Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay won't run in upcoming election

By Dominic Abassi
August 28, 2018 - 12:19am

Mayor Bill McKay will not run for re-election in October.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — After four years in the hot seat, Nanaimo's incumbent mayor says it's time to move on.

Bill McKay told NanaimoNewsNOW after much reflection and many conversations with his wife, he decided not to seek re-election in October's municipal vote.

"One of the toughest things for a politician to do is realize it's time to move on. It appears to me the community wants to see a change, they want to take a different direction and that's just fine with me."

McKay is nearing the end of his first term as mayor after winning the seat by more than 2,000 votes in 2014. He previously served one term as a councillor.

McKay's tenure as mayor was riddled with drama, turmoil and ongoing challenges to his leadership.

After he publicly called into question the process used by Council to hire former chief administrative officer Tracy Samra, he found himself a target for the majority of councillors who supported Samra's hiring.

In March 2016, shortly after Samra was promoted from acting to permanent CAO, seven councillors released a statement calling for McKay's resignation. The statement outlined several allegations, including McKay's ongoing calls for Samra to be removed from her position.

In December 2016, the City, at the direction of the majority of Council, filed a lawsuit against McKay. It alleged the mayor gave confidential information to a former employee to assist her claim against the City.

The lawsuit was eventually dropped shortly before it expired and McKay was never even served with the filings.

At the time, McKay called the move "politics at its finest," saying he regretted the fact he never had a chance to defend himself in court.

Despite the ongoing strife between some councillors and the City's senior administrator, McKay remained firm in his resolve to stay the course and see through his four year commitment.

"There was a majority that were cobbled together on Council and they ruled the day...and that's fine, that's democracy. It was a tough time. We did get things done, not as much as I would've liked to and I wish we'd spent more time dealing with the City's business rather than the drama we seemed to have gotten involved in," McKay said.

Ultimately Samra was fired by Council earlier this year after she was arrested for allegedly uttering threats against several people, including McKay. Since her suspension and subsequent dismissal, several allegations of improper spending and unusual management practices have been revealed.

McKay was asked what he would say to people who felt a lack of leadership from the mayor's chair was a large part of this Council's issues.

"I would challenge those people to have sat for a day in one of those chairs. To have walked a mile in my shoes. There were tough decisions and tough times. Not everyone is going to like you. I can say honestly I went to work every day hoping that some way I could make life a little bit better for the citizens of Nanaimo."

So far, only longtime Island Health and VIU board chair Don Hubbard and current NDP MLA Leonard Krog have declared intentions to run for mayor in October.

McKay described the candidates as "fine men."

"They bring something very different to the table. They both bring a wealth of knowledge," he said, adding he wouldn't be surprised if other candidates step into the mix.

McKay urged all eligible voters in Nanaimo to take part in democracy in the fall. "Tell all your friends,
colleagues, and family to do the same...Make a careful, thoughtful, and informed decision who will sit at the council table for the next four years."

Following the end of his term, McKay said he will take some time to reflect on what his future will hold.

"I was honoured to have the privilege to serve as mayor. I will never forget those who supported, guided and encouraged me."

McKay's declaration leaves councillors Bill Bestwick, Jerry Hong and Gord Fuller as the only members of the current Council not to declare their intentions for the upcoming election.

UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP say 22-year-old from Africa has been found