By RYAN KING
Brian Button, who has served before as mayor of Channel-Port aux Basques, finds himself about to take on that role once again. Running unopposed during the recent municipal elections, Button was elected mayor via acclamation. He is a lifelong resident of the town, and community service has always been important to him. He served first as a town councillor in 1993, then as mayor from 2005 to 2013.
“I grew up in Port aux Basques and I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve been around volunteering in the community,” said Button. “The Community means quite a bit to me, so it’s not out of my system yet. I still want to continue on to do things.”
Button’s interest in politics began at home. His father was a town councillor and introduced him to politics.
“All my life it seemed like politics was a big part in my family,” said Button. “I’ve always been a political junkie, always interested in whether it’s been this side of the border or south of the border. I’ve always followed along and got interested in it, and once it’s in you, I guess it’s in you.”
Growing up with a political family also instilled a drive for community involvement.
“I’ve lived with this philosophy that when I grew up, the community did a lot for me. The community put different things in place that allowed me, other people that lived here, and allowed me to raise a family here, and so on and so forth. And I thought it was my way to give back to the community, to be able to volunteer time.”
Politics has not been Button’s only career. He currently works as a park ranger and works part-time with a local funeral home. He spent the biggest part of his career as a pharmacy assistant technician and once managed the Bruce II.
“I’d left the Bruce II Sports Centre and took a contract and went back out West again. When I had come back, I went back out to spend time again and I accepted an offer out there. I’m done with the rotational thing. I really love what I’m currently doing. My job currently now allows me to reach out, and more time to be able to put into the community. And I look forward to it, actually. I really look forward to that. My time now will be used up in doing work for the community.”
In his previous term as mayor, Button said that what he is most proud of is not his individual accomplishment but rather the teamwork he had with his council.
“The things that we’re able to do in the community, whether it’s through recreation or if it’s more work, it’s construction, it’s development, those type of things you know. It’s been a combination of a lot of people, council members and myself and staff that we have here in the town,” shared Button. “I’m most proud of having the ability to work together with others to make things happen.”
Button has mixed feelings about becoming mayor through acclamation.
“That’s a double-edged sword,” he admitted. “Because you wonder if that’s a case of people have the confidence and say, ‘Well, why would I run? He’d be a good guy for the job.’ Or is it a case that not everybody wants the job and you can have it sort of thing? Whatever the case is, I’m proud to be doing it, whether it’s by acclamation or whether it’s voted in.”
Seeing that John Spencer was not going to run for re-election, Button felt it was time to re-enter politics. He was confident that Spencer had the town in good hands.
“I wouldn’t have ran if John had come forward and said that he was going to seek a second term. Not because I didn’t want to run against John, but I felt John is doing a good job. So I didn’t see the reason to run against him, and so when he didn’t, when I heard that he wasn’t going to, that’s when I started to say ‘Well, maybe you know you wanted to do it four years ago. I know you still want to do it now. So here’s the time,’” said Button.
Button had run against Spencer during the last municipal election and lost by a razor-thin margin of only four votes.
“It was a pretty tight race and we, you know, we kind of expected that. We’re both pretty well known in the community. I have a lot of respect for John, and a lot of people were, between the two of us, knowing both of us they were, ‘I can only vote for one of you guys’ and you know that was good. When it got over, you know, are you disappointed? Yeah, sure, to say you’re not disappointed, that wouldn’t be a true statement.”
A factor in not running for re-election sooner was his previous employment, which conflicted with his duties as mayor, whereas now his current employment allows him the time needed.
“When I finished my term in 2013, I decided not to seek re-election. I had at that time took a contract out West. My daughter had just recently had a child and was out West, and I decided to seek a position out there. So I wouldn’t seek re-election at that time for the simple fact with me being rotational, going into a rotational type situation, I didn’t want to be leaving the town in a position where I’m only going to be here half the time.”
Among Button’s priorities as mayor is access to healthcare.
“I would say the most important thing to me when it comes to anything is our healthcare, of course, and that will always be in the forefront. We’ll always monitor that and work with our healthcare boards and so on and so forth to make sure that we still maintain and keep the services that we have, and if anything, we can try to enhance more services that we deliver.”
Another area of focus for Button and the new council will be taking advantage of developments on the West coast in terms of industry.
“There’s some exciting times that seems like it’s starting in the area, with seeing things from Matador in the mining sector and seeing things now, the Stephenville announcement last week. And you know there’s a little bit of activity now that’s taking place on the West coast. It might be time for people to invest here, so you know, we’ve got to sell ourselves and work with investors.”
Button will also be keeping an eye on Marine Atlantic and look at bringing the headquarters to Port aux Basques from St. John’s.
“I truly don’t believe that it should be there. The rightful place for it, it’s a Newfoundland and Labrador service, I’ll make no bones about it. The service shouldn’t be a shared service. The actual headquarters for Marine Atlantic should be in Port aux Basques, and we’re going to continue that fight to make sure that at some point that comes to fruition.”
As for what differences we will see with Button’s administration versus Spencer’s, it comes down to style.
“I’m sure that we have different styles, so there’s no doubt about that. I mean, you know, John has his style and I’ll have my style, and I’m not saying anything negative about John style or anything like that,” explained Button. “He’s been a good mayor, he’s been a good friend and he’s led our community. He’s sat for four years. That hasn’t been easy, because we’ve had a pandemic that you’ve had to deal with as well in the middle of his term, but he’s carried us well through that.”