British Columbia

Nanaimo's new mayor, Leonard Krog, on housing and moving past last council's troubles

"I think the people who got elected are very conscious of the responsibility they’ve been given not to make us a laughing stock but to restore the reputation this city deserves."

Leonard Krog was elected Saturday and is still the city's MLA, for now

British Columbia NDP MLA Leonard Krog was elected mayor of Nanaimo, B.C., following the municipal election, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Nanaimo's city hall has been one of the most-watched in British Columbia — and not for ideal reasons.

Council infighting and disputes in Vancouver Island second-most populous city have devolved into alleged threats,  salty language at council meetings and even the city suing its own mayor.

That's the situation mayor-elect and MLA Leonard Krog will inherit after winning handily Saturday night.

He spoke to On The Island host Gregor Craigie about his priorities and mending fences Monday morning.

When do you stop being MLA and start becoming mayor?

The official swearing in of mayor and council is Nov. 5. I haven't settled on a date that I'll formally resign my seat. I went on unpaid leave as MLA on Sept. 22, but I've continued to do my constituency work and attend the community events. I'll do that for a little while longer and I'll settle on a date.

Legally speaking, there's nothing to stop me from being MLA and the mayor. Certainly, that's not my intention.

How are you planning to address the troubles seen during council's last term?

There's only two of the former council who've survived, chose to run again. They're both very good councillors, very fine people. We have six new councillors who are all first-rate.

There will be some bumps in the road. We're going to have differences on some issues, obviously, but I think they are, without question, people who are dedicated to ensuring what happened in the last four years isn't repeated in any form.

There has been tension and conflict around the council table at Nanaimo City Hall in recent years. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The first thing we're going to do is the hiring of a city manager, a permanent city manager, in an open and transparent process. The person who was hired has turned out to essentially be a disaster.

It's like any society: you make the laws and hope people observe them but it is, firstly, about the quality of the people you elect.

I think the people who got elected are very conscious of the responsibility they've been given not to make us a laughing stock but to restore the reputation this city deserves.

A shot of the Discontent City homeless camp in Nanaimo. A court ruling has ordered residents to leave the area. (Liz McArthur/CBC)

What are your priorities around housing?

This council will work to identify sites, so that when the province is prepared to step up to the plate this city will be ready, that we're not going to face the kinds of protests [when] public housing, supportive housing units, are proposed.

We have a serious issue in Nanaimo, and Nanaimo has always had a strong core of poverty. This is not a new issue for us. The degree, of course, has been exacerbated by the rising costs of housing, the lack of affordable units, several decades of low assistance rates, low minimum wage and a failure to build the kind of public housing that's been needed.

What does success look like for you?

I'm not going to pick any numbers but what I know is we've got a province that has stepped up to the plate in a very significant way. The premier announced 159 new senior units. The province has committed to 170 units now for supportive housing. I'm happy to work with the province to ensure those get put up and erected in places where they're popular.

I'm confident that we'll do our share in Nanaimo.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full interview:

"I think the people who got elected are very conscious of the responsibility they've been given not to make us a laughing stock but to restore the reputation this city deserves." 10:31

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Island