Josie Osborne is promoting local sustainability through an approach that has nothing to do with carbon credits or Smart Cars: listening.
Osborne is the Mayor of Tofino, a town of approximately 1800 people located at the southern edge of Clayoquot Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. With an extensive career in environmental education and resource management, she has held previous roles as the executive director for the Raincoast Education Society and as a fisheries biologist for the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Osborne completed a Master's Degree in Resource and Environmental Management at SFU in 1998.
Voted in 2015 by Trip Advisor as the 8th best destination in Canada, Tofino is known for its booming tourism economy. The challenge, explains Osborne, is that this pressure not only stresses the enviroment but also creates housing and overall affordability issues for local residents. Adding another new factor to the mix, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations’ Ha'wiih (Hereditary Chiefs) recently declared Tofino to be part of a tribal park under their jurisdiction.
Since taking the helm two years ago, Osborne has begun to address these complex resource, economic and political challenges by creating more open and collaborative government. “As mayor, I feel like I have an incredible opportunity to work with First Nations to protect and conserve the environment while supporting the development of livelihoods that do not compromise the futures of our children and grandchildren," she says.
One of Osborne's key strategies, she explains, is creating opportunities for residents to be directly involved in the decsions that affect their lives.
“You can’t always give people the answers they want to hear. But if you provide sincere and meaningful opportunity for input, and they feel that a fair, respectful and thorough process has been followed, then people can usually live with the decisions that are made by their elected representatives,” she says.
Osborne notes that her practice in supporting sustainability as a biologist, educator and now a politician, first took shape during her graduate school experience at SFU.
“My supervisor really stressed to me the importance of communication, both in terms of scientific communication and interpersonal communication. That has proven very useful," she says.
She also points to the inter-disciplinary nature of her education.
“We learned about a lot of different, but related fields, which meant I could speak the languages of many different professionals,” she says.
- Written by Jackie Amsden and the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows.
Published in 2015