Sunday, November 09, 2008


Ron Bolin

My name is Ron Bolin and I am old enough to have accumulated considerable experience and young enough to continue to tilt at the windmills of Nanaimo I live, like too many of our politicos, in the Departure Bay area having come here some twenty years ago from Alberta when my wife, Inge, took a job in the Anthropology department at what was then Malaspina College, now VIU. We have two children. politics.

I have been active in following and commenting on Nanaimo politics and policies for a number of years and have spoken before Council and written in the papers on issues, most of which relate to the physical and financial development of our city. I have felt that we have made less, rather than more, of the advantages of our site and our situation on the island and have tended to settle for less when we seek to improve our amenities. The phrase, “Well this is Nanaimo,” is all too prevalent. We seem to have some kind of inferiority complex, which probably extends from our coal mining past and still divides the city into two distinct parts. This has not been healthy for our community and has led to decisions which do not recognize the power that our environment and our population have given us.

I have been involved with a number of local organizations, including MISTIC, the city’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, the Nanaimo OnLine Society, LETS, very early manifestations of the Gleaners and FoodShare and the Friends of Plan Nanaimo.

My educational and professional background is quite broad. I have a bachelors degree in government and Masters and Cand.Phil degrees in geography. I taught in the geography department at the University of Calgary for six years. This was followed by six years in management at the City of Edmonton, in the Planning; Management Systems, Studies and Budgets; and the Computer Departments. I was the project manager responsible for the implementation of the city’s award winning Geographic Base Information System. I left the city for private industry taking on the management of a start up computer graphics business just before the last crash of the oil business in Alberta and learned some hard but important lessons. I next went into consulting where I remained for the rest of my career and consulted to such agencies as the Province of Alberta, the City of Vancouver, the United Nations Development program and the Government of Singapore, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government of Jamaica, and another stint with the UN in post-war Bosnia. I now remain happily here in Nanaimo.

The five most important issues facing Nanaimo are, not necessarily in order of importance, as circumstances are already modifying their immediacy are: the economy, the environment, the management of growth, the unity of the community, and the relation of Nanaimo to its region.

Addressing these issues involves many strategic and integrated moves. We need to attract clean, well paying jobs in the alternative energy area which can keep our young families in Nanaimo. We need to take charge of our development rather than simply reacting to development interests. This involves working with those interests to see that they can follow the patterns which we would like to see with minimal effort and an ability to make a reasonable profit. We need to see more integrated growth rather than sprawl. Even if a developer were to provide connecting infrastructure to locations at the edge of the city, it will be the taxpayers of Nanaimo who will have to maintain all those roads, lines, and services. If it were true that the rapid development which we have seen in the past few years were good for our tax regime, then why have are taxes increased at multiples of the increase in the consumer price index? We also need to tackle our homelessness and addiction problems now, even if our actions must be primitive. It is all well and good to talk of $50 million dollars in a few years, but for those on the street that is an eternity.

The most rewarding aspect of public service is to build a system which can run smoothly to provide improved service to all citizens. Sometimes these systems may be small and hidden, but like a ball bearing, can make things run smoothly and remove constant bumps. These solutions also provide time to deal with other pressing issues.

The most challenging aspect of public service is living with the knowledge that no matter what you do, someone’s ox will be gored and that you will not be universally thanked for it.

There is no way to ensure that the VICC hotel will be built barring putting up the money to build it. I favour a review of the whole situation from scratch to determine how desperate we may be for a hotel. While I recognize that the current situation is untenable, the appropriate action to be taken is less clear. Without that “in camera” knowledge now held solely by the incumbents, who can say.

The cost of the homeless plan to Nanaimo will be less than the cost of continuing to deal with the homeless as we have been doing.

My website and blog are found at . The blog is updated frequently and, I hope, relevantly.

Ron Bolin


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