He’d probably rather be in Tofino, but Gord Johns has enjoyed representing his hometown in Ottawa.
“It’s been a really tremendous honour to promote an area that is just so beautiful; beautiful in geography and beautiful in people and a region that has tremendous heart,” the NDP MP told the Westerly News.
“Being the first MP from the West Coast of Vancouver Island ever in our history is an opportunity for us to ensure our voice is being heard on coastal issues and this hasn’t happened in the past.”
Johns had lived in Tofino for roughly 20 years before running as the NDP candidate for Courtenay-Alberni in 2015’s federal election. Prior to besting Conservative candidate John Duncan 26,595 to 19,631 and earning a seat in Canada’s House of Commons, Johns served as the Tofino Long Beach chamber of commerce’s executive director; a job he had a hard time saying goodbye to.
“Having an opportunity to be part of a great organization with a great board and incredible members and it being a vehicle for change and seeing so much change that happened when I was working at the chamber of commerce…I was really nervous I would end up in a job where I couldn’t bring about the change that I was being a part of on the West Coast,” he said.
Roughly eight months into his first term, Johns said this nervousness has vanished.
“I’ve really found a way to navigate myself and use this role as a vehicle for our voice in Ottawa…The Liberal government has campaigned to the left and we’re there to hold them to their promises and we’ve been very effective at doing that,” he said.
“Our role couldn’t be more important with the issues we’re facing with climate change, the challenges we’re facing creating jobs, with inequality at an all time high, with aboriginal nation-to-nation building being so critical for the health of our communities and region; this is one of the most important times in our history and I feel really good about the place I’m in and how I can help our community and our region.”
He cited 1993’s Clayoquot logging protests and said the West Coast has an important story to share with the rest of the country in terms of meshing environmental values with economic success.
“We’re one of the few places in Canada where we’ve grown the economy and helped protect the environment,” he said.
“In 1993, just over 20 years ago, we had a choice. People told us that we had to log 90 per cent of Meares Island and we had to log the majority of Clayoquot Sound or there would be no jobs. Today, It would be creamed and we would be packing some of the last logging trucks out of Clayoquot Sound. Instead, we have a $100 million annual economy in tourism alone in Tofino alone.”
He said he’s enjoyed promoting the West Coast to his fellow MP’s and other leaders.
“We live in the most beautiful part of the world,” he said.
“I feel so honoured when I’m talking to ambassadors, heads of state, I had the opportunity to tell the Polish president about how beautiful it is where I live, and sharing with my MP colleagues and staff about the West Coast experience…I’ve been a huge advocate and promoter of the West Coast, and our riding.”
He said the job’s travel requirements have been taxing, with long days in Ottawa, and an 8,500 sq. kilometre home-riding to tour through, but he’s constantly reenergized by the constituents he meets.
“It is tiring for B.C. MP’s, especially Vancouver Island and Coastal MP’s. It can be really draining in terms of the toll it takes on yourself, the family, and staff, but it’s our issues and it’s our people that keep me energized and motivated every day to carry our message and, really, we are being heard,” he said.
“We’re being heard, I believe, like never before in our riding on a number of issues so I feel really, really, excited.”