Answers to Chamber of Commerce and OurNanaimo

As part of the application to attend the Candidates meeting on October 15th at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre all the candidates had to answer 4 questions.  The answers for all the candidates are posted on both groups website however it’s a very long read so I thought I would post my answers here.

  • How would you describe the role you are seeking (mayor or councillor) and how do your skills, experience and qualifications prepare you to take on this serious and complex role?

The role of a councillor is to provide governance to the City Corporation.  That governance is provided by passing by-laws and motions. A councillor also represents the citizens of this city and does so by considering the interests of the municipality and its community members in their decision making.  I have extensive training on board governance.  I completely understand the difference between operations and governance.  I have been on numerous boards including chairing boards for the last 17 years.  I have been involved in numerous strategic planning sessions with these boards. I know how to read a financial statement. I have been on city committees for over 7 years and been responsible for almost $1.5M per year in city spending through the Permissive Tax Exemptions.  I have a strong background working with Arts and Culture groups and Social Service agencies in our city.  I have been an active participant in city council meetings and attended most of the public engagement sessions put on by the city in the past 4 years.

  • Outline the approaches and actions you think council should take to help foster a prosperous, vibrant, sustainable and diverse Nanaimo economy and community.

Council needs to provide for the public engagement of the community members. Where the members of our community share a role in the decision making process.  Council needs to create a new Economic Development entity and what it looks like will be part of that public engagement.  Council also needs to look to the future and again with community engagement develop a long-term vision for our city.  Then council with more engagement from the public and input from staff need to develop a strategic plan based on that vision.  That strategic plan needs to look at our built and natural infrastructure, our social and cultural infrastructure, the environment and our economic base.  One thing that is very important that council needs to address is help for our City staff.  We need to look for and hire a new CAO and help that person rebuild the capacity of our staff.  Council’s role is governance and setting our strategic priorities.  We can have the best plans and fail without a vibrant city staff to implement those decisions.  Both planning and building staff capacity must be done hand in hand to achieve the results our community wants.

  • Describe your vision, approach and tactics for how you as a council member and council as a body should engage with its various partners, stakeholders and constituents.

Council with the help of staff need to develop a culture of public engagement for most of the policy and projects we work on.  This can be done several ways including online public engagement using software such as PlaceSpeak or CitizenLab.  Public engagement needs to be done at the beginning of the development of the project or policy and not at the end.  Stakeholders need to be clearly identified and approached to participate.  Probably a recent example of engagement with stakeholders and constituents was the Off-Street Parking By-law.  Staff took the original bylaw talked with identified stakeholders, did research on best practices in other cities and came up suggested changes then reached out to the community for input.  The final report in detail described all the work done including all the research, public consultation, stakeholder engagement.  The report then went on to describe how the initial bylaw suggestions were adapted after the consultation process and in detail listed the results of the surveys and public discussion in the report.  This reporting allowed council to have a clear understanding of the process and how the staff recommendation came to be.  It also allowed the public to see the process and to see their ideas incorporated into the final report and recommendations.

  • Nanaimo Council is served and supported by a series of committees. How should these committees be structured, mandated and governed?

I would like to see a return to the existing committee structure prior to the last election.  Specifically, I would like to see a return of the Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability.  With a mandate to ensure a healthy environment by advising Council on environmental sustainability issues and providing input on policies and practices that deal with social, cultural, land use and economic development.

A return of the Grants Advisory committee with an increased mandate to manage all city grants and Permissive Tax exemptions and to advise council on policy regarding such.

I would like to see the finance and audit committee broken up into a finance committee and an audit committee.  With the possibility of rolling finance into the COW meeting.  The Audit committee would be responsible for making sure that the city’s resources are subject to proper controls and reported properly.  Simply put the COW or council decides what to spend money on and the Audit committee makes sure it’s done properly.

Finally, a committee to Incorporate First Nations and Urban Indigenous perspectives for effective City services and for all policy work that the City does.  With a mandate to see the city of Nanaimo designated as a City of Reconciliation. In addition, but not related to the question I would like to see the city hire a reconciliation planner with similar mandate as the one hired by the Vancouver Park Board.

Below are questions from Nanaimo News Now

Question 1: Describe, in detail, what you view as the most important duties associated with the role of being a councillor/mayor?

The role of council is laid out in law with the Community Charter.  Councils address the needs, both present day and future, of their community by making collective decisions which are set out in bylaws and resolutions.  As councillors we must look out for the interests and well-being of the people in our community.  We need to review bylaws, the Official Community Plan, hire an employee to run the city corporation, set a balanced 5-year budget each year, set tax rates to accommodate that budget.  As a level of government, we need to have good working relationships with the Nanaimo Port Authority, School Board, Nanaimo Airport, neighbouring municipalities and with our neighbour nations Snuneymuxw First Nation and Snaw-naw-as First Nation.

As well council needs to be open and willing to listen to the public.  This is done through an active policy of community engagement on important projects, initiatives and plans. Through this active community engagement, we would then make decisions on projects, strategic plans and a vision for our future.

Question 2: Describe your vision for Nanaimo beyond the next four years

Create a community that our children and grand children will be proud to call their home.

A partnership for future prosperity with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and our Urban Aboriginal population as equals.  Our city becoming recognized as a “City of Reconciliation”.

Our City becoming a more active partner in our arts & culture events and festivals to guarantee their success and help promote new ones thereby showcasing Nanaimo with a vibrant Arts and Cultural community.

Building our high-tech industry through developing our Digital Infrastructure, our Social and Cultural Infrastructure and our Natural Infrastructure. Where high-tech business and workers around the world recognize that living and working in Nanaimo is Lit.

Renewed partnerships with the School Board, the Nanaimo Port Authority, Nanaimo Airport, Island Corridor Foundation, Chamber of Commerce and the Social Service Agencies of our community.

Our City becoming a leader in stewardship of our environment, promoting sustainable agriculture and water shed management and respect for our Natural environment.

Question 3: If you were making a list of your top three strategic priorities for the incoming Council to focus on over the next four years, what would they be and why?

Development of the digital, social, arts & cultural and natural infrastructure to attract and retain a successful high-tech industry.

Development of a vision & strategic plan, along with a renewed Official Community Plan done through extensive public engagement to move our city through the next 20 years.

A partnership for future prosperity with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and our Urban Aboriginal population as equals.  Our city becoming recognized as a “City of Reconciliation”.

Question 4: What is your strategy for dealing with the intense pressure and scrutiny placed upon elected officials, especially from those who may not agree with your decisions or viewpoints?

It’s unlikely that decisions by council will have the approval of everyone.  If that were the case, then we are not making bold decisions. Decisions that will bring our city, successfully into the future.

The decisions of council must be made with the interests of the community first and foremost, and we as a council need to be able to defend those decisions.  Part of my platform is about Community Engagement.  Council needs to embrace the concept of active community engagement on the things that are important to our community so that when council does decide it’s based facts, good reports from our professional staff and community engagement and the community knows that they have had an input on those decisions.  Our community needs to know and believe that they are part of that decision-making process.

My strategy is that I’m not doing my job if someone comes forward and says they didn’t have an opportunity to be heard.  I can deal with people who don’t agree with my decisions.  However, council should never be seen as a governing body that doesn’t give as much opportunity as possible for people to be heard before those decisions are made.

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