Josie Osborne is the mayor of Tofino and operates the Tofino Botanical Gardens alongside her husband George Patterson, the creator, owner, and visionary behind the gardens. Josie grew up at her parents’ small seaside cottage resort at Saratoga Beach, and during her first career as a marine biologist was part-owner of two seafood businesses — including a seafood export company.
How are you, your business and Tofino coping right now?
It is surreal to watch Tofino change from bustling sidewalks and coffee shops during Spring Break to a virtual ghost town — but I am so proud of my community’s incredibly strong sense of social responsibility that puts the lives of vulnerable people and populations first. We truly are all in this together, and we will come through it together by remaining true to our creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative spirit.
How has the crisis affected your business, and how do you anticipate it will continue to affect it?
COVID-19 has put everything is in a state of suspended animation — for our family businesses and for many others in Tofino. It’s heartbreaking to see spring in full force in our public garden and not be able to share it with everybody, but we are taking the opportunity to get smart and creative about how we will change operations to meet public health needs while staying true to our mission and values.
What advice are you giving yourself and your team (s) for riding this out?
This is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s very important to take care of your own mental and physical health. As a community leader, I often use the “airplane and oxygen mask” analogy; put the mask on yourself before putting one on your neighbour. Stay strong and healthy so you can take care of the people around you.
What do you see as the opportunity in the challenge?
Now that the initial shock is over and financial assistance measures are underway for many, I’ve heard from many Tofino business owners that this “great pause” has given them time to reflect on the frenetic pace of life they were leading. People are feeling a stronger sense of connection to our community and our natural environment — the very reasons why so many of us moved here in the first place. This is our opportunity to come through this crisis with a stronger sense of purpose and vision about what tourism really is — mind-opening, genuine experiences that are deeply rooted in learning about culture, people, and places, conducted in ways that do not diminish the natural environment, that respect the integrity and values of the local community, and that result in fair and equitable benefits for the region’s residents.
What advice have you applied or are you applying from previous experiences coping through crises?
There is far too much stigma attached to loss and failure — especially when forced upon us by events not under our control. I’ve lost money in small businesses, I’ve watched friends and family members lose their businesses, and my husband has seen just about everything in the 50 years he’s been active in small business … and it all boils down to “this too shall pass.” As hard as things are right now, I am 110% certain that we will come out of this stronger — as individuals, as businesses, and as communities.
What are your resources right now? Do you have a mentor supporting you, peer group, books you read?
I fall back on the age-old wisdom of focusing on the things I can control (and influence). Every day I have conversations with people at all levels of community, business and government that help me put things into perspective and remember that I am not alone, and my community is not alone. And, I’ve found great wisdom lately in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “How to Fight,” which helps me handle the fear and stress of people around me and quells any urges I have to rush to judgment.
What advice do you have for others experiencing this alongside you?
I echo the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix — let’s treat each other with kindness, compassion, and strive to be our very “best” selves. We will make it through this, together.