Open letter to Watson Lake mayor and council:
It has been said that “It is not what is the law, but what is just and right in the eyes of reasonable men.”’
With this in mind, and while I appreciate the time and effort you provide in serving our community, I am perplexed by your continued refusal to favourably consider and adopt my proposal to include a specified area for a much-needed local commercial zone within the Official Community Plan.
Your reluctance to do so raises important questions that demand a public explanation.
Does council have an alternate site in mind, and if so where is it located and why keep it a secret from area residents?
You must be aware the proposal most certainly conforms with Yukon government policies as outlined in their Watson Lake Sustainability Plan.
For example, page 8 states: “We want to ensure that our community values continue to be reflected in the decisions we make as a community, and in the direction we move,” and on page 10: “The very real possibility that we will be impacted with exponential growth is a very real scenario which we will have to consider and plan for.”
And further on page 11: “Good sound land planning to allow for population growth and business opportunities is essential to maximizing our potential over the next few years.”
So I must ask again, in light of these stated objectives, why does council continue to drag its feet?
You may recall that prior to presenting this issue to council last October, I took the opportunity to discuss the proposal with a number of area residents, and received overwhelming approval. I only encountered one disapproval from a person who, by chance, is involved with a company that has close ties to the family of a Yukon government cabinet minister.
It has been suggested that council might be under pressure to reject the proposal by people purporting to represent the views of the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce.
While seeking information about our chamber’s objectives, and the names of its current executive, I was surprised to find it is no longer listed in the phone directory and does not display a web page on the internet!
Google does indicate its name in broad references, prominently noting Premier Dennis Fentie is the past director. This has residents wondering just how much influence he may actually have with the present executive, particularly when they are considering issues of local interest.
A number of citizens are also expressing a concern that the chamber appears to constitute his political power base here in Watson Lake, and continues to play a big role in his re-election prospects. It has been noted that he often travels to Watson Lake to attend chamber luncheons, then quickly returns to Whitehorse without calling or attending any public meetings to give ordinary residents updates on current government activities relating to Watson Lake.
Only the chamber seems to be privy to such information!
I must point out to council that a chamber of commerce is defined as “A business organization dedicated to the economic growth of the community it is in,” and I know that a majority of its members are honest business people with a sincere desire to encourage free enterprise and business opportunity in our area. I can see no reason why they would not enthusiastically welcome a local commercial area for business development in local planning processes.
In fact, at this very moment a major development is underway, with the introduction of Sustut Air, a well-equipped aviation company with many years of experience, which will now be providing year-round services to this region from their new base at the Watson Lake airport.
So I hasten to add that if the chamber or any of its members wish to state that the information I have been given by the public is inaccurate, then, by all means, I encourage you to let me, the town council and the general public know at the earliest opportunity.
When first elected as mayor and councillors to undertake the responsibilities of office, you gave the community an expectation of open and honest representation.
In fact, you have each sworn and signed an oath of office which states in part that ” I will faithfully perform the duties of my office, and will not allow any private interest to influence my conduct in public matters.”
Area residents trust that council will resist any undue influences whatsoever by any private or outside interests, while considering this matter.
If the zone in question receives your acceptance, it will then require the approval of the minister of Community Services.
I am sure he would welcome such a request by council at some point, as it would give him an opportunity to dispel persisting rumors or suggestion of conflicting interests regarding a family related company currently operating a business in Watson Lake.
In conclusion, speaking on behalf of most area residents, I would appreciate a reply to the questions I have raised in this letter.
In addition, I would once again request that council, at its next sitting on next March 3, reconsider this longstanding proposal to designate the specified area defined in the proposal as a zone for future local commercial use and business development here in Watson Lake.
Donald E. Taylor