B.C. mayor quits after spending holidays in Okanagan cabin

·3 min read

The mayor of Castlegar, B.C., quit abruptly on Friday after coming under fire for travelling outside of his local community during the holidays, despite provincial guidelines against non-essential travel.

Bruno Tassone, the mayor of the West Kootenay town since 2018, submitted his resignation a week after the public took to social media lambasting his family tour of his cabin at the Mount Baldy ski resort in the Okanagan, about 200 kilometres west of Castlegar.

Local newspapers in the Kootenays also polled all councillors about their thoughts on the mayor's trip.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advised against non-essential travel over the holidays. B.C.'s current travel advisory discourages all non-essential travel in and out of B.C. and between regions of the province.

This week, Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila, and West Vancouver Coun. Peter Lambur all apologized for travelling outside of Canada in December.

But Tassone didn't.

He says he doesn't believe he broke any rules and argues that he and his family members have been following public health orders by staying within the same social bubble.

"Enough is enough," Tassone said to CBC reporter Bob Keating. "It's been four long days [since returning from the cabin] and it's harder and harder on my health and my family."

Tassone says he's leaving his job not only because of health issues but also his strained relationship with fellow council members and the media since his vacation.

"It goes without saying that I have been a target of harmful and bullying behaviour, along with outright disrespect," he wrote in his resignation letter to the City of Castlegar's chief administrative officer.

Coun. Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff says she has respiratory issues and wouldn't have travelled even a few hours away. She says Tassone's resignation is the right thing for him to do, although she was taken aback by the sudden decision.

"He needs to account for what he did. I'm just really surprised he resigned," Heaton-Sherstobitoff said.

"Each of us [was] elected by the taxpayers of the community. We have to know we are gonna be questioned by the residents," she said.

Deb McIntosh, a former longtime Castlegar councillor who lost to Tassone in the mayoral race, says there are heated debates between the mayor and councillors but doesn't feel Tassone has been picked on as he claims.

"His motives behind voting for something or not were questioned, and that's fair game. I've been questioned on a lot of things," McIntosh told Sarah Penton, the host of CBC's Radio West.

McIntosh says she doesn't feel Tassone should leave his job because of criticism over his travel.

"Bruno should be proud of some of the stuff that he's done [in the council]," she said.

The Castlegar council will meet Monday for the first time since the Christmas break. They will appoint a chief election officer, and a byelection will be held within 80 days after the appointment.

Tassone is a first term mayor who worked for the City of Castlegar for decades, until 2014 when he began serving on council.

Tap the link below to listen to Deb McIntosh's interview on Radio West: