Monday, October 22, 2012

Nanaimo Strategic Planning For Dummies

Don't Let All The BIG Words Fool Ya'
Don't Be Confused By All The Jargon!

Document will be used to justify expenditures covering everything from soup to nuts!

Five or six months in the making, meetings with citizens, business and civic leaders and $120,000 produce a document which is likely just the basis for more creative tax and spending on the part of your elected and non-elected rulers. If you pay attention, city staff and city council will quote the strategic plan to justify all spending from here on in. The 'plan' was crafted after getting input from a few hundred citizens, hardly a very large sample of public opinion.

The Cliffs' Notes

This $120,000, 20 page document has led to the revelation that Nanaimo's priorities should be:

  • Enhance our Waterfront
  • Manage the Citys' (that is our) Assets
  • Ensure our Water Supply
  • Transportation and Mobility Is Important
  • Civic Government Taking Responsibility
  • Community Building Partnerships

Let's take a closer look at these eye popping findings and try and understand what it means we should be doing.

Enhance the Waterfront: this means our waterfront is one of our better features and we should work to make it more attractive and more assessable to more people. Something that Nanaimo has been doing for as long as I have lived here. One of the oft heard suggestions is to extend the seawall from Departure Bay to the Estuary, sounds like a great idea, but at what cost? I wonder if the deal to lease our harbour is an enhancement, and what would have been thought had it been mentioned during the planning stage.

Manage the City's Assets: Since Nov. 2010 it has been known that the city of Nanaimo, with the knowledge of city staff and city council has been underfunding our water, sewer and roads to the tune of some $12.5 million annually. Why? Perhaps it would be harder to build a shiny new staff office if our water, sewer and roads were being taken care of.

Ensure our Water: That is what the multi-millions of dollars are currently being spent on. The new reservoir, the new water treatment plant etc. etc. are all geared towards our need for water. Again, something you would think we already deem as a priority.

Transportation & Mobility: It is hardly a shocker that people want to be able to get around the city as easily as possible. Of course expecting things such as 24 hour, every 5 minute bus service is hardly something we can  afford or expect to happen. We are already doing a study to help design traffic flows into the future.

Civic Government Taking Responsibility: this is about the only item that could perhaps be described as 'new' and coming from the public. It would seem unlikely, that government would actually want to take responsibility. However, how they would be held responsible is a big question mark. If a member of the paid civil service were to do something that proved to be detrimental to the city (like paying $3 million to not have a hotel built), the degree they would be held responsible would likely include early retirement and a $500,000 golden handshake!

The idea of taking responsibility is a bit of a chuckle when you realize that staff (who make all the recommendations) need council's approval (who rely on staff for direction) which absolves the real decision makers of responsibility.

When something council approves turns out to be a bad decision, city staff will always say: "don't look at us COUNCIL told us what to do", in the next breath they will quickly tell council to not attempt to micro-manage city staff, after all they are the PROFESSIONALS. Who are never responsible by the way.......

Community Building Partnerships: this is hardly something you would put in the category of revolutionary. I remember as a kid, playing in the sandbox with other kids, and trying to swipe the other kids toys, having my mother admonish me to ' play nicely now'. Which as basic as it sounds is something all the little kings in their little kingdoms in Nanaimo would do well to learn.


It is good to have a strategic plan, as Mr. Kenning said in the last financial report: it is virtually impossible to set priorities and structure an organization without one. Perhaps not having one for these past decades could explain our current condition. In Nov. 2010 it was revealed we are not funding our water, sewer and roads to maintain current service levels, and to do so would mean a tax increase of about 15 - 16%. Now, that we have a strategic plan which identifies asset management as a priority, city hall management will take it as seriously as they take providing themselves with shiny new offices! Or maybe not, only time will tell.

The city taxpayer has already paid for no end of strategic studies over the past few years, their actual implementation seems to be a challenge neither city council, nor city staff are equal to, with the result there must be a shelf at city hall (or perhaps whole closet) devoted entirely to strategic planning studies. I realize that consultants, have to make a living also, but I'm not sure Nanaimo has to single handedly support such a large segment of that industry.



  1. Ha ha, thanks for your humourous summary of Nanaimo's "strategic planning". If only I had known that before I innocent and wide-eyed, wasted my time attending group brain storming and filling out surveys at the various Vision Workshops put on by consultants handsomely paid from our taxes.
    Despite a stunningly primitive power point presentation we had to yawn through at a recent City Council meeting, and a recitation of a puzzlingly impressive record of projects undertaken in other cities; the numerous public input sessions that are part of the latest high-priced transportation consultant-guided plan will no doubt astonish Council with the conclusion that more buses will be needed in the next five years!

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