Saturday, January 17, 2015

NANAIMO ARTS & CULTURE (6) by Dan Appell

The Culture of NOnaimo.

When I first came to Nanaimo I was struck by the readiness by which the locals struck down ideas. Often I would present an idea in the form of a question; such as, “What if we solved this problem this way?” and I would get a negative response before I completed the question. I found this very annoying, but over the years I got used to it.

Where I’m from an idea is kind of like a plaything. Put it out there and its added to, kicked around some, shaped into something more plausible then presented back to me modified to the point of doable. Or not, sometimes ideas are just useless. But no matter how bad or useless I always felt my ideas where given the consideration they where due.

Not here. I made a joke about it. I called this place, "NOnaimo”. Many thought accurate my assessment of the negativity this place engenders. I sometimes imagine the politics of this place as a perpetual battle between the citizens of NOnaimo versus the Committee For Really Dumb Ideas (the CFRDI). Of course, the citizens of NOnaimo are all powerful, but if the CFRDI can pull a fast one (lie, mislead, over-promise, or whatever) a majority of citizens can be tricked into supporting something really stupid. 

When the citizens realize they have been fooled they might shout, “Hey, you lied.”

“Yes, we did,” will be the response the CFRDI.

“In that case, well played, Sirs.”

Now, I’ve lived here long enough, I’m used to this. I hardly notice this. But, then, the other day I was talking to three friends. One of them asked me a fairly straight forward question about how a Municipal Development Corporation would get the money to finance its operations. I tried to explain with an example. I used the example of the pallet farm on the Willcox property. This is part of a larger city owned property, and this part of that larger property is the most accessible and easiest to develop. The plan is to move a bus transfer station to this site, at a cost to the city and region of about 4-5 million dollars. The move would do little to improve bus service, but that’s the plan. What can I say. I suggested to my group we could have a development corporation use the land to build condos instead. The result would be about a 20-25 million dollar profit which could be plowed back into the rest of the  . . . 

That’s as far a I got before friend one said, “There is no way I would support that. Only developers can do development.” The second one said, “No way, the city always screws up development.” And the third one said, “That might work in every other city, but it would never work here.”

So you would settle for a bus exchange of dubious benefit at a cost of 5 million, rather than explore the possibility of 25 million gain that could be reinvested in the surrounding site? Plus the bus exchange can’t be taxed, but the condo’s could. 

Okay, that’s a rough idea of how a Municipal Development Corporation would manage, I guess, in every other place but here.

For the life of me, I do not understand why so many in this city is so reluctant to entertain ideas. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.



  1. People in Nanaimo are wise, perhaps even old, tired and wise. Old enought to know when a smart mouth wants to play games and just needs some taxpayers money to play it with. Tired of being lied to by fast talking politicians who know everything but also need an endless supply of taxdollars to try and prove it. Wise enough to just say no......... Calling Nanaimo Nonaimo is silly.
    Cliff Marcil

    1. I've been watching Nanaimo from afar for quite some time now. I am interested in moving here but after all my research, visits, and reading on Nanaimo, which includes a certain article which places Nanaimo among Canada's top ten worst cities to move to, it seems a little disheartening. From the outside looking in, a citizenry that is old, tired, and wise is very rarely coupled with adjectives such as "new, energetic, progressive". Nanaimo needs some youthful energy to bring some life back into its operations and its economy, which will lower your taxes, and keep "fast talking politicians" on their toes. Saying no all the time has never been equated with wisdom. It's equated with a fear of change and a fear losing control.


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