Tofino gathered at the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre last week to witness their new council being sworn in to office.
READ MORE: Josie Osborne re-elected in Tofino
Members of the Tofino Choir led the full audience in the singing of O’ Canada before Mayor Josie Osborne and councillors Al Anderson, Dorothy Baert, Britt Chalmers, Duncan McMaster, Andrea McQuade and Tom Stere each walked across the stage to take their oath.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chief Moses Martin addressed the new council and said he was looking forward to working with them throughout their next term and then Mayor Josie Osborne took to the podium to deliver her inaugural address to the community, beginning with a thank you to the candidates who had not earned a spot at the table.
“I want to say thank you to each and every one of them for stepping up, stepping forward and being willing to serve the community. They shared ideas and hopes and passions with us, the electorate, throughout the campaign and they’re not going to be forgotten,” she said. “I think I speak on behalf of our new council when I say we hope that each and every one of the candidates will stay involved in local government and continue to bring forward their ideas in the next four years.”
She noted that this was her first election that wasn’t by acclamation.
“It has been an absolute privilege to serve this community as mayor for the last six years, but receiving a mandate is better and, I think, it makes it more meaningful for me,” she said before turning to congratulate her six councillors for their elections. “Our community has placed it’s trust and confidence in the seven of us and with a record turnout of 929 voters and a diverse field of 15 candidates it is a convincing placement of trust and confidence and we have a lot to live up to.”
She said her passion for local governance is fuelled by “a constant curiosity” in the way decisions are made.
“The democratic process is an endless source of delight and frustration,” she said adding she has enjoyed going through Tofino’s council meetings minutes, which date back to 1932.
“Unsurprisingly and not different from the core of the work that we do today, our towns leaders spent a lot of time in the early days talking about roads, and about water and then about sewer and, I thought this was great, roaming dogs are mentioned an incredible number of times throughout the councils’ minutes.”
She suggested good governance relies on an actively engaged community, professional and diligent district staff and a council that arrives to meetings prepared and ready to articulate their perspectives and opinions.
“It all sounds great but there is always a rub and the rub is that we’re all human and so it can at times be really difficult to make decisions that we know are affecting the lives of our friends and of our neighbours,” she said. “Sometimes we have incomplete information, sometimes we want more time to make a decision, sometimes we want to talk to more people before we make a decision, but we can’t…We’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to strive to do our very best, but I want us to be gentle in the ways that we hold ourselves accountable to each other and as a community because we’re all neighbours in a small community.”
She said Tofino must begin having “conversations that matter,” to resolve issues and concerns raised by the public during the campaign trail.
“There were good and hard questions that were being asked about the economy that we’ve created that has helped many in this town flourish, but perhaps not all and perhaps not evenly and not fairly,” she said. “Residents are understandably concerned about the impacts of our success on the environment, the cost of housing, other necessities of life, our relationships with each other, our quality of life and what it means to be community.”
She added that these concerns have been marinating in Tofino for decades.
“We’ve lived through times of, ‘us versus them.’ We’ve been a community that discovers itself suddenly fracturing into smaller communities as people begin to argue more about who’s got more of the truth, rather than learning about what we share and what dreams and possibilities exist,” she said. “Without fail, it’s always been my experience that when we face a significant problem, the solution exists within us as a community but we don’t find it until everybody comes together to listen.”
She added reconciliation and coexisting with First Nations must also be a point of emphasis, noting Tofino celebrated the raising of a totem pole by Tla-o-qui-aht Master Carver Joe David in 2018 and is working with the Tla-o-qui-aht to establish a “space for reconciliation” at Monks Point.
“What is certain is that the landscape of Aboriginal rights and title is changing almost daily. What is also certain is that we are all here to stay,” she said.
“It’s vital that we continue to learn about each other and that we help lift our communities beyond the legacies and policies and practices of past governments and past eras of society.”