Gord Johns is heading back to Ottawa.
Around 10 p.m. on election night, Oct. 21, after enough votes had been counted to make it clear he had earned back his seat as Courtenay-Alberni’s Member of Parliament, an exuberant Johns ran cheering into a room full of supporters in Parksville, high-fiving and embracing them as they applauded his victory.
“I am so inspired by each and every one of you, I really am,” Johns said in a victory speech live-streamed by Black Press Media.
“I first want to thank the people of Courtenay-Alberni for giving me their confidence to serve them again and I promise to continue to fight to make life better for people in our communities, to protect our coast and our environment.”
Johns received 29,790 votes, 41.2 per cent of the 72,280 votes cast in the riding. Conservative Party candidate Byron Horner placed second with 23,936 votes followed by Green Party candidate Sean Wood, 9,762 votes, Liberal candidate Jonah Gowans, 8,620 votes and Marxist-Leninist Barbara Biley, 172 votes.
“Regardless of how people voted, we’re going to be working for everyone, as we did for the last four years,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, we know that and we’re only going to get that work done if we work together.”
West Coast leaders seemed as ecstatic about the win as the MP himself and expressed delight to see the riding’s reins remain in Johns’ hands.
“It’s great news,” Ahousaht First Nation Chief Greg Louie told the Westerly News. “Ahousaht has a really good relationship with Gord. He does a lot of good work for not only Ahousaht but the region and his constituents.”
Louie commended Johns for visiting Ahousaht and working hard to stay in touch with the community.
“It’s not just about photo-ops, it’s about sitting down and having real good dialogue,” Louie said. “For him to come to our community is huge…When he walks our land, sits in our council boardroom and meets our people, that says a lot about his commitment to his position and to the people.”
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel told the Westerly that Johns’ win was a win for the West Coast.
“It’s wonderful for our community and for the entire region,” he said. “Gord has always been very approachable, he understands our needs and wants…He’s present, visible and available.”
He added that Johns’ West Coast roots, having lived in Tofino for over 20 years before being elected to his first term as MP in 2015, allow local leaders to speak with him openly and candidly about various issues.
“There was no having to sugar coat it with him or try to educate him, he knows first-hand and understands the delicacy of our economy on the coast,” he said. “He just really resonates with a lot of people here because he comes from this area.”
Noel said Ucluelet would give Johns a week off before getting back to business.
“We have all sorts of wants and needs, so we’re definitely going to be setting up a meeting in the near future with him. In the meantime, we’ll just enjoy his victory,” he said.
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said she was “really glad” to see Johns heading back to Ottawa as the West Coast’s Member of Parliament.
“He’s an incredibly hard-working MP and has brought our West Coast voices to Ottawa in a way I haven’t seen before,” Osborne told the Westerly via email.
She added that Johns going into his second term means Tofino will be able to “hit the ground running” with its MP and the district has several projects ready for him to lobby the federal government for funding.
“One of our biggest priorities this term will be completing below-market rental housing, so we need his strong voice with other NDP and Green MPs to hold the Liberals accountable to their housing commitments,” she wrote.
“In addition, infrastructure investment remains a high priority, and I’m counting on Gord to keep pushing for the investments that municipalities like Tofino and Ucluelet need to reduce the burden on the property tax system.”