Judy Johnson wants to make downtown Comox more lively, invest in more activities for youth  |  George Le Masurier photo

Judy Johnson: an advocate for common sense, human power in government

Nov 8, 2021 | Comox By-Election

By George Le Masurier

Judy Johnson wants to build more human power into the Town of Comox.

The North Island College English instructor is running for the open council seat vacated by Partick McKenna, who recently relocated to Nova Scotia, because she would bring a different way of thinking to the table. An approach she characterizes as common sense and pragmatism.

Comox is holding a by-election to fill the seat on Saturday, Nov. 27.

“For example, not cutting down all the trees when making a dog park at the former Comox Elementary School site,” she told Decafnation.

Or, spending roughly $80,000 on a new traffic calming project.

“Speeding in Comox? Nobody I know is concerned about speeding. Rather see that money go elsewhere,” she said. “It’s not an accurate reflection of citizens’ concerns.”

Instead, Johnson would focus on mobilizing real people to do paid or volunteer jobs that create interactions with other people and save taxpayer dollars to spend on more important things.

“We can use the time and the brains and the talents and the interest of our citizens — not to mention their hands and bodies –to build and maintain parts of the town,” she told Decafnation.



Johnson says there is no single issue driving her candidacy and she hesitates to identify any top priorities she would champion as a council member because “I won’t make promises I can’t keep.”

She is not actively campaigning for the by-election. No door knocking or soliciting concerns from citizens. She doesn’t want to have to answer questions about matters that she hasn’t been fully briefed on or that she will have no influence on if elected to council.

“I would be at the table to offer a different perspective, not just to make decisions based on budget and infrastructure,” she said. “I’m an efficient and intelligent woman who can take information and analyze it quickly to come up with creative solutions.”

She believes the town needs to find a unique identity and a purpose.

“We’ve always been known as a bedroom community to Courtenay, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” she said.

She admires the Village of Cumberland’s Community Forest project and sees it as a good example of what the Town of Comox needs. She sees the village’s mountain biking, trail building and fundraising as something for all ages of people to get involved with.

“It engages them and gives them a purpose. It creates a healthy community,” she said.

Johnson wonders if the community project plan created by Gordon Olson of the Mack Laing Heritage Society to restore Shakesides could be that project in Comox or at least a model for future community projects utilizing volunteers.

“Building human power means treating people differently and thinking differently, and getting people into places that create an environment where people work together,” she said.

She’s wondered why the town doesn’t use real people, paid or volunteers, to sweep the streets rather than a mechanical sweeper. People would chat with their neighbors and create connections. Schools have volunteerism programs that the town could draw on, or it could be a summer youth job creator.

Johnson has also noticed the town repaints road lines and fire hydrants annually.

So, she asks, why not have a contest or approach a painter to decorate the fire hydrants for that year in exchange for the glory and the free publicity?

“Add some more cost-saving projects that are fun for the doers and the spectators and there’s the money to spend on the less fun but necessary infrastructure,” she said.

Johnson recognizes the tension created by competing interests in council decisions.

The town has signaled that it will spend more in the next five years to repair or replace aging infrastructure to prevent disasters like the recent spill of raw sewage into Brooklyn Creek.

“But I hate to think that all of our hopes and dreams are going into fixing the sewers,” she said.



Johnson would like the town to spend more on programs and amenities for young people.

She is concerned that Comox youth have “nothing to do that is fun or purposeful.” She points out that the town doesn’t have a youth centre with youth programs, a skate park or anywhere they can just hang out.

“They’re bored to death,” she said. “Kids are looking for something to do. They are looking for excitement. Without any, some will fill that vacuum with drugs.”

Her daughter, Gala, died of fentanyl poisoning in the fall of 2018 at the age of 23. And sadly that isn’t an uncommon occurrence. She says six of her daughter’s Highland High School classmates have also died from drug-related causes.



Johnson questions why the Comox Town Council has so many in-camera meetings. Secrecy is patronizing, she says, because it sends the message that only the councillors know best so there’s no reason to let the public engage.

And when the council makes some wrong decisions (“and they will because they are human”), it’s best to be forthright about problems, she says. Explain what went wrong, how it will be fixed and reassure people that it won’t happen again.

“Anyone can say “I’m sorry” but in this apologist culture, the words have lost their meaning,” she says. “Full disclosure is the best form of apology.”

And finally, Johnson says that she’s blissfully ignorant about how much time it takes to fulfill council responsibilities.

“It’s like having kids,” she said. If you knew ahead how much time that takes, you’d never do it.”












Age 57. Came to the Comox Valley at age 10 with her parents in 1974

Attended Tsolum Elementary, Courtenay Jr. and St. Michael’s.

Earned a BA and MA in English and a B.Ed in Secondary Teaching from the University of British Columbia

Taught English at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek

Joined faculty of North Island College in 1998.



Election day is Saturday, Nov. 27 at Comox Recreation Centre

Advance voting will take place on Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at the Genoa Sail building in Marina Park

Mail-in ballots are available here




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