Yukon Party sleeps while Watson Lake suffers
As a sitting MLA from 1961 thru 1985, I had the honour to serve the people of Yukon as the member for Watson Lake.
Back in those years, we quickly learned when any level of government consistently refused to act positively upon our representations, we could always find some support for our issues by consulting the general public through the media, and then governments would start to listen!
In this instance, I respectfully ask once again for your assistance.
For several years, the citizens of Watson Lake and its town council have been experiencing a number of very serious problems. Many of these require immediate attention from both federal and territorial governments for resolution.
And, while most of our residents are making a valiant effort to face the future with a reasonable measure of enthusiasm, there is really not much for them to feel good about at the moment.
Shocking deficiencies ranging from long-standing municipal funding requirements to alarming educational problems cry out for immediate solution. While consulting with area residents I am finding there are persisting perceptions of incompetence, conflict of interest and personal bias right through from the lowest to the highest levels of government administration.
A number of those I have spoken with have suggested ministers at the Yukon cabinet level receiving financial benefits from personal commercial interests in any Yukon community, in all fairness, should either be required to divest themselves of such interests, or refrain from decision making affecting these communities.
In addition, most people I have spoken with have deplored the continuing lack of on-site representation of our area by a much-needed full-time resident MLA.
At the municipal level, I am informed our existing town sewer system is working at overcapacity, and much of the original residential services require early replacement.
I have also learned that the current water system does not even have the capacity to provide the needed requirements for dealing with any major fire in the town.
Some members of the business community tell me they have long awaited the provision of sewer and water services, but some are also expressing a feeling that they must not complain too strongly about the lack of these services, or for any other related issues, fearing possible retribution at the hands of government.
The new proposed area development plan is clearly in need of early revision in order to properly reflect the needs of future expansion. Everyone seems to agree that if Watson Lake was to be impacted by any sudden major resource-based economic impact, the town is in no position to provide the necessary range of services, residential or commercial.
In fact, a recent suggestion that a commercial district complete with a main street should be provided to meet and support the needs of free enterprise, appears to be receiving a cool reception at both municipal and at senior government levels with no real explanation. Many are wondering why.
As to our schools, I am constantly reminded that our educational standards have been gradually degraded to an almost unbelievable level! In fact several families have already left the community in an effort to find better school opportunities for their children.
In addition, there are reports that a number of families interested in moving to this area will no longer consider doing so until this problem is resolved! It begs the question, is the problem with the curriculum?
Is there no discipline by teachers through fear of retribution? Is there sufficient discipline at the home level? Do the children no longer respect their teachers, or vice versa? And so forth.
In fact, some clerks have informed me that a goodly number of our children, aged about eight to 10 years old, can’t even count change when making purchases at our stores. Why does this most deplorable situation exist at all, and is this prevalent all across Yukon or just here in Watson Lake? There can be no doubt whatsoever that this is a problem of major proportion, and the sooner it is addressed, the better.
In conclusion, I have outlined just a few prominent issues, but I am also reminded that problems in Watson Lake reflect and impact other areas of Yukon as well. Clearly, with a current population of about 800 people, the local tax base is much too small to provide for urgent municipal needs.
In my estimation, it will take an infusion of many millions of dollars from the federal and Yukon governments for immediate capital projects just to begin alleviating this desperate need. The residents of the Watson Lake area would appreciate knowing that our concerns are a matter of interest and concern to all Yukon citizens. In this way both the cabinet and Yukon legislative assembly might take new notice of our plight, and be more favourably inclined to recognize the long-standing requirements of what used to be one of the most vibrant and productive communities in the North.
On behalf of area residents I want to thank you for giving consideration to our plight, and helping to make our situation known to all Yukoners by means of your facilities.
Anyone who may be interested in helping to make our situation more widely known and appreciated, is most certainly invited to come to Watson Lake, speak with our residents as well as members of the business community about their feelings, and then make their own judgements.
Public pressure may be one way we can effectively awaken the current Yukon government to our overly long suffering dilemma.
Donald E. Taylor