With all polling stations in the City of Nanaimo reporting, 80.3 per cent of voters have rejected borrowing $80 million for the Nanaimo events centre.
Polls closed at 8 p.m. in Nanaimo and preliminary results were released at City Hall. All 14 polling stations across the city have reported, with 80.3 per cent of voters rejecting the request to borrow up to $80 million for the proposed project on the waterfront.
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay said he was not surprised at the result.
“I expected that based on the conversations I’ve had with members in the community. I didn’t expect it was going to be this high,” said Mayor Bill McKay. “They’ve made their position very clear on this particular project at this time.”
McKay said council has five other projects and two strategic initiatives it is working on, including affordable housing and the new field purchased from Nanaimo school district.
“This was just one of them. It happened to be at the forefront,” McKay said.
At a NoVote2017 event this evening, people were cheering and sharing a bottle of champagne after hearing the preliminary results.
Don Bonner, spokesman for NoVote2017, said they’re very happy with the percentage.
“It was a resounding ‘no’ to a number of things. It was a resounding ‘no’ to borrowing $80 million; it was a ‘no’ to putting an event centre on our waterfront; it was also a ‘no’ on how the city governance has been happening in our city,” said Bonner, who thanked the citizens who voted, volunteers and donors to NoVote2017 and congratulated the ‘yes’ committee and the work it did.
“They put on a pretty good show, and it’s just that in this particular case the people in Nanaimo have spoken and they definitely don’t want this thing to go,” he said.
Wanda Thompson, a NoVote2017 member, said she was surprised to see it was such a resounding vote in terms of supporting the no side and is ecstatic there won’t be a “huge hockey barn” on the waterfront.
“I really hope this city council and mayor are listening to what the citizens of Nanaimo said, because they have very clearly sent a message to council about their poor governance,” she said.
The 80-per cent vote against borrowing surprised Tali Campbell, spokesman for Yes for Nanaimo Event Centre.
“Obviously it’s not the way that our team had hoped, but at the end of the day we’re thankful that it’s a majority because what would have been worse, as like the last referendum, is we’re split right down the middle,” he said. “We now know Nanaimo is not in favour of the plan, the place, location, the spending amount, whatever it might be, so our job now is to hopefully go into this upcoming week and find a plan that’s going to better Nanaimo that everyone wants to see.”
As for what’s next for the site at 1 Port Dr., McKay said there will be more discussion.
“I think we’re going to see our visioning come forward. I think we’re going to see a very diverse type of development down there,” said McKay. “I want to make sure there’s lots of people places and there’s lots of places for people to live down there.”
McKay said there will need to be more public consultation, particularly with chief and council of Snuneymuxw First Nation.
“I think we need to finish our conversation with Snuneymuxw First Nation because we do have to remember, this entire area down here at one point was their village sites,” said McKay.
Results of the referendum are expected to be finalized at Monday’s city council meeting, said Sheila Gurrie, chief elections officer for the City of Nanaimo.
She said there were slightly more than 66,000 eligible voters on the voters list with about 37 per cent turnout for Saturday’s referendum.
“We’re just slightly are ahead of 2014 municipal election numbers, so there are slightly more votes than there was then,” said Gurrie.
She said there were significantly fewer eligible voters during the conference centre referendum and estimated that there may have been 50-per cent voter turnout then.
“I think [turnout] was good. I was expecting a little bit more, based on the advance poll numbers, but I think I was saying earlier that weather played a factor. The rain might’ve kept some people away,” Gurrie said.
— Melissa Fryer (@scribblerverse) March 12, 2017