Editorial: ‘No’ vote an end and a beginning

The City of Nanaimo will have to decide what to do after 80 per cent of voters rejected a loan approval bylaw in Saturday’s referendum.

It wasn’t just ‘no,’ it was a resounding ‘no.’

The City of Nanaimo will have to decide what to do with its proposed $80-million sports and events centre project after 80 per cent of voters rejected the loan approval bylaw in Saturday’s referendum.

We now have some measure of finality. A ‘no’ vote doesn’t mean we now have $80 million to spend on other civic priorities, but some tax dollars that would have been diverted to debt servicing will presumably be reallocated elsewhere in the budget, or maybe even toward tax relief. Also, the south downtown waterfront lands at 1 Port Dr. remain available for visioning for future projects, now with some preliminary site assessments conducted.

There were hints from city councillors during this process that should the referendum fail, they wouldn’t hesitate to advance other priority projects – we hope there is some hesitation, and that the experience of this past weekend’s rejection will be cause for reflection. Because although the referendum provided one answer loudly and clearly, it can’t provide all the answers.

One unavoidable problem with referenda is that they can’t ask open-ended questions – a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response can only tell us so much. Of the 19,000 who opposed the events centre, some balked at the price tag, some were skeptical of the business plan, some were concerned about the public process, some preferred other uses for waterfront land and some expressed non-confidence in city council. For some, it was a combination of these and other factors.

People have pointed out that they weren’t saying no to any multiplex – just this one. The city isn’t likely to attempt another 100-per cent publicly funded events centre in the foreseeable future, but if it makes enough business sense to a private group, it’s conceivable that there could be an opportunity to partner on a multiplex sooner than later.

Hopefully this council’s single-minded pursuit of an events centre – which has been, in retrospect and considering its resounding rejection, a debacle – hasn’t soured citizens on an amenity that we would still wish to have someday.

Nanaimo News Bulletin