Ucluelet’s mayoral candidates discuss communication and conflict management

Two Ucluelet locals are vying for the team captain spot on Ucluelet’s municipal council and both outlined their refereeing strategies during last week’s all candidates meeting.

Ucluelet’s mayoral candidates were asked how they would resolve conflicts at the council table.

“I don’t think there’s a member of council who wants to step into a conflict,” said incumbent mayor Bill Irving.

He said at the beginning of council’s current term he gauged each councillor’s goals and priorities and laid out a strategy for handling strengths and interests.

“I think that’s very important when you’re working with a council that’s got four people who are creative, talented, and are a huge asset; you bring all those gifts to the table and tackle issues,” he said.

“Not to say we agree at all times but we’ve respectfully hashed out those issues and moved forward on everything that’s been put in front of us.”

He said council put a point of emphasis this term on getting out to visit local organizations and surrounding communities rather than sit back and wait to be approached themselves.

“That’s an important asset that we bring to the table, that desire to communicate and find creative ways to do it,” he said.

Challenger Dianne St. Jacques suggested conflicts within council are rare and councillors are usually respectful of the process.

“To date I haven’t had the challenge of conflict at the table, having said that though when people are elected they come to the table with different opinions and different ideas and I think it’s very important to listen to those ideas and be respectful,” she said.

“I think the Mayor has a key role to play in managing discussion between members of council. I think the mayor sets the tone and keeps everything polite and on a good level, at the same time it’s important to allow that interaction to take place.”

She added council should get into the community to collect feedback and input.

“Council needs to get out there, not wait for the community to come to a meeting,” she said.

The Mayoral candidates were also asked how they would improve communication between council and the community.

St. Jacques suggested the district catch hold of social media.

 â€œThat seems to be where the younger generation is at there’s no question about it,” she said.  

She said it is important for council and the community to be able to interact freely and suggested Ucluelet’s regular council meetings are not prone to open dialogue.

 â€œThe council meeting itself is a very formal process and it’s impossible really to have a lot of interaction,” she said.

She said that during her tenure as Mayor—1999-2008—council held public Committee of the Whole meetings every second week.

“They were more relaxed and more open and we actually had conversations with folks that were in the audience,” she said. “I think that makes us feel more of a team when we’re approaching things.”

She added council should not be confined to their council chambers.

“Council needs to get out more we need to knock on doors and get opinions; it’s really important,” she said.

Irving agreed and spoke to local and regional organizations council has met with including the Wild Pacific Trail Society, USS’ Student Union, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and Tourism Ucluelet.

He also laid out a wide range of public open houses the district has hosted this year.

He said council put significant effort into visiting Tofino and surrounding First Nations and recently struck an agreement with the Ucluelet First Nation with a particular emphasis on the Nation’s development around the West Coast Junction.

On the social media front, Irving said he has become more involved in his Facebook page.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity, but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea,” he said.

He said the district has revamped its website and now distributes quarterly newsletters along with submitting articles to the Westerly and being interviewed on the radio.

Read more meeting coverage in this week’s Westerly News, on newsstands now.

reporter@westerlynews.ca