EDITORIAL: Who’s in charge?

It would be good to see some strong leaders do a better job reflecting the wishes of the electorate rather than those of municipal staff

Things have changed in the relationship between the tax-paying public and those who work for cities and towns on Vancouver Island.

And not in a good way. Nasty, vitriolic, defensive, offensive — these are just some of the words that come to mind when describing recent events and comments related to how taxpayers view those who work in city and town halls, and vice versa.

It’s easy to cite the Internet as the chief reason for the increased temperature. Those who could not, or would not, bother to comment about a city issue or a city staffer can do so now in their jammies from the comfort of their homes. These comments can also come anonymously, which seems to increase the courage, and rudeness, of posters.

The City of Nanaimo fired back. It sent a letter to three social media website hosts, saying several personal attacks had been made about the competency and character of identifiable city staff. The city’s lawyer asked website moderators to delete such posts and take steps to ensure they do not appear in the future. The letter cited a desire to protect staff from workplace harassment and bullying, pointing out that is also required of employers under WorksafeBC regulations.

Prominent Vancouver-based free speech and media lawyer David Sutherland suggested the letter might be better described as an attempt to dress up the wolf of censorship in the sheep’s clothing of protecting employees. He said if he received such a letter from the city, he would mail the city a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, asking what part of it supports a government seeking to restrict political speech.

While there’s no room for rude, personal attacks on any level, somehow we seem to have lost focus on how this municipal government thing is supposed to work. Then again, the system might be set up for failure.

As long as we treat the mayor and councillor positions as part-time gigs, the real power will always remain with staff. That essentially means the decisions are being made — OK then, heavily influenced — by non-elected people. These non-elected people are experts in their fields, sure, but they were not chosen by taxpayers to steer the ship of government.

Coupled with the part-time politician factor, or perhaps hand-in-hand with it, is the fact we are lacking real leaders who are not afraid to direct staff. Apparently some staff believe taking direction from an elected official can amount to bullying.

It’s time for the people, through strong, elected leaders, to take back our local governments.

— Editorial by John Harding

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

District of Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain, left, and Snaw-Naw-As Chief Gordon Edwards sign a memorandum of understanding outside Snaw-Naw-As Market on Friday, June 18. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Lantzville and Snaw-Naw-As sign memorandum of understanding

District and First Nation create joint working group

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read