PORT AUX BASQUES, NL – Brian Button is a native of Port aux Basques and has been involved in municipal politics for over 18 years, dating back to 1993.
The former mayor has experience on various town committees, local sporting and event committees, and once served as vice-president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador. He currently works in a seasonal position at J. T. Cheeseman Provincial Park and serves as a board member on the Community Business Development Board (CBDC).
“I have spent my entire adult life volunteering and working on behalf of our community. It’s the love I have for this community, the wanting to give back, and the satisfaction of helping others that motivates me to want to help make our town the great town we live in.”
What are the top three things voters should know about you?
My dependability, my honesty, and my ability to communicate. My integrity is important to me, and the community is equally as important. I always believe you should be honest with people. I don’t think you just give them the answer because you think that’s going to be the popular answer. You give them a proper answer and the honest answer. Your ability to communicate that message is something I feel that I’ve got.
You mentioned dependability?
Four years ago, I had already served five terms. I had just gotten a new grandbaby. I knew early on that I wasn’t going to run (in the 2013 election). I couldn’t give 100 per cent and I couldn’t give that dependability. To run in this position, you’ve got to be able to give 100 per cent. I decided then to take the four years for myself. I did a stint out there (Alberta). I came back. I did the recreation director’s job here. I had some issues. They were personal, within my family. I had been in chats with people out there about coming back. All the things that were happening, it probably worked out to be the best thing for my family at that time. I sat down with my wife. We both came to the conclusion that neither one of us really wanted to do this (commute to Alberta). I did a lot of investigating and I found a position. I came back to where I love, where I want to be. I’m back to stay.
What do you think about open government?
I guess it works a little bit differently with a municipality. We always have to be sure the messages we do get out there – and we’re doing it as individuals – we must remember that we represent council as a whole. There’s a balance there, but I always believe in allowing individuals to do their thing. I believe we get the best results when everybody has input. We’ve got to be open with people. There are times when there are things going on – it’s not that it becomes private – it may be a business venture that may want to come to your community. They may be talking with other communities. If we put all our cards out there and discuss everything that’s ongoing with these negotiations, we could lose it because we’ve given an edge to other communities that we are competing with. We see that a lot. There are issues like that we need to keep close, but we have got to keep our community informed. We just need to make sure that information is out there when the time is right and that we don’t jeopardize ourselves.
What’s changed the most since you were last mayor/councillor?
We’ve got to welcome change. How we do things and how we present ourselves, how council gets out there and gets involved with the community – times have changed a lot. Not only do you see the mayor out, you see the councillors out. You see them participating in activities. We’re more involved, more in tune, which gets us more information and more ideas because we’re out more with the public than it was at one time. The times have changed. Technology has changed. Social media is a big part of everything these days. We have to adapt with change as well and we have to be receptive.
What do you know about regionalization and how do you think it will impact Port aux Basques?
While I was with Municipalities NL I was the vice-president. I was part of the regional committee so I have a fair bit of knowledge of what different things have been discussed. Regionalization for us, there are some things that will work and some things won’t. We just got to look at one model: the waste management project. If you had said 20 years ago we’re going to be picking up garbage from South Branch to Rose Blanche, someone would have said you’re out of your mind. We have some memorandums of understanding between fire departments and those types of things. There are things for us that won’t work. It’s hard for us to say we’re going to do snow clearing down in Rose Blanche. That’s just not practical. There are a lot of services that we can share and we have shared.
What is the biggest issue that concerns you about Port aux Basques right now?
Always our biggest issue is economic development. Marine Atlantic is still the hub of this community. For every job that you see at Marine Atlantic, there’s probably another two or two and a half that spin off somewhere else within the community. We need to continue there. I still truly believe that the bulk of Marine Atlantic, the headquarters, should be in Port aux Basques. That’s one piece. We’ve also got to get out and sell ourselves as a community for the economic development side of things. We have to be proactive to be in that game. You’ve got a mixture of trying to find new and work with the existing businesses.
Would you like to see people become more involved in municipal affairs and if so, how would you work towards achieving that?
The only time you usually get people to come into a council meeting is if it’s a delegation because it’s a written concern of theirs. We’ve tried in the past to encourage people. You want to know what is going on in your community and unless it’s a big controversial item you won’t have anybody. But we’ve got to find the ways and means to encourage people. I’m encouraged by the amount of people running this time. If there’s anything we can kick off of, it’s the interest that has been shown there. We as a council have got to give people reasons to come.
Do you have a specific moment in politics that you really regret?
There are a lot of issues over the years that you see you could have done differently. One of the things that I wish I didn’t do? I wish I had stayed around and did the last four years, but after that amount of time I needed a break to re-energize myself and take on some of the things I wanted to do in my own personal life. For things on council, I don’t know. I can’t second-guess everything that we did.
What is the most accurate criticism someone has made about you?
I don’t know and I’m sure there are people criticizing me for something out there. An unfair one would be… I’ve always finished my term as mayor. When I decided not to run I decided on my own accord. That was done in fairness to this community because I felt I was unable to give the time that was needed to do the job. I’ve always been there to do my obligation.
Why should residents vote for you?
Residents should vote for me because I have the experience. The people of this community know who I am. They know what I’m about. They’ve seen me in action already. They saw me as a mayor. They saw me represent this community. I do it with honour. I think it’s a privilege to be able to do it for the people.
What do you promise NOT to do if elected?
I promise not to give up, to work every day. I promise that for the four years I will be there to give 100 per cent for this community.