British Columbia

Local politicians across B.C. are making the provincial plunge as election looms

Tofino’s Josie Osborne understands there are certain things she could do as an MLA that she just can’t do as mayor.

Mayors and councillors say a chance to have a greater influence is a big reason for running

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne says that affordable housing has become a more crucial issue in recent years as the city enjoys an increasingly successful tourism economy. (Simon Charland/CBC)

Tofino's Josie Osborne understands there are certain things she could do as an MLA that she just can't do as mayor.

"Being part of the regional district here has really opened my eyes to some of the gaps in services or policies that could be changed that would make people's lives better," said Osborne.

On Monday, she announced she was seeking the NDP's nomination in Alberni-Pacific Rim, after current MLA and cabinet minister Scott Fraser said he wouldn't run again. 

"Making that jump to the provincial stage is a place where I can bring that voice, especially a voice for rural communities and coastal communities, tourism-dependent communities and make a difference."

Osborne, who has served as mayor since 2013, will likely face off against Port Alberni Coun. Helen Poon, who is running for the B.C. Liberals. Her announcement came one day before Summerland Mayor Toni Boot said she would run for the NDP in Penticton. 

They're part of a large contingent of current and former local leaders who may run in the provincial election. Former Vancouver Coun. George Affleck is considering a campaign for the Liberal Party's Vancouver-Fraserview nomination, while Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt is said to be mulling running for the Green Party in Victoria-Beacon Hill.

Premier John Horgan is considering calling an election, and potential candidates have told CBC News they're aware of the need to accelerate their decision to run or not. 

'Natural progression'

Abbotsford councillor and former mayor Bruce Banman, running for the B.C. Liberals in Abbotsford South, said it was "a natural progression" for local politicians to want into provincial politics.

"One of the things that comes here all the time is congestion on the number one [highway], but to find a solution to that is nowhere near within the city's mandate. Building a freeway is both provincial and federal," he said.

There are several other councillors attempting runs for the Liberals, including Langley Township Coun. Margaret Kunst  in Langley East and Chelsa Meadus in Maple Ridge-Mission.

Kunst also brought up the issue of Highway 1 and said that her experience crafting municipal budgets would be an asset.

"You have your own personal budget. But then you step into the municipal budget and see the extra zeros … and people want things, but you have to manage all of the wants versus the things we absolutely have to provide in communities," she said.   

None of the municipal politicians attempting a jump to provincial politics have resigned their positions, but Osborne said she would take a leave of absence as mayor when the campaign begins and resign as mayor if she wins.

Several municipalities across B.C. are already in need of byelections, including two councillor positions in Burnaby and one in Victoria. 

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