Second candidate makes bid to replace mayor in Nanaimo

It’s still more than five months to election day, but people are already lining up to replace Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay.

Don Hubbard, a former board chairman at Island Health, is the latest to announce his bid for the city’s top job.

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The 72-year-old businessman joins retired RCMP Cpl. Norm Smith, 52, who declared his candidacy more than a year ago.

McKay has yet to say whether he plans to seek re-election on Oct. 20 after four tumultuous years in office.

“I certainly don’t want to be distracted by a campaign for the foreseeable future,” he said Friday.

“This council’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do. So I’ll probably be making a decision somewhere in the middle of the summer as to what I’m doing.”

McKay, who is in his first term as mayor, said he will have to weigh all the factors. “And I still haven’t sat down with my family to determine whether they’re going to give me their blessing again.”

As for the people lining up to replace him, McKay said it’s nothing new for Nanaimo to have a full slate of candidates running for office. He beat nine other challengers for the mayor’s job in 2014.

Hubbard and Smith both say they entered the race, in part, because they’re troubled by the damage done to Nanaimo’s reputation after four years of “dysfunction” on council.

“I can tell you from a business experience … we are one of the last places that anyone’s going to come to invest, because of the uncertainty,” Hubbard said Friday. “And I’ve heard it time and time again.

“I think we have to get the message out that we’re under new management and that’s just not going to happen anymore.”

Hubbard said he decided to announce his candidacy early, so that he can recruit other “community-minded” people to seek office.

“I’m not looking for people who just think exactly like me,” he said.

“I’m looking for people that think about the community first.”

Smith, who spent most of his 31 years with the RCMP in Nanaimo, said he was motivated to run because of the social problems he witnessed over his career.

“I saw on a regular basis what people were living with — the poverty at the one end of town, the social problems that were happening all throughout town.”

Smith said he has trained to deal with those issues and get people working together. “I felt that there was no leadership and there was no accountability in this council that we have right now,” he said. “And that’s what I’ve trained all my career to be — I had to be accountable for everything that I did.”

Smith said the next mayor needs to rebuild trust between council, city staff and the public. “People don’t trust council,” he said. “They’re not going to let council do anything and nothing will get done then. We just need to create that leadership and the trust again.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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