Democracy on trial

Democracy on trial I invite Whitehorse citizens to see their municipal tax dollars at work on Tuesday at the law courts. The McLean Lake referendum will again be in the courts of downtown Whitehorse. This is an appeal by Whitehorse against private citi

I invite Whitehorse citizens to see their municipal tax dollars at work on Tuesday at the law courts.

The McLean Lake referendum will again be in the courts of downtown Whitehorse.

This is an appeal by Whitehorse against private citizen Marianne Darragh of the October 30, 2008, decision by Justice Ron Veale.

When this decision was first announced, Mayor Bev Buckway said publicly the city would “comply” with the decision. Unfortunately for our pocketbooks, and the democratic rights of the citizens to have this referendum dealt with in a timely manner, the city council and administration changed their minds.

The city initially justified these court proceedings by way of some very “funny” math.

They made a big deal of the $14,000, which they said it would cost to run a referendum. But I can only conclude they just don’t like referendums.

Lawyer costs for the city alone for the first part of this process were $36,000 and I don’t imagine that includes city staff time expenses. The court also awarded costs to the respondent.

The city’s planning department is currently in the process of an OCP review that will affect the development of the city for many years to come. With public money and paid employees at its disposal, city officials are patting themselves on the back for having feedback from more than 400 people.

Compare to this the 2,654 signatures (that is, 24.5 per cent of the voting population) obtained on the referendum petition by Darragh and a few volunteers on their own time in 90 days without any funding for publicity, etc.

These people are truly extraordinary and should be recognized as such by the city and the public.

The inherent difficulty of this feat should assure the city that they are not going to be overwhelmed by such petitions.

On page 15 of Veale’s October decision, he states the clear purpose of Division 16 of the (municipal) act is to provide for greater public participation in a modern local democracy.

Why does the current council and administration have issue with this?

Do they feel that we, the citizens, are not smart enough for a modern democracy?

Do they not like the electorate to keep tabs on them between elections?

If they have issue with the actual law, should they not be going to court with YTG who fashioned the legislation rather than a private citizen who chose to exert her rights as laid out in the Yukon Municipal Act?

The city should embrace its citizens who are passionate about Whitehorse, even if their ideas are different from their own.

Unfortunately the city has a long record of trying to shut down these people and, in the process, loses a wonderful resource in keeping the city vibrant and healthy.

Who knows how many people have had ideas that they will never bring forward because of the way people are treated in front of city council.

Once again, I encourage people to spend a bit of time at the courtroom on Tuesday to see how Whitehorse is using our tax dollars to keep democracy at bay.

Pamela Holmes

Whitehorse