It’s hard to champion business rights

It's hard to champion business rights Don't let the facts get in the way of a good sound bite. "Taxation without representation" is exactly what is not asked of the business community in the Yukon Municipal Act. It has allowance for taxpayers to vote o

Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good sound bite.

“Taxation without representation” is exactly what is not asked of the business community in the Yukon Municipal Act. It has allowance for taxpayers to vote on those matters that affect their wallet. They can even vote on referendums, but surprisingly, when Whitehorse launched its expensive attacks on those rights, business owners failed to register any concern about the threat to voting rights granted to them already.

Contrary to his folksy claim he only wants his one vote, Dan Charlebois of Canadian Tire was representing 400 businesses before Whitehorse council, or so he told the CBC. That large voting bloc feels entitled to have the rules of democracy rewritten for its benefit.

Of course it raises questions, annexation being one that quickly came up. It’s also been suggested the special rights for businesses can stop at the Yukon border. How long before some TILMA-styled advocates start challenging the right of the territorial government to set that arbitrary limit?

Whitehorse council and the editor of the Whitehorse Star have seized on the idea that the Association of Yukon Communities will debate such issues before they forward the proposal to the Yukon government, and so it’s all OK.

They must view debates at AYC as a lot more nuanced and comprehensive than I do. The discussion might be publicly accessible through their rudimentary minutes, but that’s not the public forum a discussion on voting rights merits.

That brief discussion at the Whitehorse council meeting the other night, and others that may take place in the communities, is all citizens will see as far as public accountability from municipal elected representatives to propose an amendment to the Yukon Municipal Act to extend special voting privileges to the business community.

On it goes to the Yukon government to debate, and there we are in real trouble. Astonishingly, there has been no consideration given so far to the rights of the citizen in this special request, not by elected representatives at their councils, or within AYC or the business community. If anyone is expecting that to change in the Yukon legislative assembly, well, I disagree.

Our municipal act was damaged by a BC Court of Appeal decision, but could have been repaired at any time in the past seven months by the Yukon government. None of our MLAs showed any concern with the level of harm that was dealt to Yukon citizens’ role in the act with the court decision, and the subsequent incredible response from Community Services Minister Archie Lang, that the BC Court of Appeal had written the legislation for him.

If anyone thinks the way Whitehorse relates to its citizens is unaffected by the sorry manner in which all parties in the legislature have chosen to ignore the assault on the public votes section of the municipal act, take another look at the scope of the recently released draft Official Community Plan review.

Consider that it was withheld from the public for almost two months while council debated it like a confidential cabinet-level document.

Consider the scant three-week window that the public has been given to submit input on a plan that proposes massive changes to the existing OCP, within a 20-year time frame.

Listen carefully to city hall’s constant refrain that “council makes the final decision.” (Substitute “Fentie” for “council” and maybe you could get the attention of someone in opposition.)

Future generations will have to live with the decisions made by just seven people.

Listen carefully to Mayor Bev Buckway’s persistent, false and expensive claims that “public consultation” as managed by city hall is more effective and fair than a vote.

This is in direct opposition to the spirit of the municipal act that was sold to the Yukon public as a much different document than the one now being interpreted freely by Whitehorse administration, thanks to the studied negligence of the Yukon Party government and the passive agreement of the opposition parties.

Why has it been left to me to point it out?

It’s their job, not mine, to remind the Yukon government Ð and Whitehorse Ð that courts don’t write legislation: elected representatives do.

So excuse me if I can’t get too angry about an artificial grievance posed by 400 businesses in order to reshape the democratic vote to their own particular specifications. Certainly none of our representatives got up in arms on citizens’ behalf when rights legislation was swept away by the BC Court of Appeal only seven months ago. I wish I knew why.

But let’s not kid ourselves now that, with the co-operation of the Association of Yukon Communities, the Yukon Party, and the opposition parties, the chamber of commerce won’t be able to make this happen. It won’t be in the context of any full and fair public debate; and it won’t be in consultation with Yukon citizens.

Yukon citizens have been severed from the Yukon Municipal Act. The BC Court of Appeal says so, according to Whitehorse.

And it seems that’s the way our territorial and municipal elected representatives like it Ð all of them.

Marianne Darragh