For two months prior to Christmas, a number of concerned citizens collected signatures on a referendum petition designed to force the city to plan for future greenspace and provide protection for existing greenspace within Whitehorse.
This action was initiated because council did not appear to be listening to residents at the numerous public meetings held concerning use of greenspace within the city.
The petition was circulated throughout Whitehorse. We also went door to door and attended craft fairs and various public gatherings to collect signatures.
Most people, rather than being annoyed at having their doorbells rung on a cold Saturday or Sunday, actually welcomed the opportunity to sign the greenspace petition and thanked us for taking time out of our busy lives to do this.
When we presented the petition to city council, I noted that one could see by the consecutive addresses of the signatures on the petition that the majority of residents on each street supported the petition.
The streets we canvassed were randomly selected, and nearly every subdivision is represented on the petition.
All the requirements of the Municipal Act were met and even more signatures were obtained than required.
The city scrutinized each signature to make sure it belonged to an eligible voter.
Whitehorse was now required, further to the Municipal Act, to either introduce a bylaw that reflected the very clear intent of the petition (to provide greenspace planning and protection) or take the questions in the petition to a city referendum. The city decided to go the bylaw route.
Unfortunately, because the city didn’t like the petition questions. It drafted a bylaw that was worded so that it in no way represented the intent of the petition that so many Whitehorse residents signed.
When we objected to the change of intent we were told to get a lawyer!
Whether city council likes the petition questions or not, it is legally obligated to respect the opinion of every person who signed the petition. It must act accordingly.
By not honouring the petition’s intent, council is showing contempt for all those residents who made a public statement by signing it.
We assured people who signed the petition that the city would be required, by law, to finally listen when it had not at the many public “consultation” meetings.
Council and some members of the business community would like to make everyone believe this is a fight between a small group of radical “greenies,” who want to save every inch of treed area, and realtors and developers who want nothing more than to keep our economy growing by building and selling houses.
This is not true.
However, I would invite those of you who believe this to inspect the referendum petition at city hall.
You will see that the majority of residents on each street we canvassed signed the petition.
Council will be doing second reading of their draft bylaw at the April 10 council meeting.
For those of you who signed the petition in good faith, and those of you who support proper planning of green space, I would ask that you let city council know that its behavior in this matter is unacceptable.
All we’ve asked is that Whitehorse invest in a proper plan for existing and future greenspace.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Re Taxpayers build white elephant, the News, march 31:
Do you know what might be a novel idea?
If the Yukon News were to pick somebody from their staff to actually run in the next election.
After the countless years of watching the paper dump all over the government of the day, it would somehow make a statement for democracy rather than nasty editorial garbage that does more to destroy our democratic rights.
How about Richard Mostyn? If everyone that has been in government was as stupid as Mostyn says they are, that would make him really smart.
Like 10 times smarter than it would take to run a territorial government.
But, at that point, I think that reality would kick in.
In truth it takes a lot more than a big mouth and a barrel of ink to keep this place moving along.
David (Smiley) Ford
Defends his village
The 2007 Canada Winter Games will be a monumental moment for all northerners as the Games will provide an opportunity for North to host South.
When the 3,500 athletes, coaches and managers arrive in Whitehorse, lasting memories will be created that each participant will take home to every region of this country, none more important than the care and comfort they received while attending these Games.
The athletes’ village is an important ingredient to a successful Games and we are proud that this athletes’ village will meet the expectations of our next generation Olympians.
The original plan for the athletes’ village for the Games was developed by a bid committee in 2000.
The $2.7 million budget was based on best estimates of the net cost to lease a temporary village for the two weeks of the Games and was never expected to cover the full cost of permanent construction.
As soon as the Games were awarded, an athletes’ village committee was struck with a mandate to develop a master plan for a village that used the following guiding principals:
• The athlete’s village must be completed by November 2006;
• The price for the athlete’s village project must be within the allotted budget;
• To involve Yukoners in the design and construction of the facilities;
In May 2004, a design workshop was hosted at the Yukon Arts Centre to brainstorm ideas and to gather input from Whitehorse design/engineering, construction industry personnel and various community stakeholders.
Attendees discussed potential end-users of the athletes’ village project and also identified how the project could be built.
The concept of modular construction was identified as the preferred construction option due to the temporary nature of the village and the short timelines and construction season to manufacture the space required for 1,800 athletes each week of the Games.
Also in May 2004, a request for proposals for the development of a master plan for the village was awarded to Kobayashi and Zedda Architects.
This master plan was completed and submitted to the Canada Games Host Society in August 2004.
Shortly thereafter, the host society, based on the master plan, issued a request for proposals for the construction and financing of the village project including the identification of end users.
The respondents to the request were unable to meet the criteria as outlined.
Given the above, the host society approached its funding partners in December 2004 to discuss options for the athletes’ village.
The Yukon government carefully considered its own long-term needs which could be advanced in order to accommodate the current Games requirement to house 3,500 athletes.
After identifying potential projects, the Yukon government agreed to project manage and construct two housing projects, built to permanent standards, which could be used temporarily by the Canada Winter Games.
This decision would mean that the host society could meet its hosting obligations and that many Yukon people could participate in building facilities that would assist students attending Yukon College and provide much needed housing options.
The host society is appreciative of our partners, such as the Yukon government, Yukon Housing Corporation, Yukon College and Whitehorse, who have risen to the occasion to not only ensure that the care and comfort of visiting athletes is properly addressed but also to ensure that there is a long-term benefit for Yukon people.
Piers McDonald, president, Canada Games host society, Whitehorse