The November 2014 election results were the consequence of an angry electorate, a backlash against the Colliery Dams debacle and an uproar over the Leadercast cancellation. They ushered in a council majority with a common cause: a vendetta of sorts against perceived power and manipulation by the city’s senior managers.
Bill Bestwick and Jim Kipp, both former municipal workers themselves, have long been known to harbour resentment towards the city’s senior mandarins. On previous councils their bile was kept in check by moderate majorities that kept them on the sidelines. But on this council, with support of Gord Fuller, Jerry Hong and Bill Yoachim, they have steadfastly held a five-four majority and gotten their way when it mattered.
When in October 2015 former city manager Ted Swabey threw in the towel, they seized the opportunity to tip the balance of power lopsidedly in their favor. They appointed Tracy Samra, another aggrieved former city employee on whose loyalty they could depend. And with that Nanaimo was at the mercy of a group with a giant chip on its shoulder.
It has been an unmitigated disaster. From the brain drain of staff who fled or were fired; to the brutal bashing and neutering of the duly elected mayor and councillors they opposed; to the bitter legal battles, deleterious headlines, fiscal follies, wanton waste, harebrained projects, workplace investigations, criminal allegations, leaked videos, strained relations, secrecy, deflection, opaqueness and outright lies, Nanaimoites can be forgiven for wishing on a shining knight from the Provincial Government to ride in to save us.
But this is a problem of our own making. We voted badly or we didn’t vote at all. We chose change for change’s sake rather than for the betterment of our community. Our vote was based on vexation and gratification rather than vision and good governance. Fortunately, in seven months we will get another chance to fix our mistake.
The challenge for the next council is daunting. Fixing other people’s messes is not for the meek or those seeking glory. It is hard, unrewarding work demanding competence, experience and realistic expectations. There is no place for grandiose schemes or axes to grind.
The hope now is that candidates of the needed calibre will step forward. The voters are desperate to support them.