 and better than most municipalities around British Columbia. Of course there’s room for improvement, but I think Nanaimo residents can feel satisfied that we did our civic duty at a time when it was awfully important to do so.

“That’s the upside of this whole experience, is that it’s made many more people more aware of their local government…” said Coun. Ian Thorpe, who was re-elected. “It’s made more people aware of the issues; more people I think have done their homework before they voted and more people got out to vote.”

There’s a general sense that Nanaimo voters made a lot of good choices, based on what I’ve heard and on the News Bulletin’s informal web polling.

Thorpe said he’s “extremely excited” about the group of councillors elected, whom he called intelligent people who will be articulate voices for Nanaimo.

“I think they will be able to work together and I’ll be able to work together with them in a very respectful atmosphere and a positive atmosphere and that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said.

Mayor-elect Leonard Krog said he’s already feeling that spirit of co-operation. He said Nanaimo needs to make up for lost time but will do exactly that.

“The last four years, the bad news is it happened; the good news is we’ve seen a level of civic engagement in this city which is tremendous,” Krog said.

The current council gave Nanaimo reasons to grumble and gripe and sometimes be appalled by what was happening at city hall and in council chambers. Nanaimoites could have become cynical and disengaged, but that didn’t happen. We decided that it mattered to us to have a city council that can represent the Nanaimo we wish to be.

No matter our city’s reputation today, no matter how others wish to define us, we get the final say – we who live here, contribute, care and vote.

-files from Karl Yu/The News Bulletin

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