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WATCH: Tofino mayor delivers inaugural address

Tofino’s new municipal council officially sworn in
Tofino’s manager of corporate services Nikki Best leads mayor Dan Law through the oath of office. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Good governance and knowing thyself were key themes of Tofino mayor Dan Law’s inaugural address last week as Tofino’s new municipal council was officially sworn in.

The Tofino-Ucluelet Community Choir opened a special meeting inside the Clayoquot Community Theatre with a bilingual national anthem before the district’s manager of corporate services Nikki Best led Law and the six councillors through the oath of office.

Law was acclaimed after running unopposed. Incumbent councillors Tom Stere, Al Anderson and Duncan McMaster, each earned back their seats and join newcomers to council Sarah Sloman, Ali Sawyer and Kat Thomas.

READ MORE: Tofino elects new council with historically low voter turnout

After the swearing in, Law delivered his inaugural address, beginning by thanking outgoing councillors Britt Chalmers, Jackie Challenger and Cathy Thicke, who had not sought re-election.

“A new council inherits the hard work and accomplishments of many councils before,” he said.

He added a lot had changed on council since the last regular election, noting the town had been through two byelections since former mayor and now Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne was elected mayor in 2018.

“I want to congratulate the new council. I’m very excited to see you all here. It’s going to be a great council. We have a strong council and we have lots to do,” he said.

He suggested elections often stir up key local issues, noting housing and recreation were particularly heavy during this election.

“These are all good things and we think about them as we run and the community also thinks about them and who they want to be there to represent them and of course council is going to deal with all those things,” he said. “But, I think the heart of council’s success is ultimately a commitment to and striving for good governance.”

READ MORE: WATCH: Tofino councillor candidates talk housing and recreation

He said the council would all go through local government training and orientations to the local district staff as well as finances to learn the “technical parts” of good governance, but will also need to look within to understand themselves and their constituents.

“Good governance requires thoughtful introspection, understanding basic human needs and a commitment to the other. Good governance requires a knowledge of the greater culture of the world we live in. Underlying all good governance is a shared set of values, a commitment to mutual respect, civility, integrity and honesty which really are part of the oaths that we just swore and signed,” he said. “I think now more than ever, together, council, staff, and community, we must learn what it means to govern well.”

He added a popular question during campaigns is why are you running.

“I know that we all had that question when we ran for council. Everyone asked, ‘Why are you running for council?’ The Westerly News asked, ‘Why are you running’ and we had to come up with an answer. I kind of condensed it down to wealth, power and prestige,” he joked.

“Really of course the answer is that we care about our community and we want to make a difference. But, why we do the things we do is not always clear. We do have hidden needs, unconscious bias. We have egos and understanding what makes us tick ourselves is hard to figure out.”

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He suggested we have shared needs like water, shelter and food, as well as deeper needs around self-worth and wanting to be agents of effective change.

“These things can also hold hidden drivers. They can be twisted,” he said.

He spoke to a lecture he had attended by sociologist Dr. Martin Brokenleg of Health Canada who had worked around the world specializing in resilience and said the lecture pointed out that North America is “very unusual.”

“His finding was that the average family unit was about 150 people globally and the average family unit in North America was about four. He noted that these needs that we have of belonging and worth and competence were often exhibited almost pathologically because at the heart of a lot of our communities in North America, we are alone and we are afraid,” he said.

“That was an interesting insight and it made me reflect on why I do the things that I do and it helped me. Self reflection, know thyself. If I understand myself, then I am more likely to understand the other. Good governance requires that we not only seek to know and understand ourselves, but also to know and understand the other. The other includes fellow councillors, staff, public servants, residents, neighbours. Part of the elected official’s job is to seek out the other to be present without judgement, to listen, to understand.”

He added that when he first ran for council, he was surprised to discover how many residents he did not know, suggesting that in a small town it’s easy to think everybody knows everybody.

“Coming into council to govern well I realized I had to work hard to get to know those people, to reach out, to be uncomfortable and to find those people that I wasn’t aware of,” he said.

He added that council has data and surveys to draw from as well as district’s staff knowledge and reports and should keep the diverse population in mind when making decisions.

“When I’m faced with a decision I try to think how that decision will affect all people of all ages,” he said. “How will this decision affect a 1-3 year-old in Tofino and how will it affect the people that are retired, the elderly. It’s a way of reminding myself of the other…I always try to think too of the hidden people, the people that are the most vulnerable; the quiet crew.”

He added the world has changed with generations inheriting a different climate than their predecessors.

“Over the past 200 years, ocean acidification has increased 30 per cent. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 47 per cent. Animal populations across the globe are plummeting at extinction rates,” he said. “We see that here. We see that in our mountains and our streams. So, to govern well, we have to think of these things, we have to tackle them. The world is in trouble. Really we must commit to good governance because we don’t have time for anything else.”

He noted Tofino is a relatively small community that draws in huge interest and notoriety.

“We punch above our weight. Whether we like it or not the eye of the world is on us, they’re looking at us to see what we do and how we do things. We can govern well. We can do it. We can be a bit of hope,” he said. “Together through courage, humility, a little imagination, a lot of hard work and a commitment to good governance, the best part of our humanity can overcome the worst part of our humanity. If we fail, which is possible, we fail forward. If it doesn’t work we pick each other up, pat each other on the back and say let’s try again… We have a great staff. We’ve got a great community. We have a history of success. We’re set up to succeed and with a commitment to each other, to good governance, to knowing ourselves, knowing the other and knowing our community, we got it.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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