In what has become the new normal, Tofino’s council held their April 24 meeting via Zoom. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Tofino launches two COVID-19 task forces

Council approves Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force and Mayor’s Community Health Task Force.

Tofino officially launched two separate task forces last week aimed at steering the community’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During their April 24 regular meeting, the town’s municipal council unanimously approved the formation of a Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force and a Mayor’s Community Health Task Force.

“I think this is a very nimble, quick, structure that can get on the ground very, very, quickly and begin its work. It is definitely a nested approach that will require the input and help of many different organizations and individuals,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne after council voted to establish both task forces. “The decisions that we make now, today and in the next weeks, are going to really shape the recovery and shape the way that our community looks in the future, so the work is really important. The work also really needs to be community driven and I want the wider community to understand that there will need to be ways for them to have their input heard…This needs to start ASAP and I’m excited to get going on it.”

The task forces came by way of a recommendation from the district’s community sustainability manager Aaron Rodgers who had submitted an initial COVID-19 recovery plan on April 12 that led to a lengthy conversation at the council table around the type of town Tofino wants to rebuild.

“The path we are walking down would see a partnership between the municipality and the community in a recovery process,” Rodgers said during April 24’s meeting.

He explained both task forces would support community efforts and provide a direct link between the community and council while the district coordinates recovery plans and prevents redundancies.

“The District of Tofino will provide leadership and support during these times and the District of Tofino will communicate the efforts within the community and also to the wider region,” he said.

According to Rodgers’ report, the economic task force will consist of two council members and representatives from the healthcare sector, Tourism Tofino and the Tofino Long Beach chamber of commerce.

Rodgers explained that the economic task force will focus on establishing marketing communication priorities, promoting a coordinated response among businesses, supporting business retention strategies and developing community wide work force retention and development plans.

READ MORE: Sinking Vancouver Island small businesses say aid package too little, too late

The community health task force is expected to consist of two council members and representatives from the healthcare sector, education sector and community service sector. Its priorities will include: coordinating community activities, proactively addressing emerging community health issues and seeking out resources to meet identified community needs.

Rodgers said mayor Osborne would be tasked with appointing members to each task force and Osborne suggested conversations had already taken place within Tourism Tofino and the chamber around who each organization would be recommending as their representative.

Rodgers’ report notes that both task forces will be supported by district staff and would work concurrently, while maintaining close communication with each other.

“With this disaster and this pandemic, health and economic recovery are entwined. I think it’s important to have a separate focus, but they need to be connected,” he said.

READ MORE: Tofino businesses grapple with what’s to come

Osborne agreed that feedback between the two would be vital.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here for different perspectives to learn from each other and the information that needs to be shared between the two of them will be pretty critical,” she said.

Rodgers added that the district would also keep in touch with its West Coast neighbours as well as the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District and higher levels of government.

Osborne suggested the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust could play a key role to help ensure “no one community is getting out ahead or is left behind” through the recovery process.

Coun. Andrea McQuade thanked Rodgers for his work putting the report together and said the new task force recommendations “align a lot more” with what council had in mind regarding the town’s recovery.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations in the community in the past few days about how the community, council, the provincial government and the federal government will all align in terms of recovery and one of the most important conversations that I’ve had has been about how the community will have that discussion,” McQuade said. “I think this is a really great tip of that sphere to lead those discussions, to convene the people that are having them and I’m really grateful we have a framework in place for that.”

Rodgers’ report notes that the financial impacts of both task forces to the district would be largely staff related and could include up to four positions staffed at approximately 50 per cent full-time-equivalent.

In an email to the Westerly News after the meeting, Rodgers clarified that the staff time will come from current staff members and that no new hires are expected in relation to the task forces.

“We have estimated that amount of time to give Council a rough idea of the upper limit of potential staff time that will need to be directed to recovery efforts. It is expected that there will be more resources needed earlier in the process to help kick start the working of the task forces,” he wrote.

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