As anyone who’s participated in a West Coast cake-walk knows, when two people fight over one seat, the struggle can become very real.
Tofino’s municipal council is lobbying for a new library and navigated through a moderate rift last week as two of its members clashed over who could do a better job of getting one.
Councillors serve on a variety of local and regional boards and the appointment process traditionally draws little debate but, during Dec. 6’s regular meeting, Coun. Al Anderson and Coun. Cathy Thicke sparred over Tofino’s seat on the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board of Trustees. Anderson has held the seat for six years—It carries a maximum eight-year term—but Coun. Cathy Thicke, who currently serves as Anderson’s alternate on the board, expressed a desire to step up.
Coun. Greg Blanchette noted VIRL asks councils to reappoint incumbents whenever possible.
“They specifically request continuity,” he said.
Anderson said continuity is important because newcomers to the 38-member board often struggle out of the gate.
“There’s a little bit of friction just until they’ve got up to speed and understood what that board does and how it operates,” he said.
Thicke countered that she has long been interested in the role and has ideas for partnerships that could “tip the balance” towards bringing a new library to Tofino in the “near-future.”
“We’re at a very critical point in time and I would like to add my voice,” she said.
“I don’t really have any other committees right now…The Tonquin Trail Committee is gone and I’m an alternate on whatever committee that we sit on that never meets and doesn’t discuss anything. So, I guess, I just felt like I wanted my put my energy into [the library board].”
Coun. Dorothy Baert supported Thicke’s bid and accused Anderson of being ineffective in the role.
“I’m sorry Coun. Anderson, but I’ve not felt that you’ve had a strong voice at the library table,” she said.
“I’d like to give [Thicke] a try to have a voice that has more advocacy for Tofino…Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to switch it around and, for continuity, she has been the alternate so it’s not hugely out of step. I’d just like to give it a shot.”
She added that, as an alternate, Thicke is not paid to attend the board’s meetings while Anderson is.
“The representative is paid,” she said.
Anderson said he has been trying to give Tofino a solid voice at the library table but hasn’t felt supported by his fellow councillors.
“I haven’t had the support of council,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m armed with strong support at that table to get anything going.”
He added the library board works within a set strategy and voting is based on a community’s population.
“To some extent, we advocate for our communities or bring issues forward but, really, we’re there to carry out the mandate in the strategic plan of the VIRL…The table has weighted voting, so Nanaimo really can carry the vote on their own,” he said. “It is a 38-member board. So, it’s pretty hard to have everybody at that table speak to every issue…The extent at which you can move something at the board is the extent to which you can convince other trustee members that it’s a valuable idea, project or policy you’re bringing forward.”
Mayor Josie Osborne supported sticking with the status quo by keeping Anderson at the helm.
“Sometimes it does take quite a long time to get those relationships and to understand the way the board operates and I would like to continue to place our confidence in Coun. Anderson and do as he is requesting, which is to arm him with a little bit more information and support,” she said. “It’s good for us to bring this up and asking for a stronger voice at a table is important.”
Coun. Duncan McMaster asked to move the meeting in-camera—closed from the public—but Osborne said there was nothing to trigger such a move. Council voted to reappoint Anderson to another term and reappoint Thicke as his alternate.