Tourism concerns sit atop the minds of Tofino’s two new municipal councillors.
Cathy Thicke and Jacky Challenger both saw their campaigns culminate in success on March 6 as they were elected to council alongside Tofino’s new mayor Dan Law.
“Tourism, I think, is on everyone’s mind right now as we’ve seen the first really beautiful days of spring coming in,” Challenger told the Westerly News, adding she is eager to get working towards a “more manageable” summer season. “That’s where I’ll be focused at the beginning.”
Thicke told the Westerly that tourism was a constant topic during the election campaign.
“People are feeling frustrated about the lack of input into this conversation at a community level. I had a feeling from those conversations that people were feeling overrun and I feel that the financial burden of tourism is having a toll on the community,” she said. “The tourism issue is one thing I feel very passionate and committed to seeing through.”
Both Challenger and Thicke were at the Tofino Community Hall to watch the March 6 vote count as seven candidates vied for two councillor seats and three candidates ran for mayor.
“It was exciting to be present for the vote count with the other candidates. Everyone had worked so hard during the campaign, so it felt like a culmination of what we had all gone through,” Challenger said. “When I saw the results I felt contented for sure and also really privileged to hold the trust of Tofino’s residents to be a voice at the council table and then I thought, ‘OK, when do we start? There’s lots of work to do.’”
Thicke said she was “in shock” when the results came in.
“When 10 people are running, things are very congenial but they’re also slightly competitive at the same time. Until the results are in, you really do not know what the will of the people is. So, it’s nerve-wracking and it’s exciting and it’s exhilarating at the same time,” she said. “It was a great feeling to hear the outcome…A huge congratulations to the others that ran. I feel that putting yourself out there is a real test of your courage and your belief in this town.”
Challenger attributed her success to clearly expressing her guiding principles of community sustainability and diversity to voters.
“A lot of people recognized me as someone who is an active and thoughtful community member and who has been for a long time that also has relevant experience. Throughout the campaign, I did receive a lot of messages of support and that felt reassuring,” she said. “Thank you Tofino for putting your trust in me. I hold that with a lot of respect.”
Thicke ran on a platform pillared by community, commitment and collaboration.
“Decisions will be made through the lens of community, what’s important to the community and their values and decisions made at the council table will be with the understanding of commitment and collaboration. I think this resonated very strongly with people,” she said. “I wasn’t wishy washy in those things.”
This is Thicke’s second tenure on council as she served two terms before deciding not to run for re-election in 2018 and falling short to Dan Law in a 2019 byelection bid.
“I felt like I needed a break and I did have that much needed break and I felt this time I had a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of drive to continue with the work that had begun,” she said. “Having a break was really important for me, having three grandkids in that time and then just looking at things with fresh eyes. Where have we been? What have we done? What do we still need to do? It’s pretty neat actually to feel like I have that renewed energy coming back. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Challenger will be taking her first seat at the council table and said she’s committed to being prepared.
“I’ll definitely be spending the next couple of weeks studying and learning the ropes. I have had many other current and past councillors and mayors reach out to offer their support and advice, so I’ll be taking them up on that and I feel very supported,” she said.
Both said the town’s new council has a wide-range of ages and experiences.
“I think it’s a fantastic team,” Thicke said. “It’s a great meeting of the minds in a sense. They’re seven very different people but it represents a fairly diverse representation of the community in terms of the age groups and the experience that people bring. I think it’s going to be a very well rounded council.”
“I think that although there’s always room for more diversity, it does represent a wide range of experiences, length of time being in Tofino and different perspectives. So, it feels like a good balance, though it could always be better,” she said.