NANAIMO — Conversation and questions focused more on Nanaimo’s city council than the subject of the upcoming referendum during a debate about the proposed event centre.
At many times during the debate, Nanaimo city council was called “dysfunctional” by both the yes and no sides, as well as members of the crowd.
Darren Reid and the two other yes side advocates weren't supposed to be fielding questions. Instead, they volunteered after the offical Yes Committee representatives bowed out of the debate. They stepped up to the stage shortly before the debate got underway with Reid actually taking the stage after it had begun.
Many of the questions asked were in some way tied to city council and their handling of the event centre, which prompted Yes Side representative Brent Barootes, who himself is president and CEO of the sponsorship specialist firm Partnership Group, to say the debate wasn’t actually about the event centre.
“The no side said, we’re not against an event centre we’re just against how it’s being done and that’s the big issue,” he said.
After the debate, Barootes called city council “obnoxious” in terms of how transparent they’re being about the proposed project. “They won’t give me a transparent answer and it clearly shows this is what council constantly does.”
He agreed many of the questions were directed at city council rather than the yes or no sides.
In total, Barootes said he does believe Nanaimo would benefit from an event centre, but it needed to be a transparent and unanimous decision. In his opening remarks, he said he had decided to step up onto the stage to foster discussion about the process behind the decisions.
Numerous times in the debate, statistics from the recently unveiled event centre business plan were cited in questions, specifically if the numbers could be trusted and why did council think they should be trusted with the project.
“To take on something like this, a council has to have a lot of political capital and our council doesn’t have it,” NoVote2017 representative Sydney Robertson said. “They don’t have the trust of the community and rightly so. I don’t trust this council to coordinate their way out of a wet paper bag.”
Many attendees left over the course of the event. Numerous times questions came after lengthy comments taking aim at council, or the audience member had to be asked by the moderator if there was a question in their statement.
The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce hosted event drew an estimated 200 people.
The advance poll opens open March 1 and March 8 at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The referendum on the event centre is set for March 11.
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