The territory must restore local democracy

The territory must restore local democracy The city planning manager's statement that the use of "may" as opposed to "shall" allows "the public to make their case to elected decision makers during individual land-use decisions" is nonsense (letters, Dec

The city planning manager’s statement that the use of “may” as opposed to “shall” allows “the public to make their case to elected decision makers during individual land-use decisions” is nonsense (letters, December 14).

The Official Community Plan is more than a land-use planning document; it must, by law, also address municipal services and facilities, environmental matters, utility and transportation systems and it may address any other local service.

Citizens do not need permission to “make their case” at city hall. Freedom of expression is their constitutional right.

However, the right to beg for attention and to lobby for consideration should not be confused with the power to make decisions.

Whitehorse council has spent thousands of dollars to close the door to effective citizen participation in local decision making; it has done so with the tacit approval of the Yukon government.

Not satisfied with having watered down the Municipal Act (to quote Dave Keenan), Whitehorse council is now proceeding to water down its Official Community Plan, thereby removing the last remaining restrictions to its powers.

The Court of Appeal was concerned referendums may lead to ad hoc decisions favouring special interests.

The elimination of the referendum from the process, and the removal of “shall” words from the Official Community Plan, will leave Whitehorse council with unfettered powers to make precisely the kind of ad hoc decisions favouring special interests the Court of Appeal sought to prevent.

The Yukon legislative assembly has a choice to make. It can restore local democracy by amending the municipal act, making it clear to councils and the courts that the Municipal Act’s public votes procedure applies to Official Community Plan and zoning bylaws, as was the legislature’s decision in 1998.

Or it can remain silent and allow the kind of autocratic politics we see every day at the federal and provincial (territorial?) levels to gain a foothold in Yukon municipal politics.

Andre Carrel

Terrace, BC