Letter to the Editor

Intrepid Keevil Re Brent McDonald’s January 7 letter ‘Reporter evil’: I wish to speak up in defence of Yukon News reporter…

Intrepid Keevil

Re Brent McDonald’s January 7 letter ‘Reporter evil’:

I wish to speak up in defence of Yukon News reporter Genesee Keevil.

Based upon my personal observation of Keevil’s journalistic output since she moved to the Yukon, I judge her to be a highly talented and ‘gutsy’ reporter.

The Yukon News seems to have a knack for attracting up-and-coming young reporters, and unlike some other Yukon media sources, the News pays heed to the “comfort the afflicted/afflict the comforted” role that responsible journalists are supposed to serve.

Keevil has done some vital and excellent reporting about Yukon politics, about the many social ills that plague our society and she has also done important writing about humane issues such as the tragedies which crop up on a regular basis because of the Yukon’s abysmal animal-protection laws.

She has no fear of authority and does not pull any punches in her reporting.

With regard to the ‘evil’ tag bestowed upon Keevil, although I detect from time to time her playing a role as ‘devil’s advocate,’ her intent can hardly be considered evil, and good for her for shaking up complacent Yukoners, who only wish to hear about the Yukon as a ‘land of milk and honey.’

I read the article McDonald was complaining about and did not see anything wrong with it.

One Dawson-area resident, despite the small-town political costs, spoke up and defended her rights (and spoke up on behalf of unnamed others) as a citizen in response to a proposed use of a neighbouring property which she felt was inharmonious with the use and enjoyment of her own property.

It just so happened that this proposed use involved the production of alcohol. Is there a critical shortage of booze in the Yukon?

Well, I would say apparently not, upon reading that 30 Whitehorse drivers were charged with impaired driving during the holiday season (and Dawson City has no shortage of its own alcohol-related problems).

We in the Yukon are fortunate to have a brave and intrepid reporter like Keevil.

She has been building up a considerable and respectable journalistic resume in her time here, and I suspect that if she ever returned south, she would be showered with offers of employment in whichever branch of journalism she would choose.

Terry Cumming

Whitehorse

City haste over water waste

The proposed budget includes water metering for all residential homes in Whitehorse.

The purpose is to charge residents for the water used.

The decision is said to have come out of the sustainability charette.

Water conservation is a complex issue, within which water pricing is only one aspect.

It merits at least a four-day discussion of its own.

Charettes are described as brainstorming processes, and so I wouldn’t expect a strategy as multi-faceted as demand-side water conservation calls for to emerge from one.

It’s clear that no such strategy was achieved.

The city has one key statement to offer to support this proposal: charging people for the water they use makes them use less water.

The view among advocates for price structuring based on volume (and it’s not uniformly accepted as gospel that it leads to less water use — Flushing the Future isn’t the only study out there) is that pricing is not a silver bullet, but needs to be part of an integrated package of policies, including public education, regulatory tools such as requiring low flow plumbing fixtures for new construction, reclaiming, reusing, and recycling water, water audits, water loss management (leaks) and providing modest subsidies as positive incentives.

It’s been said by experts that the real objective is not water reduction, but sustainable water use.

What is the city’s objective? There’s a lack of clarity about what Whitehorse hopes to achieve, beyond installing meters with the intention of charging for water.

It has been noted that the Yukon suffers no shortage of water.

It’s also been noted that the infrastructure to treat and distribute water is expensive; yet this budget proposes more expenditures on capital projects for water in addition to the meters, so that no link between the two is being made.

Just recently new pumps were approved for Copper Ridge, with no indication of how the projected needs were calculated, that is, before or after targets in reduced water consumption were reached.

The Stantec study referred to in the sustainability plan attributed high water demand in Whitehorse to a number of reasons, of which low cost to the consumer was only one.

Some others were the bleeding of lines and mains to protect from freezing, leaks, and low conservation efforts. Rate structuring was only one of the recommendations Stantec made.

Environment Canada estimates 40 per cent of residential water use can be reduced without a change to lifestyle.

Yet lower cost avenues to support water conservation are not being promoted.

The city’s plan so far looks a lot like what the experts advise against, using one instrument to try to achieve many objectives.

There is the issue of what this will cost residents in the future.

Thinking Beyond Pipes and Pumps, which was produced by the POLIS Water Sustainability Project, the same people who published Flushing the Future, says, “Although ‘full costs’ (of water) are ultimately paid one way or another — most commonly through business or property taxes — shifting the full costs into water prices encourages conservation by revealing the cost to the customer.”

How about it? Is the proposal to shift the costs? It sounds like Mayor Bev Buckway sees it as a direct increase. 

The price structure is said to be more important than the price level.

How will the city ensure equitable, revenue neutral access to water, so that lower income residents aren’t penalized?

Buckway’s comparison between the single senior and the family of five or six doesn’t inspire comfort.

The single person won’t pay as much as the family because the family uses more water, she says.

“Nobody can say that’s not fair.”

Well, lots of us would, if it means the family of five has to pay more for water they need.

Shouldn’t the focus be on waste?

So that if the single person wastes more than the family of five, she would be paying more.

And by the way, we don’t know yet if residents are using “too much” water because they’re leaving the taps on or taking long showers, or have leaking pipes.

We don’t know if every resident who waters their yard for an hour uses “too much” water.

We only know that multiple causes are creating high demand.

What are the associated costs?

A few weeks ago it was only said that the money was coming from the federal government.

Now half is coming from the federal government and half from the city.

It’s even more surprising, then, that there’s been no mention of a cost-benefit analysis.

Many municipalities, larger than ours, have backed off from universal metering after the analysis in favour of lower cost and effective tools.

I support a community water conservation plan, but that’s not what’s been proposed.

I am critical that the issue of conservation is brought forward to justify hastening to choose the most expensive option on the menu.

The city could instead, for example, choose to meter a selected percentage of households in order to audit water use and identify water losses, to give residents more information that will help them make the transition to a changed water pricing regime.

This plan is so vague it may only accomplish opening the door to routine and unaccountable user fee increases in the future, as with the landfill tipping fees.

Before approving this venture, council should insist on a more rigorous assessment of what exactly the city wants to achieve, and why, and all the avenues available for water conservation, including positive incentives.

In other words, devise the integrated demand-side water management plan before expenditures are approved, instead of trying to sell a rather muddled one a couple of weeks before the budget is passed.

The examination should be within a process that invites the public in on the discussion, and not just those fortunate enough to be able to take four days off work to attend charettes — especially one where the issue was only one among many.

Marianne Darragh

Whitehorse

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 18, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs nine new COVID-19 cases, 54 active cases

More CEMA enforcement officers have been recruited, officials say

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read