Cutting the field of council candidates down to 12

Don White News Nanaimo
This first cull is neither permanent nor completely closed. But with a much shorter list, I can focus my ongoing research on those I think are best
In my previous column, I wrote about the importance of selecting candidates who voters believe are capable and willing to look out for their best interests. I began by looking at the incumbents for Councillor, including Wendy Pratt since she served half a term on the current Council. Of them all, I decided only Sheryl Armstrong is someone I can trust to have my back at City Hall.

The same criterion is also useful for sifting non-incumbents, although it’s more restricted. We haven’t had the same opportunity to witness non-incumbents in action to see how they behave at City Hall. Most candidates are still untried. Except for one: Don Bonner.

Bonner is the one non-incumbent who has demonstrated his will to fight for voters in the crucible of Nanaimo Council. His dogged pursuit to get the information from the current council that voters needed about the Event Centre, finances, the Core Review, Question Period, and other issues amounted to an operational definition of fortitude. Bonner’s submissions and persistence under fire made me wish he was an official delegate on our behalf. As did his willingness to listen. Over the past four years, I watched him evolve into the kind of councillor we need.

Over the past four years, I watched Don Bonner evolve into the kind of councillor we need

Bonner, along with Armstrong, also scores highly on the other selection factors like honesty and integrity. For this reason, I am putting him and Armstrong on my list of Selected Candidates. Not the Shortlist of those whom I’m still considering, but the final list of those who already get my vote. That leaves me looking for six more candidates to fill the vacant seats.

I have written elsewhere about the measures I use to choose candidates I think are strongest. Along with honesty and integrity, the criteria include; apparent conflicts of interests/allegiances; ties to old Nanaimo factions; management skills and experience; education; fiscal competence; intelligence and ability to think critically; and having both a local and a global vision.

Keeping these criteria in mind, I go through the information currently available from sources like: and; the candidate’s website if they have one; filed financial statements; and other documentation provided. On that basis, I eliminate twenty-eight of the thirty-eight remaining candidates. I drop from further consideration those I believe show a relative weakness in relevant experience, education, vague or superficial platforms, or what seems poor suitability for Nanaimo’s broad range of needs. Some have problematic connections or business interests I think pose a conflict of interest. A couple appear mainly to be looking for a job. Some appear to be ideally suited for a position on a City committee, but to be blunt, not on Council. When I’m done, I have eight candidates for the six remaining Councillor positions.

To me, these eight candidates most embody the traits we desire in our Council. But not all to the same degree. Some are weaker than others on particular aspects; some are stronger. But we are still almost a month away from the election. So, In practice, my Shortlist really is a list of those on whom I’ll focus my attention in the next four weeks. Those candidates who made the cut are: Tyler Brown, Ben Geselbracht, Erin Hemmens, Zeni Maartman, Alexis Petersen, Noah Routley, Jim Turley, and Peter Urquhart.

To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable with the list I have compiled. For one thing, the experience and stated focus of selected candidates seems disproportionately tilted towards those who have experience in the social services. Hands-on financial training and work experience seem in short supply. The list also hints at a gender imbalance. Even more obvious is the lack of those from different ethnic groups. Only Bonner, a member of the Algonquin First Nation, represents an ethnic minority. The list looks predominantly white and male.

Narrowing the field now allows me to concentrate on the candidates I think are strongest and not be distracted by the weaker

Another deficit is equally important. On this list, only Sheryl Armstrong provides continuity with the outgoing administration. This seems potentially problematic with steep learning curves as new councillors take on important duties. It’s for this reason, I re-consider Wendy Pratt and Ian Thorpe. Neither passed my voter-protection test, but one or both may have valuable Council experience that would be of benefit to voters. Perhaps — provided we have others looking out for voter interests — Pratt and Thorpe could overcome the disadvantage of choosing mostly newcomers. So I’m adding Thorpe and Pratt to my Shortlist.

That makes twelve including Armstrong and Bonner. I’ve reduced the forty candidates running for Councillor to an even dozen. Not bad.

As the campaign goes on and I see the candidates in action at the various public meetings, being interviewed, at large in the community, and I gain more information, I’ll be able to solidify my first impressions, revisit choices, and further narrow the list of prospects. Maybe I’ll reconsider someone I previously eliminated. This first cull is not necessarily permanent, nor completely closed. What’s more important is the final list I take into the polling booth.

Which is really the value of a shortlist. Narrowing the field now allows me to concentrate on the candidates I think are strongest and not be distracted by the weaker. It reduces the noise in the campaign. In making a preliminary cull I got a measure of all forty candidates, so I know who is in the running and their relative strengths. Now with a much shorter list, I can focus on only those I think are best.

Next week, I’ll consider the candidates for Mayor. With only three candidates running, the process will, hopefully, be simpler.

Don White’s Choices for Councillor



Sheryl Armstrong
Don Bonner


Shortlisted for Further Consideration

Tyler Brown

Erin Hemmens

Alexis Petersen

Noah Routley

Jim Turley

Ben Geselbracht

Zeni Maartman

Wendy Pratt

Ian Thorpe

Peter Urquhart


About the author

Don White

Don White

Don moved to Nanaimo from the BC Lower Mainland almost five years ago, but has visited the Island regularly for more than thirty years. He considers local government to be a crucial factor in determining not only our quality of life, but also our efforts to protect and responsibly develop this beautiful but vulnerable setting we live in. This view became his motivation for continuing to inform and engage Nanaimo voters.


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    • In reading the article of August 10,2018 by Greg Sakaki of the Nanaimo News Bulletin, Mr. Bonner is reported to have said that he “wants to rebuild partnerships with the Snuneymuxw, recognize equality and heed First Nations culture.” Mr. Bonner, if you happen to read this comment could you please provide a more specific explanation for your reported platform position. What partnerships do you want rebuilt,and what cultural matters do you want non-natives to heed?

      • Most candidates are not able to respond to every question posted on the web or social media. I visited Don Bonner’s campaign site and pulled this off his platform page. If it doesn’t answer your questions, you can contact him via his website.

        As a member of the Algonquin Nation this is very important to me. The City needs to become recognized as a “City of Reconciliation”. To do this Council needs to adopt the findings of the report and implement all calls to action that relate to the City. Our community needs to build local First Nations and Urban Indigenous relationships, including; recognizing the equal role our nations have with the City of Nanaimo and Snuneymuwx and Snaw-Naw-As First Nation; and, agreeing to view all relations with Snunemuwx, Snaw-Naw-As and the Urban Aboriginal population in the context of the Canadian Charter and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
        We need to promote Indigenous peoples’ arts, culture, awareness, and understanding, including looking at incorporating the Halkomelem language onto our entrance signs to the City, and looking at renaming some streets and landmarks to include their traditional names, as we replace signage.
        Incorporate First Nations and Urban Indigenous perspectives for effective City services and for all policy and work that the City does.”

    • Not sure on Bonner? Perhaps by reading the following policy statement from his platform page will help.

      “Incorporate First Nations and Urban Indigenous perspectives for effective City services and for all policy and work that the city does.”

  • Most of your choices reflect the candidates that I am considering. Still not a fan of Thorpe or Pratt though. I don’t think their experience is what we need. I’d rather see a rookie bunch of keen, intelligent, well qualified people than have incumbents who really did not perform well the first time around.

    • Concerning the inclusion of Thorpe and Pratt into the “shortlist for further consideration”, this is most certainly a complete reversal of Mr. Whites earlier opinion of these two incumbents, when he excoriated them for their council performance (ie: non performance). Yet now he gives them points for their “valuable council experience”. Totally illogical reasoning.Further, I agree with the comments by Everest.

  • I’m reading these columns with interest. It’s fascinating to see how people narrow down and select who they would like to see on council. I would like to see several other people in the community do the same. I liked the first column better as it detailed specific candidates and why or why not more. This column didn’t explain exactly why candidates were in or out except for broad strokes. Perhaps it would take too many columns. One other thing that should be disclosed is if there are personal relationships. This was quite the endorsement of Bonner. Would you consider him a friend? How do you know him?

    • I will leave it to Don White to explain the extent of his relationships with any of the candidates, but I can assure you that any conflict would have to be disclosed and there are none to disclose.

      • The questions posed by Ms.Hanson were clearly directed to Don White. Why do you inject yourself into the exchange? More appropriately, do you yourself have any personal relationships with the candidate Don Bonner that would cause you to reply in the manner you did?

      • I own this website and have a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of its content, something I take seriously. Mr. Hanson is a journalist and I am, too. I was making him aware that nothing gets posted as news or editorial without adherence to the highest journalistic standards and ethics. It is important that people know and understand this.

        I have already said there are no conflicts.

    • I will say that Mr. Hanson’s questions betray an ignorance of what has been happening in this city over the past three years. He should not be at all surprised that Don White has selected Don Bonner as someone he will vote for. Anyone who has been paying attention and who understands the issues would know that Mr. Bonner has been a constant voice against some of the more wayward moves by the Bestwick-led majority and their choice of CAO. I agree with Mr. White’s assessment of Mr. Bonner because it is accurate.

  • I like the idea of four qualified and gifted women on council. But part of me thinks we should have more women to choose from. Me thinks your chooses of women candidates are solid.

    I like that you have culled what I tend to think of as grumpy old men. I am sure these are well meaning, hard worked and dedicated types, but they seem to be running on a platform of “I’ll be better than any one of the last council.” So what, my neighbour’s dog would be better than the last bunch, and I don’t get to vote for my neighbour’s dog.

    I also think that with Don Bonner, Tyler Brown, Erin Hemmens, Ben Geselbracht and Peter Urquhart we have enough committee experience and intelligence to reduce the need for incumbents to mentor. The mentorship argument isn’t strong enough to favour either Wendy Pratt or Ian Thorpe.

    Thanks for the thoughtful list. It does include all the candidates I will be voting for.

  • Don, How can you endorse Wendy Pratt when she resigned from Council and it cost Nanaimo taxpayers another byelection. Did she pay any part of that cost?

  • Am both disappointed and confused as to why Norm Smith and Bill Manners did not make the list. Both solid candidates in my opinion.

  • I agree with Everest Base Camp Trek and add that I find Mr. Bonner’s First Nations agenda annoying, as if we don’t do enough for them now and get nothing in return including taxes. First nations need to focus on the future and stop living in the past. They want self-government; I say lets help them get there and end the welfare. I support the idea of new,fresh young blood on Council and let the negativity and irresonsibility on Council disappear into the past.