Mark Vonesch is a Cortes Island Youth Worker. And he’s running to be the next Strathcona Regional Director for Cortes Island.
His campaign is unique. He wants to focus on what unifies Islanders rather than trying to reach out to “conservatives” or “liberals.”
“We’re living in a time where we need leadership that can bring voices that have been traditionally separated together,“ he said in an interview with Black Press Media.
He says that “right-wing” or “left-wing” people may think they have different opinions, but they often care about the same things.
That means the key to bringing folks together is finding the middle ground to solve the problems we care about.
“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.”
He’s hoping that by breaking down the supposed “barriers” between people, folks can find new paths to walk down together.
“There’s a 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 It’s divisive, I think it’s outdated and it’s holding everyone back.”
Maybe he’s so willing to detach from old political patterns because he works with so many kids.
Many Islanders know Mark through his work with their children at the Cortes and Linnaea farm schools. He teaches youth and senior documentary programs. He also shows his films in our annual film festival.
He first got into politics by supporting Gregor Robertson to become the mayor of Vancouver.
Most recently, he’s done work for the Cortes Housing Society survey committee to support the development and distribution of the regional housing survey.
He has a ton of experience working as a board member, treasurer, or council member for various local organizations.
He also operates Reel Youth, an organization that helps young people take action through filmmaking.
Vonesch is the first to announce his candidacy on Cortes, and will face more competition come fall.
No matter the outcome, he wants to help set a new standard for political engagement beyond just getting people out to vote.
“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.”
Even if he doesn’t get elected, he will keep building connections with Cortes Island youth and the community.
“Democracy is not just voting, it’s engaging communities to play an ongoing role in making a positive difference.”