After serving two terms as a city councillor, Patrick Johnstone is hoping to make a move into the mayor’s office at city hall.
Johnstone has announced he is seeking the mayoral nomination with Community First, the city's newest political organization.
“I am experienced at working at the council table,” he said. “I have been thinking a lot in the last year, through the pandemic, about the need for optimism and the need for a positive vision for what we are doing next.”
Johnstone said it’s been a difficult time in politics because of where people are with the pandemic and where people are with their trust of public institutions, be that politics, be that media, be that government.
“With my experience on council and my record of being very transparent, being very open about the discussions we are having on council, and the challenges we face and the ways we think we should address those challenges, makes me a bit of a unique candidate in this election for sure,” he told the Record.
Johnstone believes he’s well-suited to lead New Westminster city council in the next term of office.
“I have been listening to this community. I have lived in this community for more than a decade now. Things are a little different now. The last two years have been difficult. People are a little bit anxious, people are a little bit uncertain,” he said. “I think it’s time to talk about optimism. I have an ability to bring a realistic vision. I can talk about the things the city can do to bring us together again and get things back on the momentum we had before the pandemic.”
During his time on council, Johnstone has championed issues such as sustainable transportation, housing supply and climate action.
“As a city, we are working through an ambitious capital plan, replacing aging infrastructure like never before. At the same time, we’ve been leading the region on addressing the housing affordability crisis and are taking bold action on climate,” he said. “We are making incredible progress in so many ways – from supporting the arts to renewing our urban forest. I don’t want us to lose that momentum and turn backwards.”
On Jan. 1, Mayor Jonathan Cote announced he would not be seeking re-election.
“I don’t think anyone is going to confuse me with Jonathan. We have a slightly different leadership style. We have a different way of communicating. I have a ton of respect for Jonathan. He is my friend, he is my mentor. He’s been a really great leader for this community. But I do think I do bring a different vibe. I think I can bring maybe some different ideas,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for refreshing, I think.”
First things first
Before officially becoming Community First New West’s mayoral candidate, Johnstone has to get through the nomination process.
At its April 28 inaugural annual general meeting, Community First adopted its governing bylaws and selected an executive, which is led by chair Cheryl Greenhalgh and vice-chair Nancy Kato. It will hold its nomination meeting on May 18, at which time members of the left-leaning party will select candidates by secret ballot.
Johnstone was listed as the financial agent for Together New West, which formed in December 2021, and soon renamed itself Forward New West. In April, he was one of the speakers at the Community First AGM.
“I am really looking forward to the nomination race next week,” he said. “As far as what I can say about Forward New West is that we have decided to deregister it and this new structure is being formed. This was a better path for us.”
Johnstone said he has been working wither other community members for several months to try and create a good foundation for a new electoral organization.
“I think that the structure we have at Community First is going to get us there. We have got a really good executive now, a strong group of candidates seeking nomination. We have a lot of dedicated volunteers signing up,” he said. “I have been helping out in putting things together. I have been involved in helping to put it together. I can’t say I am the architect of it. I am not on the executive of the party. I have been helping out, I was at the opening AGM, and I have been helping out with the organization.”
Johnstone, who was interviewed by the group’s candidate selection team, said he doesn’t know if other candidates will be seeking a mayoral nomination from Community First. If successful, Johnstone said he has lots of ideas he’d like to put forward to the Community First team.
“I also recognize that I am joining a team,” he said. “I am seeking a nomination as part of a team, and I think it’s important that when we go through a nomination race and have a slate of candidates that we have that conversation together and make sure we put together a solid platform that the entire team can support.”
Johnstone is the first city council incumbent to announce plans to run in the Oct. 15 civic election. He’s also the first candidate to officially announce plans to seek a nomination from Community First.
The New West Progressives have announced several candidates for city council, including mayoral candidate Ken Armstrong.
“I want to run a positive campaign, I want to talk about the positive work and the positive vision that I have and that the Community First New West team will hopefully be able to put together and put in front of the voters,” Johnstone said. “At this point, I don’t want to get into critiquing other people’s campaigns or the message that they are selling.”