Cortes Islander Mark Vonesch is hoping to bring a new way of doing politics to the Strathcona Regional District.
Vonesch announced his candidacy for Cortes Island (Area B) director at the regional district, saying that his priority is “bringing different voices together and doing politics in a different way.”
“Democracy is not just voting, it’s engaging communities to play an ongoing role in making a positive difference,” he said. “We’re living in a time where we need leadership that can bring voices that have been traditionally separated together. The issues that Cortes faces, the issues that the regional district faces are microcosms of issues that the whole world faces and I really want to put my skills and experience forward to have a positive impact.”
Vonesch has been politically active on Cortes since he moved there in the early 2000s, and has seen the divisive nature of traditional left-right politics play out. However, he has also seen that many of the issues are important to people on both sides of the spectrum.
“There’s huge opportunity there,” he said. “The more I reach out across differences, the more I find it. It’s time to get rid of left and right politics. It’s divisive, I think it’s outdated and it’s holding everyone back.
“From the conversations that I’ve had so far, housing is a big unifying issue that everyone’s concerned about, climate change, ecosystem protection, economic development, land use planning, parks and recreation, truth and reconciliation, these are all issues that are important to Cortes and the district,” Vonesch said. “I want to make progress on them, but I don’t think we can unless we’re willing to work with each other, see the humanness in each other and be willing to sit down with folks who are different from us at times.”
Since he moved to Cortes, Vonesch has been heavily involved in local issues. He started as a volunteer at the summer camp on Linnea Farm, and was later on the Linnea Farm Society board, the local Parent Advisory Council (PAC), the Literacy Now board and has built a non profit called Reel Youth.
His recent work has been in housing.
“I played a role in developing and distributing the housing survey on Cortes and talked to a lot of people about the housing challenges and potential solutions which just got released. There was a lot of great data in there for us to reflect on and use as leverage to take action,” he said. “It’s awesome that they went so far. They really included a lot of information. It’s our job as politicians and potential politicians to analyze that and put it into words that people can relate to.”
Vonesch is the first to announce his candidacy on Cortes, but is preparing for competition in the October election. He does want to make politics about more than just getting out every four years and voting.
“In small town politics, the best kind of events are talking to people on the streets, in stores and going to places where things are already happening and having conversations with people. I want to make politics fun,” he said. “I want to throw at least one dance party gathering this summer, have some DJs play and talk about politics, but also just bring people together to talk about the issues.
“I don’t think politics has to be dry. I think there’s a yearning in the district and the world for politics to be inclusive and more than just voting every four years.”
Vonesch’s website is www.cortestogether.com.