Mayor Bruno Tassone says trip was made to support a family member’s mental health. Photo: Submitted

Mayor Bruno Tassone says trip was made to support a family member’s mental health. Photo: Submitted

Castlegar mayor stands behind decision to travel out of area

Bruno Tassone and his family travelled to Mount Baldy

Castlegar mayor Bruno Tassone is standing behind his decision to travel outside of the area over the holidays.

Tassone and his family travelled to a cabin they own at Mount Baldy, a journey of about 200 kilometres. Some citizens and councillors are not pleased with the decision, while others support it.

The issue of politicians and travel has become a hot-button topic across the country in the last week with cabinet ministers, MLAs and others resigning over holiday travel, many to international destinations.

RELATED: 7 Alberta cabinet ministers, MLAs, staff resign after holiday travels: Kenney

The mayor says his family has owned their cabin for 25 years.

“This year we hesitated to go as we understood this was going to be an issue,” said Tassone.

“My wife … has struggled with mental health in the past and this year being the year it was, she struggled with depression again. For this reason, we chose to go to the cabin, to get away and have some time to ourselves.

“In an effort to abide by public health orders, we took everything with us and stopped nowhere along the way. Further to this, we have had the same bubble of family since March and therefore chose to continue to bubble with them.

“We would hope that your readers would understand that this was a difficult choice. But yes, with my wife and I’s well-being in mind, I did make the choice to leave my community safely and I stand by my choice.”

Castlegar News reached out to the rest of city council to see how they felt about the decision. Several councillors asked that we include their comments in their entirety, in order to preserve their context, which we have agreed to.

Florio Vassilakakis:

As elected officials in our community it is important that we lead by example. Over the last 10 months, Castlegar council and the mayor have continued to implore our citizens to follow public health orders and recommendations. I sympathize with our mayor and his concern for his family’s well being and how important that is. We are all in the same position. Many of our citizens and family members have mental health issues and all of us long for the in-person connections with friends and family that we so miss in this moment.

However, public health, especially during a pandemic, focuses on the collective by depending on the responsible actions of individuals. While we can always justify our own needs and liberties as perhaps being more important, in this moment they are in fact, not. I do not want to take away from the very real health concerns that the mayor has identified, however they are not unique.

Politicians are held to a higher standard and as can be gleaned from the news over the past week, some face significant consequences for their actions however egregious they may or may not seem. It disappoints me to see that our mayor followed through on his previously announced travel plans outside our region, especially in a time when there is an advisory against it and when so many here made the sacrifices that were expected of them. I leave the defence of his actions to his own words and the judgment of his decision to the citizens of our community.

Maria McFaddin:

It would be hard to understand the amount of stress and sacrifice that this past year has brought to a public servant, especially the mayor. The task of making decisions for an entire community on how to keep them healthy, not only physically but emotionally and mentally, is very strenuous. The ability to disconnect becomes a challenge because you are the face that people look to, to ask questions of, discuss their frustrations, and vent their fears.

In my opinion, the mayor, as well as council and city staff have done a tremendous job at doing their very best to navigate all that this year has brought. I am so proud to be a part of this team, and this community. In order to get this quality out of someone that is just a human, not a superhero, they need time to refresh and rest. I completely support the difficult decision that the mayor and his family made to leave over the holidays, to a family owned cabin within our health region. They did not disregard any government orders and took the time to stay healthy so that you, as a community, can get their very best.

I think this shows tremendous leadership. I encourage everyone to think about what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Health is not just about the physical, but about the mental, emotional and spiritual well being of a person. May we keep all of this in mind while we make difficult decisions. Be kind and stay safe.

Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff:

I am sympathetic to our mayor’s family issues, however, as a leader, especially during a pandemic we need to lead by example and be credible to what we say. As leaders in our community we have asked our residents to “ramp up and double our efforts” to keep our community safe. We acknowledged the many sacrifices individuals have made to keep the number of COVID cases in our community down and we asked them to avoid non-essential travel.

I understand that this pandemic has had an emotional and mental strain on all of us. The mayor is responsible for his own action — he will need to answer to that action.

Cherryl MacLeod:

I don’t believe this to be an issue. The mayor followed the recommendations laid out by the Provincial Health Officer and only associated with his immediate family bubble at his own private residence. He did not leave the province or the country and was very forthcoming with all of us on council prior to his departure that he intended to be away from Castlegar for the holidays. I have no doubt that the decision to spend time away with his family for the holidays was just, despite the inferred scrutiny he’s receiving now.

Dan Rye:

First off let me say that this comment is in no way downplaying the issue of the mayor’s wife’s health condition and I fully hope she can get the help needed and feel better soon.

Some of the information in the mayor’s statement is irrelevant to the issue at hand. The issue is that there were Provincial Health Advisories in effect and he decided to ignore them.

The orders for the Christmas Holidays said stay within your four walls and do not visit with family outside your own home.

This was extremely hard for many of us to do but we did it because we felt it was the right thing to do so that we can get back to some sort of normal sooner rather than later. In my situation my daughter and family live in Nelson, we spend every Christmas with them but this year stayed home alone and visited by Facetime throughout the day, certainly not what we wanted, but the right thing to do in our estimation.

Like the vast majority of Castlegar residents and citizens of Canada we all have stories of hardship we have endured or are enduring during this pandemic. I am sure we could all make an argument that we should be able to bend the rules because we think our situation is unique.

As elected officials in our communities we are the face of our city and are held to a higher standard. If we decide not to follow the rules it is pretty hard to tell our citizens they should be. I can only speak for myself, but I can’t say one thing to the community and then do something else because it suits my situation regardless of the circumstances.

We are all in this together.

Editors note: Councillor Bergen Price did not respond by our press deadline.

READ MORE: Returning travellers will no longer receive Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: Trudeau



betsy.kline@castlegarnews.com

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