Ucluelet’s former mayor wants his old job back.
Bill Irving had spent 25 years on council, 12 as mayor, before losing his re-election bid to current mayor Dianne St. Jacques by nine votes—303 to 294—in 2014’s municipal election.
Irving confirmed to the Westerly News on Tuesday that he plans to run for mayor again this fall.
“This community has got some phenomenal opportunities and assets and, with the right team, we could be pushing ahead on some very significant fronts and, I think, I could be a huge resource for making those things happen,” he said. “I know sitting on council, people don’t often see all the work you’re doing in the background. But, I think there’s a real sense that there’s huge opportunities ahead of us and we need the kind of leadership that develops the plan, provides the tools and then just gets it done.”
Irving said two of his key priorities will be Ucluelet’s harbour and the former Coast Guard lands at Amphitrite Point, which have been vacant since Ucluelet’s MCTS station shut down in 2012.
He said his previous council had put together a harbour development plan that he fears may have fallen off the current council’s desk.
“We have one of the most unique harbours on the B.C. Coast and we have to really take advantage of the opportunities for funding and improvements,” he said. “We were very aggressive on the harbour and for some reason that’s not gone ahead…I know you have to be sitting at that [council] table to know all the bits and pieces, but I do think there were some huge issues and opportunities that seem to have stalled and I’d like to get those back on track.”
He added he’s eyeing the former Coast Guard building for economic development.
“The former council I was on developed a strategy for that land. One of the priorities being to try to attract universities and institutes to do climate change, marine studies and oil spill response studies,” he said. “That’s a huge economic driver in the sense of professors and students and faculty from all over the world coming to Ucluelet to study…That would be a tremendous asset.”
Irving has kept busy over the past four years, most notably working with the Tofino Bible Fellowship and Tofino Housing Corporation on an affordable housing project in Tofino, which he said offered him a different perspective on dealing with council.
“You can see the layers of bureaucracy that are often very frustrating for people so, I think, it’s important for us to step up as a community and start saying, ‘how do we streamline our application and planning processes to make it more amenable to businesses and how do we provide incentives to help them fulfill their investment desires?’,” he said. “I think that’s an important step that needs to be taken.”
He added he believes funding opportunities for local pursuits abound under B.C.’s current coalition government headed by the NDP and the Green Party as well as the federal Liberal government.
“Something I miss is working with the senior governments to push the West Coast agenda…There’s huge funding pools developing in provincial and federal levels that already exist for both the harbour and for housing so, I think, this is an extremely important time to be a really progressively active, dynamic, council,” he said. “If you’re not busy doing and getting the kinds of things we envision with a good solid plan then, I think, you’re moving backwards; you’re stalling and letting our businesses down.”
Ucluelet’s municipal election will be held on Oct. 20. Current mayor Dianne St. Jacques has not yet confirmed if she will run for re-election, but current councillor Randy Oliwa has announced his plan to run for mayor this year.