Tofino launches initiatives for economic recovery

Melissa Renwick, May 7, 2020

A message reading "It's time to stay home and bend the curve - not bend the rules. Thank you," is posted to a sign at the Tofino and Ucluelet junction, on Saturday, April 11, 2020. (Melissa Renwick photo)

Tofino, BC — 

As local businesses in Tofino wrestle with when to re-open their doors safely in response to COVID-19, many are waiting for the green light from government. 

The Best Western Tin Wis intended on doing a soft-open of their resort in May, but has pushed that date to June 1 following the advice of health officials.  

While the resort is monitoring the provincial and federal expectations of business owners, it is also leaning on municipality input, said General Manager Jared Deaton.

On May 4, the District of Tofino launched two COVID-19 Recovery Task Forces, that are “intended to help advise on and coordinate recovery actions that will help the people and businesses of Tofino get back on their feet again as quickly, and as safely, as possible,” the district said in a press release.

Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Councillor Moses Martin said he is following the recommendations of Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry first and foremost. 

“The main thing that we’re doing is monitoring the incoming and outgoing [traffic] of the community by our own members,” said Martin. 

In a bid to collect resident’s input on the municipality’s ongoing response to COVID-19, the District of Tofino also launched a public engagement process on May 4. Using an online platform called Thoughtexchange, the District is calling on community members to anonymously share their thoughts, while rating other’s ideas using a five-star system. 

The week-long survey is asking participants to consider, “What is important to be thinking about as our communities and West Coast region responds to COVID-19 and prepares for the future?”

Input from residents will be grouped into themes by the B.C.-owned tech company, which will inform the District of Tofino where there are agreements and disagreements within the community. 

Over 400 people have participated in the Thoughtexhange survey, but only a “tiny fraction are identifying themselves as Indigenous,” said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne. 

Of those who have participated, Osborne said that residents have been questioning how more consideration of First Nations perspectives can be implemented in community planning.

“That’s something I’m really excited to see people commenting about,” she said.

The District will share the results of the public engagement process widely with all of the communities on the west coast. 

“I think it’s really important to continue to protect Indigenous communities in the way they want to be protected,” said Osborne. “As tourism slowly begins to resume, we want to make sure that First Nations are aware of and engaged in the conversations around that.”

Through her conversations with First Nations leaders, Osborne said that each community is concerned with how to keep its residents safe and that they are “carefully taking those baby-steps forward together.”

“I don’t mean to sound trite,” she said. “But it is so true that we are all in this together.”