A quiz for candidates
Open letter to all candidates for city council and mayor re municipal election issue, proposed heavy industrial development at McLean Lake:
Now that the territorial election is over, it is time to focus on municipal election issues.
For several years, Territorial Contracting Ltd. has sought permission to locate a permanent heavy industrial concrete batch plant on the Sleeping Giant Hill next to McLean Lake.
Both the hill and lake are important natural landmarks in the city and actively used for nature appreciation and recreation.
The area is of astounding natural beauty and ecological significance.
In the 1950s, it was legally designated a territorial wildlife sanctuary.
The proposed heavy industrial site is on the slope of the hill, close to the lake and directly upwind of Lobird, Beyond Copper Ridge and Copper Ridge.
The proposed heavy industry will be visible from existing and future residential areas.
Air pollution from the quarry and plant will blow directly into residential areas.
Important options for green space planning will be lost. Traffic and noise issues will be significant.
The previous council deferred a decision on the application and requested an independent review of the application process and information, identify what was or wasn’t done properly, and flag any outstanding issues.
The new mayor and council will have many tough issues to deal with on this project.
They will be making decisions that are irreversible for the area and will affect the city forever.
Here are the key issues.
Your responses would be appreciated.
Residential property values: Research done by local residents confirmed that the proposed heavy industrial development would likely permanently reduce current and future residential property values.
Residents in Copper Ridge are already making substantial investments in their homes. These properties may be affected.
There are also areas close to the proposed heavy industry slated for new residential development.
Beyond Copper Ridge will have 2,000 future homes. At an average house price of $250,000, this represents more than $500,000,000 in future private investments.
Yet, impacts on property values were not addressed in the application’s review.
Question: As mayor or councillor, what will you do to ensure residents will not have their property values reduced by the location of new heavy industrial developments close to their neighbourhoods?
Air Quality: The proposed new IQ zone for the cement plant would allow quarrying and cement plants as primary uses and asphalt plants as a conditional use. This new IQ parcel would be in addition to the 169 hectares of IQ that already exist in the area.
Quarries, concrete batch plants and asphalt plants are known for dust, smoke emissions and using harmful materials.
Concrete dust contains crystalline silica which has been designated a Level 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The US Environmental Protection Agency states, “Asphalt processing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter and toluene.
Exposure to these air toxins may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and skin irritation.
Air pollution from the IQ will blow directly towards Lobird, Beyond Copper Ridge, Copper Ridge, Granger and future neighborhoods.
Yet, impacts of air pollution from IQ to these downwind residential areas were not assessed in the application’s review.
Question: As mayor or councillor, what will you do to ensure that residential areas in the city have clean healthy air to breathe, free from heavy industrial air pollution?
City Water Supply and Quality: The existing and proposed IQ zones are in the McLean Lake watershed, which flows into Schwatka Lake and Whitehorse’s drinking water supply. Even though the city’s Official Community Plan requires that: “A detailed hydrological and hydrogeological assessment of the McLean Lake watershed shall be undertaken prior to any further gravel extraction,” the proponent did mainly a desktop study on this matter.
The cumulative impacts of the IQ zones on the McLean Lake watershed, and Whitehorse’s drinking water supply, were not assessed in the application’s review.
Question: As mayor or councillor, what will you do to ensure that heavy industrial IQ zones in the city do not pose a risk to the City’s drinking water supply or quality?
Consultation with Affected Neighbourhoods: The city’s OCP commits that “Further environmental studies, and management plans shall be conducted, in consultation with the local neighbourhood, prior to any gravel or mineral extraction on or around Sleeping Giant Hill”.
This required consultation never took place. The McLean Lake neighbourhood was only consulted after the proponent’s plan was complete and submitted for approval.
More importantly, the neighbourhoods that have the most to lose, Lobird, Beyond Copper Ridge, and Copper Ridge, were never even contacted.
Residents in McLean Lake, Lobird, Beyond Copper Ridge and Copper Ridge have never been asked to participate in a consultative area planning process to determine future land uses for the McLean Lake — Copper Ridge area.
If this application is approved, it will dictate a future of permanent heavy industrial development in the area. This is contrary to the OCP, and contrary to the stated wishes of many of the area’s residents.
Question: As mayor or councillor, will you commit to further consultation with the affected neighbourhoods in an area planning process that addresses the need for future residential and green space development, prior to approving permanent heavy industrial development?
Co-ordinated planning for appropriate quarry development: For 12 years, area residents have requested that the city prepare a long-term co-ordinated quarry development strategy for Whitehorse.
This strategy would identify suitable long-term alternative quarry sites for industrial development in the city, and place these industrial sites in locations that do not compromise existing or future residential areas.
Whitehorse is blessed with a geography that has lots of gravel.
There are suitable alternatives to the Sleeping Giant Hill.
Yet, neither the proponent nor the city have identified alternatives or developed a long term strategy for quarries in the city.
Question: As mayor or councillor, will you commit to identifying suitable alternative quarry sites and developing a long-term quarry strategy that does not compromise future residential development in the city?
Your responses to these questions would be appreciated.
Bob Kuiper, McLean Lake Residents Association, Whitehorse
End the L.I.E.S.
With little fanfare, the Whitehorse municipal election will take place next week.
The low numbers of candidates for council leave little choice for voters.
It will be hard to decide who to vote for — but not who to vote against.
When voters go to the polls, I would like them to consider that despite signing the city’s new code of ethics, the ethics of our past council leave much to be desired.
I hope voters remember that all councillors agreed on the city’s scheme to influence the recent referendum vote by using your tax dollars to send out multi-page letters with bald-faced misinformation.
I call the city’s statements L.I.E.S. (legal interpretations essentially skewed), which say whatever the city wants them to say at any particular moment.
Those of you who were gone for the summer may not have read about the city’s about-face regarding their position on the referendum.
After the referendum passed, the city admitted that the dire consequences in their letters were just mistaken.
Despite our attempts to explain the issues during the vote, the city did their best to obscure the facts and counter democracy.
Mayor Ernie Bourassa and councillor Bev Buckway led the charge to defeat the bylaw.
All the sitting councillors were given the chance to distance themselves from the shenanigans — not a single one did.
I cannot, and will not, vote for any sitting councillor or the mayor Bourassa.
I don’t expect to agree with the council on every issue but I do expect the council to represent the facts fairly and to support the democratic process.
My vote will go to some of the new faces on the ballot for the simple fact that at the very least they aren’t tainted with the actions of the past council.
I will not vote for six candidates for council because I do not see six candidates worth voting for.
P.S. It is also worth noting that it was only after the new president of the Porter Creek Community Association brought up the illegality of the Arkell greenspace Referendum timeline that the city dropped it from the coming ballot.
We need a council that can do their own homework and make the right decisions the first time and on their own.
Was your vote effective?
In the Yukon territorial election, a majority government was elected by 41 per cent of the voters.
Taking all elected candidates into consideration it is noted that 52 per cent of those who cast ballots had no effect on the establishment of the new legislative assembly as their candidate was not elected.
However, if every vote was effective, the seat distribution would be as follows:
Yukon Party eight seats (40.7 per cent of the vote), Yukon Liberal Party six seats (34.7 per cent) and Yukon NDP four seats (23.6 per cent).
I would suggest that the above seat distribution, which would result in a minority government, more truly reflects the will of the voting population.
Five years ago, I was surprised when an associate suggested that we should consider changing our electoral system.
I thought “Canada’s electoral system must be the best. Canada is such a great place to live, how could you consider changing it?”
So if you have not been concerned, I understand.
However, there are several electoral systems used in other countries that do make almost all votes effective.
Some people would argue that minority governments are not productive.
However at both the territorial and federal levels minority governments have proven to be effective.
In the October 10 Whitehorse Star, Julia Skikovich quotes Aaron Freeman, co-author of The Laws of Government: The Legal Foundations of Canadian Democracy, and a faculty member at the University of Ottawa, as follows:
“It’s a bit of a myth that minority governments aren’t productive. There have been eleven minority governments in Canadian history at the federal level and a number provincially.
“Many Canadians often pass minority governments off as being unstable and inefficient. But the reality is the negotiation that must occur to govern often makes them more responsive, accountable and transparent.
“Some of Canada’s most recognized achievements occurred under minority governments at the federal level including: the introduction of Canada’s health care system, the birth of Canada’s flag, the development of the Canada Pension Plan, the creation of Petro-Canada and the legalization of same-sex marriages.”
I would like to recommend that we reform our electoral system in the Yukon as it is clear that the first-past-the-post system, which awards seats in the legislature to the candidate who gets the most votes, does not accurately reflect the will of the electorate.
Once again, we are faced by a majority government elected by considerably less than 50 per cent of the population.
Dave Brekke, concerned citizen and former federal returning officer, Whitehorse