Tofino’s mayoral race picked up its pace last week as the three candidates vying for the town’s top seat presented their priorities to a packed All Candidates Forum.
Incumbent Josie Osborne joined fellow candidates Omar Soliman and Jarmo Venalainen on the Tofino Community Hall’s stage, along with Tofino’s 12 candidates for council.
Osborne, who has run unopposed in each of the two elections she’s run in, said she appreciated the opportunity to present her priorities at a candidates forum for the first time.
“So, thank you to my challengers,” she said.
She said her key goal, if elected, is to increase public engagement.
“We make better decisions when you are involved and I think that we need more opportunities for this, especially with the conversations that we have to have in this next term about balancing our community’s needs with the economy that we’ve created,” she said.
She added the district must focus on infrastructure, like water, sewer and roads, while keeping affordable housing pursuits a top priority and that she would focus on strategic procurement in an effort to ensure local tax dollars lead to local benefits.
Omar Soliman said that, regardless of who gets elected, the town’s council should serve Tofino, not lead it.
“Tofino is an amazing place. You can’t really describe it; you can only live it,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity living here because we have options. No place in the entire world has options like Tofino has.”
He said he has seen both negative and positive changes over his three years in Tofino and that better communication could create perfection through consensus.
“The disconnect between council and its residents is not any one person’s fault. It is a lack of common unity, a common denominator. We still haven’t found that one thing; that one thing that every single person in this town can agree on. When we do find it, and we will find it I guarantee that to you all, we will be perfect,” he said.“Some say perfection is unattainable. We disagree. Perfection is at our fingertips everyday. We just need to reach out. When we come together, and we will come together, people will no longer come to Tofino to see where we live, they’ll come to see how we live.”
Jarmo Venalainen said he was happy to see such a huge turnout at the forum because local interest in municipal governance leads to effective participation.
He said one of his first priorities would be to investigate the district’s staffing needs and salaries—Tofino’s 2016 Statement of Financial Information shows that Tofino’s district staff payroll was $3.04 million—and said his past career included running a solar corporation with revenues on par with Tofino’s.
“I’ll tell you what, we didn’t spend over $3 million on payroll. We do in Tofino. That’s one thing that I would be looking at should I be elected,” he said.
He added he would also bring a change of leadership style.
“I don’t like what I’ve seen,” he said. “I don’t see enough engagement of the opinions of people, I see a small group of people looking after themselves.”
Venalainen was the only candidate among both the mayoral and councillor races to question Tofino’s pursuit of a $55 million sewage treatment facility. He suggested the target date to build one should be around 2040, not 2020 as it currently is.