Gord Johns’ big win on Monday that launched him into the federal government as the NDP MP of Courtenay-Alberni was both expected and exciting news for the West Coast’s mayors.
“I’m not one bit surprised. I, all along, felt that Gord was the strongest candidate for the riding and that he would do very well,” Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly on Monday night after Johns’ victory was announced.
“I feel honoured to call Gord a friend of mine and it will be amazing to work with him…It’s pretty nice to know you can hit the ground running with a good relationship with your MP.”
Osborne believes Johns, who spent time on Tofino’s municipal council and also served as the executive director of the Tofino-Long Beach chamber of commerce, will bring a valuable understanding of West Coast culture to Ottawa.
“He understands the kinds of struggles that people face and he also understands why people make a decision to live in a place like Tofino and that’s important. Ottawa is a big city, very far away, and it’s important that our MP remembers our Vancouver Island values,” she said.
“It’s great news for our riding and it’s terrific news for Tofino. We’re now represented by an MLA (Scott Fraser, NDP) and an MP that are from, or have roots in, Tofino and that means they know what our West Coast small town rural life is like and I feel we’ll be very well represented in Ottawa.”
She suggested that aside from his solid attributes as a candidate, Johns’ campaign also benefited from local loyalty to his party.
“Obviously the policies of the NDP spoke to a lot of voters and I think it’s fantastic,” she said.
“We’re a place of innovation, and thinking a little bit outside the box, and we obviously have a very strong environmental sensibility here and a lot of recognition of First Nations issues and that naturally draws us towards more left leaning parties.”
The West Coast now finds itself with an MP who is not a member of the governing party for the first time since 2006 as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals earned a majority government.
“It seems there is always an advantage to have an MP who is in the governing party. I wish that wasn’t the case,” Osborne said.
“I wish there was a way for some of the hyper-partisanship to be taken out of our electoral system so that our MP’s could work across parties much better to represent the wishes of all of their constituents no matter who they voted for and it remains to be seen how that will all fall out.”
Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques was also not surprised to see Johns celebrating a victory on Monday night.
“Gord has worked really hard on this for quite some time now and I think his work has paid off for him,” she told the Westerly.
“He’s gotten out there and listened to people and met people and he’s worked hard at it so I’m not surprised at his victory.”
She shared in Osborne’s optimism about Johns’ potential in his new position.
“I really respect Gord a lot. I like him very much and I think he’s very sincere and he really listens to people when they speak,” she said. “I look forward to working with him.”
She added Johns is familiar with the West Coast.
“I’ve always had good conversations with Gord about what’s going on here in Ucluelet and there’s no question in my mind that he gets it and he gets us,” she said. “He’s so approachable and I have a lot of respect for him.
She suggested Johns is well equipped to work with the Liberal majority and cited Trudeau’s victory speech where Canada’s new prime minister promised to work with members of the other parties.
“Trudeau’s quite an impressive young man himself and he’s saying he’s going to listen to everyone that was elected. That’s the kind of message that he’s portraying right now and I live in hope that he will,” she said.
“Gord can work his magic, as he has on the Coast here for quite a few years with whatever he’s turned his hand to, and I’m very confident that he can work and get things accomplished for us.”
She noted one of Johns’ key talking points during his campaign was bringing the Amphitrite Point Coast Guard Station back online in Ucluelet and she assured he will be reminded of this early and often.
“That will be one of the first conversations we have,” she said.