Nanaimo mayor gets 38% approval in poll; council fares worse

Many Nanaimo residents aren’t happy with their mayor and even less so with their council.

Midway through a four-year term, Mayor Bill McKay’s performance received the approval of 38 per cent of Nanaimo residents questioned in a poll conducted by Oraclepoll Research for the Times Colonist. Forty-seven per cent said they disapproved, and 15 per cent said they don’t know.

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Nanaimo council performed even worse. Only 30 per cent approved of council’s performance, 59 per cent said they disapproved. Eleven per cent said they don’t know.

McKay said the results were not surprising. “We’ve had a very fractious group right from the start and we’ve had a lot of drama — far more drama than I would have ever hoped for.”

Michael Prince, University of Victoria Lansdowne professor of social policy, said that given recent events, including the majority of McKay’s council demanding an RCMP investigation into some of his actions, McKay might take solace from getting higher approval than his council.

“For a mayor who’s in the hot seat right now, he might point to these numbers and say: ‘If you think I’m bad, look at the council,’ ” Prince said.

McKay said he believes he and his council can turn around the poor numbers and wants to see his council “get down to work.”

In the next two years, “we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got to come to the realization that with these kind of numbers and these kind of polls there’s little chance that any of us are going to get re-elected. So we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Coun. Diane Brennan called the numbers interesting but disappointing.

“I think the numbers may be reflecting the public’s impatience with the perpetual conflicts that seem to dominate this council. I am convinced that the public wants to see council set aside the arguments and get to work on city business,” she said in an email.

“I suspect the ‘real’ approval [disapproval] rating will occur in November 2018,” in the next municipal election, Coun. Bill Bestwick said in an email.

And Coun. Jim Kipp noted that polls aren’t necessarily right. “Hillary [Clinton] was supposed to win,” he said in an email.

There’s been no shortage of conflict around Nanaimo’s council table for the past two years. Senior staff have left amid allegations of harassment and the atmosphere on council is tense.

Last month, Coun. Gord Fuller was caught on video telling the mayor to “bite me” during an argument.

Last week, Nanaimo council issued a statement alleging that, among other things, McKay violated the Community Charter by failing to properly declare gifts he received while on city business and by taking free trips without council approval.

The statement also claimed he violated provincial legislation by disclosing confidential information; council asked the RCMP to investigate.

McKay has dismissed all allegations as speculation, innuendo, misstatement of facts and a misreading of the law. His critics are trying to discredit, humiliate and embarrass him, he said.

The telephone survey of 275 households — land lines and mobile numbers — was conducted using live operators between Nov. 1 and Nov. 7.

The margin of error is plus or minus 5.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Nanaimo’s mayor and council scored lowest in job performance among the three municipalities surveyed for the Times Colonist by Oraclepoll in the first week of November.

Scoring highest was Saanich, where Mayor Richard Atwell received approval from 48 per cent of those surveyed and council received 53 per cent.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was at 47 per cent and council at 44 per cent.

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