Delicate democracy, indeed

Delicate democracy, indeed I didn't think I'd live long enough to see a member of Whitehorse council point out the obvious: accountability from Whitehorse elected officials is pitifully lacking on the most fundamental level. Betty Irwin wants councillors

I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see a member of Whitehorse council point out the obvious: accountability from Whitehorse elected officials is pitifully lacking on the most fundamental level.

Betty Irwin wants councillors’ votes recorded, and Ranj Pillai agrees.

They haven’t been there long enough to get comfortable with the stonewalling culture that permeates the old-school councillors, who must have a combined total of about 3,200 years on council by now.

Or maybe it just feels that way.

The reception from the Buckway-Fendrick cabal towards Irwin’s wild idea is predictably frosty.

Mayor Bev Buckway can’t see the point. When an elected official expresses confusion at the notion of sharing their voting record with voters, it’s time for voters to give our collective heads a shake.

But then, how well I know that fluency with democratic principles is not Buckway’s strong suit.

Robert Fendrick, the city’s administrative director, offers that the “average citizen” doesn’t go through council minutes.


I used to look at them and I’m pretty average.

I gave up because it was a futile exercise.

Council minutes were weeks, sometimes months behind the meetings they documented.

Bylaws were discussed and passed before minutes were available for first reading. At one time, I calculated well over half of the council and administrative meetings were in camera.

Meanwhile, forest clearcuts were authorized and bylaws, such as keeping your lawn under four inches, were passed, and Buckway was re-elected on a platform of “participation, participation, participation.”

It’s not compelling to most people, recorded votes and straightforward and accessible council minutes and reports and transparent discussion of issues. But it’s the nuts and bolts that help keep a community engaged, and democracy functioning.

It takes courage to come forward, as Irwin has, from within the belly of the beast.

In a fair world, she and Pillai would be swamped with well-wishers and expressions of support.

I’m glad I grew up in a time and place where nobody was so partisan or complacent they wouldn’t speak up for the sovereignty of the citizen and protect what Irwin rightly calls, our “delicate” democracy.

What would that look like here?

It would be real-estate agents and developers, environmentalists and the Chamber of Commerce, and members from every political party and every community association Ð every voter in the city, telling Buckway and Fendrick that we want what Irwin wants.

It would be an extraordinary moment indeed.

But I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the entertainment as former city councillors Doug Graham and Jan Stick attempt to navigate very different legislative waters than the ones they enjoyed on Whitehorse council Ð where they voted unanimously to pass the ludicrous voter enumeration-census bylaw Ð in less than 24 hours, at a meeting that wasn’t publicized.

How did that census work out for the city anyway?

Was it worth shortchanging voter enumeration?

I don’t see anything on the website.

Marianne Darragh


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