Tofino won’t just be electing a new mayor in the spring, two councillor positions will be up for grabs as well.
Tofino is set to hold a municipal byelection in March to replace former mayor Josie Osborne who left the seat after becoming the MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim in October’s provincial election.
Councillors Dan Law and Andrea McQuade have announced they will be running for the mayor’s position and, unlike Osborne who was able to take a leave of absence as mayor while running provincially, both must resign their current positions.
The district plans to hold a special meeting on Dec. 16 to appoint a chief elections officer, which will start an 80-day clock to hold a byelection, according to Tofino’s manager of corporate services Elyse Goatcher-Bergmann.
“Once that appointment is made, the clock starts ticking,” Goatcher-Bergmann told the Westerly News.
She added that any councillors wanting to run for mayor will have 14 days to resign their seat after an elections officer is appointed.
“It is not a leave of absence. It is a full resignation,” she said.
She noted that with both Law and McQuade set to resign, the town’s council will be down to four members, which is the minimum required to reach quorum.
“We will need everyone to show up to every single meeting in order to be able to conduct business,” she said.
Law and McQuade are both currently serving their first terms on council, with McQuade earning her seat in October 2018’s general election and Law earning his in a November 2019 byelection.
Both confirmed to the Westerly that they will be running for mayor.
McQuade told the Westerly that she’s had her eye on the mayor’s seat since she ran for council.
“This wasn’t a split second decision, this wasn’t made this year…Was this two years ahead of schedule? Absolutely. Does that mean that I’m any less ready? No,” she said. “I firmly believe that our town has been consistent in the past two years, and maybe a little bit louder in the past nine months, that we are looking for thoughtful, forward-thinking, progressive leadership. I think I’m the person to be in that role.”
READ MORE: Tofino mayor Josie Osborne re-elected
Law said he spent some time mulling over the decision after Osborne was announced the NDP’s candidate in the provincial election.
“It took a couple of months to be honest and, during that time, I also received a tremendous amount of community encouragement to consider running for mayor. So, I was certainly not alone in the process thinking about it,” he said. “I’m running for mayor because I really believe this is an especially critical time for our community. This byelection could have a major impact on Tofino’s future…Tofino is steering in a different direction. Tofino has, over the past decade, really focused on the economy and getting a really robust tourist economy going and, I think, now the council and the community really is focusing on community health and that is where my heart is. That is definitely where I’ll be focusing.”
He added that he also spoke to his family about the decision and they supported his pursuit.
“That’s when I decided to go all in, so I’m putting it all on the line,” he said.
READ MORE: Dan Law wins Tofino byelection
Both spoke to their positive experiences serving on council and acknowledged they’re risking their current seat to vie for the mayor’s spot.
“I really love being on council. I’ve worked hard and I feel like I’ve been effective. I enjoy getting stuff done, I really do. I know there is a risk that I could lose that, but I’m not planning on losing. I feel strongly about Tofino’s future direction that I’m willing to risk that [council seat] to pursue the position,” Law said.
“Both myself and Councillor Law are taking a risk. This is all of your eggs in one basket, there’s no falling back on something,” McQuade said. “This is a job that I love. My councillor position is one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done in my entire life, but I am motivated to keep doing it and maintaining that leadership at another level. I would be very sad to lose my spot on council, let that not go without saying.”
Law said the mayor holds a “unique position of leadership,” working closely with district staff, setting the tone for meetings and framing discussions.
“Whoever is in that position is going to be the spokesperson for Tofino, in a sense. They’re going to be advocating for Tofino and representing Tofino in everything they do and I think that’s a really important position. I think I’ve got a lot of attributes to bring. I’m excited to take that on and to champion Tofino, to work with our surrounding communities to foster cooperation and collaboration. That actually really appeals to me and I think I’d be really good at it.”
McQuade suggested she has a strong base in tourism and housing issues and also puts a keen focus towards “areas of the community that don’t get a lot of attention,” including harm reduction and community health.
“I think that I’m bringing light to some of the issues that have been consistently felt by Tofitians are not often represented at the council table. I’m not doing that at the expense of the things that I still think the majority of Tofitians find really important, which is fiscal responsibility, transparency and strong leadership,” she said.
Both dished out high praise to Osborne while suggesting they would bring different perspectives than their predecessor.
“A continuation of Mayor Osborne’s mayorship isn’t possible. I’m a different person. I believe different things. I am informed by different experiences. Our town is not the town that elected Mayor Osborne, our experiences are no longer the same. If we move in a different direction, it will be because that is what the town is asking us to do. Any good mayor moves with the direction of the town,” McQuade said.