Nanaimo city council candidates debate doughnut economy, environment – Nanaimo News Bulletin

Citizens had the opportunity to hear two dozen middle-class election candidates debate environmental policies and the economic framework of Nanaimo’s donut.

An All Candidate Forum hosted by the BC Green Party Nanaimo Riding Association brought together 24 council candidates on Wednesday, September 28 at the Beban Park Social Center.

With four mayoral candidates and 20 city council candidates in a row, responses were limited to one minute, allowing the discussion to proceed at a fast pace.

Questions were drawn at random, and the very first question posed to city council candidates, addressing the City of Nanaimo’s donut economic framework, received the most engagement.

count. Don Bonner said donut economics is a way of thinking about how the city works — “basically the concept of thinking globally and acting locally,” he said.

count. Zeni Maartman agreed, saying the concept that environmental and social responsibility must go “hand in hand with economics” was not new, and Council candidate Paul Chapman agreed that this was not a radical idea.

“That’s what our parents and our grandparents and our great-grandparents who lived through the Depression would recognize as living within our means — living within our ecological means,” he said.

count. Erin Hemmens said the donut contextualizes city plans “into the global crisis we’re facing,” and Coun. Ben Geselbracht said the framework sets “very specific” targets to work towards, for example in terms of greenhouse gas emissions targets, waste reduction, vacancy rates and employment figures.

However, some Council hopefuls voiced criticism, including Nick Greer.

“The current council has spent a lot of time and money on different types of woke social issues like the donut economy, like climate emergencies and bike paths to nowhere,” he said. “I think the city should be much more focused on the real issues Nanaimo is facing, including downtown safety, controlling taxes and revitalizing downtown.”

Other candidates had greater concerns about the donut. David Wang suggested it was a “Trojan horse” setting citizens on the path to losing their privacy and independence, and Mike Hartlaub said Nanaimo’s new city plan was a “top-down structure” from the World Economic Forum.

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“It’s a group of people from Davos deciding what you’re going to do while paying carbon taxes while flying around in private jets,” he said. “It was brought up irresponsibly by the city council.”

Candidate Frank Pluta later intervened in the debate, saying he would put the city plan back on the table and suggest its scope was larger than necessary.

“I really think we overdid it,” he said. “We brought in the wrong people to do the right thing for us and we really need to re-evaluate and re-evaluate that.”

environmental policy raised

The candidates asked several questions about environmental policies that fall within the city’s purview, such as building codes and energy retrofits, and candidates were also asked to come up with climate solutions that wouldn’t leave people behind.

Candidate Alan Macdonald said solid waste disposal comes to mind as he suggested large construction companies or individuals could do their part, especially if they have more recycling facilities and recycling options.

Greer said the city of Nanaimo’s approaches were “illusory,” given the coal-fired power plants being built in China, which Coun refuted. Tyler Brown.

Brown pointed to the expansion of public transport in the region and upcoming solid waste regulations, which he said would introduce new recycling and reuse programs and create new markets for local businesses and the local economy.

“These are not trivial things. These are very modern, they are very practical and they have strong social, economic and environmental provisions,” he said.

Geselbracht said the city council can be proud of its environmental planning and has put together “forward-looking” policies that show leadership in assuming environmental stewardship.

“We need to elect people to the city council that will continue to fund these programs so that we can really take responsibility for our environment and juggle all the other responsibilities that we have in a very comprehensive way,” he said.

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Hartlaub rejected some of the premises of the discussion.

“We’ve declared Nanaimo a climate emergency — we’re teaching our kids that we’re evil and nature is good and we’re destroying nature,” he said.

The island’s food security is a concern

On food security, candidate Hilary Eastmure said the city can protect agricultural land by choosing to focus development and density elsewhere. She also noted support for a year-round farmers’ market and said a bylaw could be enacted that would allow residents to grow food on public boulevards and unused city lands.

Candidate Paul Manly cited his work with Nanaimo Foodshare, which has turned hayfields into productive land for food crops and supported the Good Food Box program.

“We should use vacant lots, we should plant food forests, we should use our boulevards for nut trees and fruit trees,” he said.

Renovations challenge tenants in the housing crisis

The housing crisis was briefly addressed following a question which the candidates interpreted as relating to renovations. Brown said the city has limited control over renovations, but as a member of the Union of BC Municipalities, it has consistently advocated better protections for tenants.

Chapman said homes should be homes, not “investment vehicles,” and suggested the city could expedite permit approvals for developers who have plans to move evicted tenants. Eastmure would be interested in hiring a tenant assistance planner and learning about policies to help evicted tenants stay in their neighborhoods at comparable rental costs.

Candidate Peter Lee said Nanaimo’s housing market has become one of the city’s fundamental problems.

“The city urgently needs to work with the province to build housing for people at risk of eviction or who cannot pay rent,” he said.

The candidates speak of truth and reconciliation

The final question in the debate concerned approaches to reconciliation with First Nations and led to the evening’s most heated moments, when Wang said he disagreed with calling land “unceded” because he did not accept responsibility for stolen land.

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“I think it’s important to acknowledge history — it’s critical for us to grow as people,” he said. “But fundamentally acknowledging that we are complicit in something we are not responsible for is not healthy.”

Bonner, a member of the Algonquin First Nation, refuted Wang.

“We can learn from that [Indigenous people], we can contribute with them and build a better country together. Not the country this person wants to build,” he said.

Macdonald, who works for Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services, said the First Nations people he works with want to build and grow a thriving community together, saying “there are many ways to do that.”

Candidate Janice Perrino agreed, saying, “There are many opportunities for us to work with our First Nations communities across our region and discuss the issues and work on them together. We can do this. You deserve it and we deserve it.”

Candidate Shirley Lambrecht said part of reconciliation is listening more and speaking less.

“I think we need to ask our indigenous communities and our land guards for advice on how we take care of the land and how we take care of each other,” she said. “I think we still have a lot to learn.”

The forum attracts most of the field

Mayoral candidates attending the forum included Tasha Brown, Mayor Leonard Krog, Brunie Brunie and Agnes Provost. Council candidates attending included Ken Bennett, Don Bonner, Tyler Brown, Paul Chapman, Hilary Eastmure, Ben Geselbracht, Nick Greer, Mike Hartlaub, Erin Hemmens, Shirley Lambrecht, Peter Lee, Zeni Maartman, Paul Manly, Janice Perrino, and Frank Pluta, Alan Macdonald, Derek Hanna, Viraat BK Thammanna, Corey Trinkwon and David Wang.

There are no other scheduled public debates, but there will be smaller debates for Nanaimo District high school students on October 5th and 6th.

Election day is October 15th.


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