The Regional District of Nanaimo board has agreed to increase its voting unit to 2,750.
Before the change, the voting unit was 2,500.
The amendment to the voting unit was prompted by changes in the population according to 2016 census. In the City of Nanaimo, population has increased to 90,504 from 83,810.
Voting units are used to determine how many directors are appointed from a municipality and how many votes the directors have when an issue for discussion at an RDN meeting calls for a weighted vote. According to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, voting units can be adjusted in circumstances where inequities appear to have developed because of population changes in high growth areas.
Had the RDN retained the 2,500 voting unit based on the latest census data, two more directors, one from Nanaimo and one from Parksville, would have to be added. That would have increased the RDN budget by $28,500 to cover remuneration and expenses for the new directors.
Staff indicated the 2,750 voting unit will have the least impact to the current composition and voting strength of the board.
Qualicum Beach director Teunis Westbroek, at the committee of whole meeting on June 13, made a motion to increase the voting unit from 2,500 to 3,000. It passed, but not unanimously. Then at the board meeting on June 27, Nanaimo director Jerry Hong amended the motion to bring it down to 2,750.
“The 2,500 right now gave the City of Nanaimo 54 per cent (of the weighted vote),” said Hong. “Increasing it to 2,750 would put us at 53.5 per cent. But increasing it to 3,000, would put us at 52.5 per cent. So that is a significant 1 1/2 (per cent) change from what it is currently. That doesn’t work well for our point of view.”
Westbroek argued that he endorsed the 3,000 voting unit even though it would reduced Qualicum Beach’s voting strength. He pointed out that, regardless of how much the voting percentage drops, Nanaimo still has the majority.
“I always felt that in the regional district, one city, one partner should not have the majority,” said Westbroek. “We should have at least other votes from somebody else to make anything go through. I don’t think this board has ever seen a motion failed because of that rule where you have to have the counted vote based on the voting strength. I thought 3,000 was reasonable.”
Westbroek added Nanaimo does not have to worry that it has to apply its voting strength at any time.
Nanaimo director Jim Kipp said he supports Hong’s motion because Nanaimo “spends most of the money, we want most of the control.”
The board passed the motion to request an amendment to the Regional District of Nanaimo Letters Patent to change the voting unit to 2,750. Westbroek, Electoral Area A director Alec McPherson, Electoral Area B director Howard Houle, Electoral Area E Director Bob Rogers, and Electoral Area F director Julian Fell voted against it.