Different candidates, different visions for Port Clements

  • Oct. 15, 2008 4:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–Port Clements voters will be able to choose between two very different candidates for mayor when municipal elections are held next month. Cory Delves and Gerry Johnson both have experience as mayor of Port and both are longtime residents of the village, but the two have somewhat different visions of the future. For Mr. Johnson, a bright future for Port depends on its ability to forge strong relationships with its neighbouring communities, and especially the Haida Nation. If Port can do that, he said, it has the talent and the timber to provide economic opportunities for its residents. Mr. Johnson said he decided to put his name forward because he’s concerned that won’t happen. “I’m really worried that the next couple of years are going to be a turning point for our community,” he said. “We need to get out and start participating with the other communities and the Council of the Haida Nation.” The biggest opportunity for the village, he said, would be to participate in an on-island community forest with on-island wood processing. Cooperating with other communities, this could be accomplished in the next three years, he said. Mr. Johnson has spent 24 years on Port council, 12 years as mayor and 12 as councillor. He had never been defeated in an election until three years ago, when he ran for councillor and finished in second-to-last place with just 61 votes. At the time, the town was deeply divided over the effects of the “Spirit Rising” blockade which had put many Port residents out of work just a few months before the election. Mr. Johnson said he doesn’t know if sentiments have changed in Port since then, but he has decided to run anyway. “If I lose, that’s fine, but at least I’ll be able to live with myself,” he said. A forestry consultant with many years of experience, Mr. Johnson now works for the Haida Tribal Society as the manager of the Haida Heritage and Forest Guardians program. If he were elected mayor, the relationships he’s built with the Haida Nation will be an advantage for the town, he said. “The elephant in the room in Port Clements is the fear of working with First Nations,” Mr. Johnson said. “I know I ran smack into that in the last election… But if you think you can’t work with the Haida Nation, you’ve got another think coming. You can’t ignore half our population.” Mr. Johnson said he believes the current village council has not done a good enough job of involving the public, and that more public meetings and workshops need to be held. As for campaigning, he plans to get out and about talking to people, and perhaps distribute a brochure to provide more information about his platform. Mr. Delves, who has been mayor of Port for the past three years, said he decided to run for a second term because not everything has been crossed off his to-do list. “I have very much enjoyed working as part of the local government, and I think next term there’s some things I’d like to get done,” he said. “There’s a few items that were not accomplished.” At the top of that list are implementing some of the ideas about improving and promoting the town contained in the recent tourism survey, doing some work in the village’s industrial park, and upgrading the wharf. Mr. Delves, said he’s also looking forward to continuing his work as chair of the Misty Isles Economic Development Society, which is just getting off the ground. The society has hired a chief executive officer and an executive director who are working on economic development opportunities for the islands. Mr. Delves is also looking forward to moving into the brand-new multi-purpose building which will be opening soon. The building is one of the first in the province to combine a municipal office with a school and a public library. Mr. Delves, who works as a contract manager for Western Forest Products, was about to leave for a meeting when we phoned him so he didn’t have a lot of time to talk about his platform. The Observer will have more information about the candidates in future issues. The municipal election will be held Nov. 15.