Nanaimo City Council: 2021 Year-in-Review

Dec 14, 2021
Mayor and Council on their Inaugural Night 2018
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Council continues to support, improve and strengthen our beautiful Harbour City. Council’s vision for a community that is “livable, environmentally sustainable and full of opportunity for all generations and walks of life” came alive in 2021.

Environmental Responsibility

"We will protect and enhance Nanaimo’s natural environment by looking after the community’s biological diversity and adapt the way we live, work, recreate and move."

On July 1, 2021, a new bylaw regulating checkout bags in Nanaimo came into effect. Council implemented the plastic bag ban to reduce the impact that single-use checkout bags have to our community’s environment and beyond.

Complete Streets guidelines for active transportation were put into action downtown on Front Street and in north Nanaimo along Metral Drive, receiving numerous national and international awards for its innovative approach to active transportation for all ages and abilities.

Council implemented a new Energy Step Code Rezoning Policy, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The rezoning policy exceeds the BC Energy Step Code requirements, which will increase energy efficiency requirements for new buildings, leading up to ‘net-zero’ energy-ready standards by 2032.

The City trialed Chronolog, an environmental photo-monitoring project that creates time-lapse videos from publicly-generated photos. Ten monitoring stations were set up at eight Nanaimo restoration sites to preserve a record of ecological changes to determine restoration success.

Nanaimo was globally recognized as a showcase city for climate adaptation, receiving a badge of honour by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy Canada for its accomplishments in preparing for a climate-change-resilient future. During a pilot program, the City focused its efforts on climate change adaptation and produced a new set of goals, identified in the Climate Change Resilience Strategy.

The Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association and the Departure Creek Streamkeepers have been working in close partnership with the City of Nanaimo and Snuneymuxw First Nation to complete a variety of stream restoration and fish habitat enhancement projects along Departure Bay Creek.  In addition to the goal of adding water to a previously constructed back channel, volunteers installed new riparian planting and approximately 60 m of new side channel, a spawning habitat for pink and coho salmon and cutthroat trout, and saw returning coho salmon actively using the channel.

At this year’s Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention, municipal leaders endorsed Nanaimo City Council’s BC Circular Economy Strategy. The concept of a circular economy provides a framework to design out waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use and regenerates natural systems, helping BC communities move towards Zero Waste.

This year we saw the launch of a new Nanaimo Cycle Map App, designed to help cyclists plan safe routes using the growing network of bike lanes and paved trails.  

Economic Health

“We create a vibrant culture of innovation, stewardship and partnership to encourage a diverse and healthy economy now and into the future.” 

Development activity in Nanaimo has remained strong. Significant Official Community Plan amendment applications, including Sandstone and Green Thumb/Bowers District, have progressed in 2021. By the end of October, development permits were reviewed and approved for 1,469 residential units, including 110 supportive housing units and 165 student housing units. Building permits were issued for over $258 million in total construction value by the end of November, making 2021 the second highest year on record for permitted construction value in Nanaimo!

In spring 2021, Council took steps to improve the City’s Building Permit Function. These include the formation of a Joint Building Permit Advisory Working Group, identifying technology improvements, filling new positions and working on permitting improvements.

Earlier this year, Council endorsed the Economic Development Task Force’s proposal for a new Economic Development Strategy. The strategy is a 3-5 year plan that provides a roadmap to strengthen the region's economy with a focus on economic, social, human and environmental capital; business development; innovation and technology; and place-making and attraction.

Council created the Nanaimo Prosperity Corporation – an economic development corporation through which business, government, First Nations and community partners collaborate to build Nanaimo’s economy and increase the level of shared prosperity enjoyed by those who live here. The corporation is anticipated to begin operations in the first quarter of 2022.

Demonstrating a continued commitment to downtown, Council has taken a significant step in redeveloping Terminal Avenue from Esplanade to Commercial with the purchase of a number of properties, including the former Jean Burns building site. Building off the “Terminal-Nicol Re-imagined” plan, a grass roots effort aimed to enhance Terminal Avenue, the City is taking steps to create a cohesive vision for a vibrant, thriving downtown Nanaimo.

Other exciting improvements are in the works for downtown Nanaimo. A Commercial Street Revitalization Plan is being developed with a goal to enhance the public spaces along Commercial Street (and some side streets), incorporating the needs of local businesses and enhancing opportunities for community events. This includes a redevelopment plan for Diana Krall Plaza, to ensure the space is being utilized to its full potential.

Other noteworthy accomplishments in the downtown core this year include the creation of a new Downtown Business Improvement Association, the development of a Downtown Security Action Plan and continued construction at the Marriot Hotel adjacent to the conference centre, which is anticipated to open in summer 2022.

Also of significance was the announcement of a much-anticipated Vancouver-Nanaimo Passenger Ferry. The operator of the service announced a lease with the Nanaimo Port Authority and a Benefits Agreement with Snuneymuxw First Nation. The new ferry service is expected to launch in summer 2022.


“We will proactively plan for Nanaimo’s growth and focus on community infrastructure to support an inclusive, healthy, safe and desirable place to live.”

Work is well underway for REIMAGINE NANAIMO. This visionary undertaking will lead to a strategic City Plan incorporating an updated Official Community Plan, a new Climate Action Plan, a revised Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan, a new Active Transportation Plan and other supporting documents. Phase 3 of REIMAGINE NANAIMO will begin in early 2022. The City Plan will be accompanied by an Action Plan that outlines the projects and programs that will be implemented over the next 10 to 25 years.

Council continues to advocate to the Provincial and Federal governments for support, calling on action in regards to housing affordability, more supports for those struggling with mental health and/or addictions in our community and addressing gaps in BC’s justice system to determine why many prolific offenders are released back into the community.

The City received a $2.5 million grant from the  Strengthening Communities’ Services Grant Program that will be used to support a balance of programs aimed at preventing and addressing homelessness, as well as community safety and resilience. 

Work is underway on the implementation of a Health and Housing Action Plan and establishment of a Systems Planning Organization, aimed to help provide leadership and coordination of services to Nanaimo’s most vulnerable citizens.
The first housing units from the City and BC Housing’s landmark Memorandum of Understanding were completed in 2021. A 52-unit project at 702 Nicol Street was completed in December. Construction is anticipated to commence at the 51-unit project at 285 Prideaux Street in February 2022 and BC Housing and the City continue to work through the approval process for projects at 250 Terminal Avenue and 355 Nicol Street.

A Downtown Security Action Plan is currently under development. The Action Plan will set out a series of initiatives the City and other downtown stakeholders can implement to improve the public’s concerns around safety and security in the downtown core.

Community feedback was gathered for Westwood Lake Park improvements and the Waterfront Walkway project, which have both been identified by the community as priorities for many years. Work continues to assess options for the Departure Bay waterfront walkway section, which would connect the existing trail behind the BC Ferries Terminal to Departure Bay Beach.

Development of the Stadium District began in 2021 and will continue into 2022. Work is focused on and will address improvements to onsite amenities like washrooms and change rooms and includes a central plaza and entrance for ticketed events, perimeter fencing, bleacher seating, safety netting and a press/media and coaching booths.  

Governance Excellence

“We will develop a culture of excellence around governance, management and cost effective service delivery.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted not only all City departments, but every business and resident of Nanaimo in one way or another. Ensuring business continuity measures are in place and adapting to changes outlined in Provincial Public Health Orders has been a priority for the City throughout 2021.  

The Nanaimo Mayor’s Leaders’ Table was established, bringing together leaders from a number of key organizations to advise, inform and collaborate on opportunities and challenges within the community. Three working sub-groups also meet monthly to discuss youth attraction and retention, infrastructure needs and doughnut economic philosophy awareness.

Maintaining and enhancing relationships with key partners, such as Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN), School District 68 (SD 68), Vancouver Island University and the Nanaimo Port Authority is a focus for Council. We saw our community come together on September 30 to honour indigenous children and survivors of the residential school system on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation at an event co-hosted by SFN, SD68 and the City. Earlier this year, Nanaimo City Council and Vancouver Island University signed a Memorandum of Understanding  with a goal to enhance positive culture, exchange, engagement, communication and partnership.

Development of a  Corporate Asset Management System (CAMS) is underway. This software program will streamline the City’s asset management program and aid in future decision-making by mapping, tracking and managing the City’s assets. With over $3 billion in infrastructure including roads, water and sewer pipes, buildings, parks, trails and more, CAMS will replace and unify multiple systems into one, making tracking assets and related work more efficient, saving time and cost.

A review of the City’s Bylaws and Policies is underway, aimed to update and modernize the City’s official documents and repeal those that are no longer applicable. Council also adopted the Animal Responsibility Bylaw, which emphasizes the importance of animal safety and responsible pet ownership.

Council adopted a Sustainable Procurement Policy, aimed at supporting Council’s vision of being a livable, sustainable City by ensuring the City’s purchasing activities advance a range of environmental, social and ethical objectives.

Capital investment in the replacement of old infrastructure reached a high of $70 Million. These investments prepare for growth and strategic projects, ensuring service levels continue to meet the expectations of the community.

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