Tapping wells

Tapping wells Open letter to Community Services Minister Archie Lang re: Rural Domestic Water Well Program availability in Whitehorse: This program was established in 2004 as the result of a group of my constituents suggesting the Yukon government create

Open letter to Community Services Minister Archie Lang re: Rural Domestic Water Well Program availability in Whitehorse:

This program was established in 2004 as the result of a group of my constituents suggesting the Yukon government create a program to assist citizens with the cost of drilling a water well for their homes.

As you will likely recall, it was initially intended that people living inside municipal boundaries would also be able to access the Yukon government’s program.

Since the Yukon government is not able to add a charge to taxes where it is not the taxation authority, doing so required municipalities to enter an agreement that would provide similar security of repayment. This type of agreement has been used in the past to provide access to the Rural Electrification and Telephone Program, which was used as the model for designing the rural well program.

However, attempts to reach an agreement between municipalities and the Yukon government were not successful.

A major concern raised by the Association of Yukon Communities (impact on borrowing capacity) was addressed in the 2008 amendment to the municipal act, but it appears neither level of government sought the resumption of discussions following that amendment.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Whitehorse council and senior management on two occasions to discuss this problem. I was pleased by their willingness to consider possible solutions that might allow my constituents and other municipal residents to access the rural well program. I believe progress has been made towards ending the impasse between the two levels of government.

It is clear Whitehorse does not feel it has the capacity to offer a program on its own, nor take on any significant new administrative requirements. However, council and senior management were supportive of the concept of allowing municipal residents to access the Yukon government’s rural well program, and appear willing to discuss possible ways of addressing the Yukon’s objective of having security of repayment. This included a suggestion that city would even be prepared to consider allowing the Yukon government limited taxation authority restricted to this program.

This program has assisted many of my constituents in providing safe, affordable drinking water for their families. It is also in keeping with the principles of the Yukon’s Climate Change Action Strategy, as it reduces the carbon footprint caused by reliance on trucked water delivery.

Please enter into discussions with Whitehorse aimed at reaching an arrangement that allows my constituents and others living inside municipal borders to access the rural well program.

Brad Cathers

MLA for Lake Laberge