Josie Osborne is ready to make the leap into provincial politics.
Osborne, who has served as the mayor of Tofino since 2013, announced that she will be seeking the NDP nomination for Mid-Island Pacific Rim for the next British Columbia election.
Osborne announced her intention to seek a provincial seat on Tuesday, Sept. 15. That was one day after Scott Fraser, the current MLA for the riding and minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, publicly declared he would not be running in the next B.C. election.
“I’m in my third term as mayor,” Osborne told Ha-Shilth-Sa, in a phone interview on Sept. 16. “I knew early on in my third term that I would start to look at something else.”
It remains to be seen whether others will also declare their desire to seek the NDP nomination for the riding.
Fraser has been a provincial politician the past 15 years. Osborne said she was not surprised with his announcement that he is getting out of B.C. politics.
“I’ve been talking with Scott the last few months,” she said. “I knew he had a difficult decision to make.”
Osborne has known Fraser since 1998, when she moved to Tofino to work as a fisheries biologist for the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Fraser was Tofino’s mayor at the time.
Osborne is the first individual to announce she will be seeking the NDP nomination for Mid-Island Pacific Rim.
“I think it’s a natural step to take this lead,” said Osborne, who has also served as the Chair of the Island Coastal Economic Trust since 2018.
Before being named chair for this group, Osborne, who was born in Richmond, B.C., spent the four previous years on its board of directors.
Osborne also previously served as the chairperson for the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District from 2014-16.
Osborne said Tofino residents shouldn’t be overly surprised with her intention to enter provincial politics. That’s because her constituents are aware she’s a huge advocate of the environment, being a former biologist. Plus, she’s also a big supporter of housing, child care and transportation.
Though Osborne has revealed her desire to jump into provincial politics, it’s uncertain when the next provincial election will actually be staged. It is scheduled to be held in October of 2021.
But there has been plenty of recent speculation that Premier John Horgan will call for an election before then, possibly this fall or perhaps next spring. The thinking is Horgan will be looking to capitalize on the fact his approval rating has gone up during the pandemic and thus it might be wise to have an election sooner rather than later.
“I have no insight into that,” Osborne said of whether there might be an early election. “But I know no matter what there will still be an election in a pandemic.”
Osborne will continue to fulfill her duties as Tofino’s mayor until an election is called. When that does happen, she will take a leave of absence from her current job.
And if she does end up being successful and win a provincial seat, then she would be forced to resign as mayor.
Osborne praised the work Fraser has done during his time in provincial politics. She is hoping she can continue on in his footsteps.
“We need a strong voice for all the people in this riding, including First Nations,” she said.
Should she indeed win the NDP nomination for her riding, Osborne believes she will be able to drum up plenty of Indigenous support.
“I am confident I have great relationships with Nuu-chah-nulth leaders and members of Nuu-chah-nulth communities,” she said. “And I will be looking for their guidance.”
Osborne said the province also has plenty of work it needs to do in order to improve the lives of its Indigenous people.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done,” she said.
This list includes improving basics such as housing, clean water, health care delivered in a culturally appropriate way and education.
Osborne added improving relationships and conditions for Indigenous people is not something that can be achieved quickly.
“I think reconciliation is a process, not an outcome,” she said. “It’s something we’ll be working on for generations.”
As for Fraser, his statement that he would not be seeking re-election included the fact he’s been deliberating about the idea for some time.
“Over the past year I have had many discussions with those close to me about my decision not to seek re-election,” he said. “It was a tough call to make because I love my job, but I realize it is time for me to spend more time with my loved ones and allow space for the leaders of tomorrow to step forward.”
Osborne is hoping she is just that leader to do so.