Colour me biased, but when a Whitehorse official piously points to the Yukon Municipal Act and intones, “We’re only following the law,” the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
The city claims that the municipal act prescribes a voting process Ã in this case for property owners to weigh in on proposed infrastructure upgrades Ã so different from any voting process we are familiar with that it shouldn’t be called a vote. That is, votes not cast are counted as consent. That’s not a vote. That’s the way public hearings work Ã specifically, Whitehorse public hearings. The silent majority is always in agreement with the city.
The municipal act is not prescriptive. It’s written in broad strokes. In practice, this has come to mean that the municipal act says what the city wants it to say. So it’s not clear at all that the municipal act has directed the city to corrupt the definition of a democratic vote.
The Yukon Party candidate in Whitehorse Centre, Mike Nixon, says he can do something about the Yukon Municipal Act for citizens if he’s on the inside.
Riverdale residents might have their own observations about how helpful their Yukon Party MLAs were with their concerns about land-use planning in Riverdale. Residents tried to circulate a petition for a referendum and found out it’s “illegal.” Their MLAs had voted against the restoration of their rights in the municipal act.
The BC Court of Appeal ruled against the referendum legislation in the municipal act Ã the only check on the increased powers given to municipalities under the act Ã in late August, 2009.
On May 12 of this year, the NDP brought a motion forward to restore the public votes legislation to the act. Steve Cardiff spoke passionately to the motion; Liberal MLA Eric Fairclough was also eloquent in his remarks.
Independent MLA Brad Cathers voted in favour of the motion. Would he have been able to do that if he was still sitting as a Yukon Party member?
All Yukon Party members voted against restoring the rights legislation Ã against restoring the intent of the municipal act. The motion was defeated by one vote. It’s cause for optimism to see that all the other MLAs voted to return citizens’ rights to the municipal act.
As a citizen, I am very grateful for the NDP, and Eric Fairclough, for standing up publicly for our rights at a time when no one else would; and to all the MLAs who voted in favour.
I’d like to note that Elizabeth Hanson, leader of the NDP and candidate in Whitehorse Centre, quickly grasped the significance of what the court decision meant for citizens, and it’s very likely that the NDP motion to restore the rights legislation to the municipal act Ã narrowly defeated by the Yukon Party Ã was a direct result of her keen interest in the matter.
Will Yukon Party candidate Mike Nixon say that the Court of Appeal decision has nothing to do with the Black Street matter? It has everything to do with the deteriorating relationship of Yukon municipalities with their citizens, which so often lately is mired in conflict Ã in opposition to the original intent of the municipal act to create an environment that fosters consensus between councils and citizens.