Bylaw amendments would shortchange residents

Bylaw amendments would shortchange residents Open letter to Whitehorse City Council: The City of Whitehorse administration has put forward amendments to the procedures bylaw that propose a new regime for public hearings. These amendments would immediate

Open letter to Whitehorse City Council:

The City of Whitehorse administration has put forward amendments to the procedures bylaw that propose a new regime for public hearings. These amendments would immediately impact the way council and citizens interact on issues related to the Official Community Plan and the Zoning Bylaw, but there’s no reason to think that the measures wouldn’t be applied to any bylaw as council and administration choose.

Public hearings are considered quasi-judicial in nature, and they’re not generally regarded as the optimal way to foster effective communication between citizens and elected representatives. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the single public hearing is destined to become the standard for public “participation” if the amendments pass. The city’s trajectory from encouraging public engagement toward actively suppressing it is clear to those of us who follow these things and these amendments represent final steps in that journey.

In the administrative report, city planners point to a “minimum period of five weeks allowed for public input” before a public hearing takes place. They say the timeline is “significantly increased” for OCP amendments.

Where are they getting that information? Five weeks is the timeline outlined in the Yukon Municipal Act and it specifically relates to notifying the public about mandatory public hearings for the OCP. Accommodating public input isn’t included in the statutory requirement and that matters when it comes to the record of the City of Whitehorse for sticking with the minimum when it comes to the Municipal Act.

The Municipal Act requires the public hearing for the OCP to take place before second reading. City planners want city council to “deny the right to speak” to citizens after the public hearing, though any number of revisions may be prepared after a public hearing. If revisions to the bylaw don’t flow from the public hearing, what’s the point of the public hearing? If revisions are prepared that the public can’t comment on, where’s the accountability? These questions and many others need to be answered.

City planners say the intent of the amendments is to “comply with best practices.” If they’re referring to the best practices of a banana republic or a petro-state, that could be true. Otherwise even a quick review of legislation in other jurisdictions in Canada only highlights the absence of checks and balances in the Yukon that are needed to promote the perception of fairness, such as:

* There isn’t a definition for the “new information” that triggers another public hearing.

* There isn’t an independent process in place in the Yukon for appeals or reviews of municipal decisions.

* The territorial ombudsman can’t review municipal issues.

* Access to information from the City of Whitehorse is an ongoing concern.

* In a previous amendment to the procedures bylaw, council members of the day granted themselves unlimited authority to hold meetings in camera. The Municipal Act didn’t seem to intend that outcome and it isn’t consistent with “best practices” of other governments.

The level of information that council has been given is unacceptable for an initiative that promises to profoundly alter the relationship between council and citizens. I urge council members to soundly reject these regressive amendments to the procedures bylaw and commit fully to navigating through the complications of making decisions without sacrificing democratic principles.

Marianne Darragh

Whitehorse

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read