Vote for anybody but …

Vote for anybody but ... At the election forum at the High Country Inn last Thursday, mayoral candidates Bev Buckway and Al Fedoriak were asked how they would treat any petitions that came in to city hall. Neither one referenced the Yukon Municipal Act i

At the election forum at the High Country Inn last Thursday, mayoral candidates Bev Buckway and Al Fedoriak were asked how they would treat any petitions that came in to city hall.

Neither one referenced the Yukon Municipal Act in their response. How could they? Since the BC Court of Appeal gutted the public votes section of the Yukon Municipal Act with its decision that outlawed the McLean Lake Park petition for referendum, nobody can make any sense of the legislation. The Yukon government has done nothing to address the confusion since the decision came out, instead allowing Yukon municipal elections to proceed without coherent legislation.

Whitehorse has rushed in to fill the vacuum. Buckway’s response reflected their flawed interpretation of their powers under the municipal act when she said that, when a petition “asks” for something, City Hall would review it, rule on its legality and decide if it could go ahead.

As usual, her response was riddled with patronizing allusions to citizens’ limited capacity to understand “complex” issues.

She speaks the jargon of technocrats.

In this view, so at odds with the spirit of the municipal act, it’s not enough that 2,654 people (24.5 per cent of the city’s population) sign a petition, as happened with the McLean Lake Park petition for referendum, to gain city hall’s attention.

That’s why we needed the legislation for citizen-initiated public votes. The public-votes section was the backbone of the Yukon Municipal Act, which enshrines public participation as a core principle.

A petition for referendum is not a “request” citizens make to city hall. It’s a call for a referendum that municipalities are required to hold upon receiving the prescribed number of signatures.

In the 2008 municipal act review, the Association of Yukon Communities proposed a number of amendments to the act, including adding more limits to the types of bylaws eligible for referendum.

Of all the amendments that the review put on the table, that proposal to dilute the public votes section was the most strongly opposed by Yukon citizens who participated in the public consultation.

Accordingly, the Yukon government refused to impose any more limits, saying that such an amendment could be seen as “unduly limiting the democratic process”.

Another citizen asked Buckway how the city could reduce the number of court actions that it’s involved with.

She failed to point out that court is the only other option besides a referendum, when there are protracted disputes between citizens and city hall. Every matter, from Con Lattin’s signage issue to protected areas, if it’s not resolved satisfactorily by city council with citizens, can only be resolved by a referendum or the Supreme Court.

The incumbent mayor and council have proved they’ll stifle a referendum, and citizens, by rolling the dice and taking the petitioner to court.

Buckway puts this in lofty terms of protecting the “taxpayers” from themselves (and she can spend our own money against us to do so).

During the 2008 municipal act review, citizens raised issues, which were not on the table, to do with more, not less, oversight of municipal government.

Reinstate the municipal board of appeal, they said. Allow citizens to register complaints with the ombudsman. Lift Yukon municipalities’ exemption from the access to information legislation.

The September 15, 2009 CASM minutes record that the incumbent Whitehorse council was, once again, discussing going for another municipal act amendment Ð this time to increase the number of signatures required on a petition for referendum.

Buckway has only said during this campaign that she wants to see the municipal act amended to allow for Ð wait for it Ð a hotel tax.

Rarely do we get to stand up in municipal elections on such fundamental matters as the right to vote, and to protect our own municipal act from systematic attacks on the progressive legislative tools that were intended to empower all citizens, not just the people we elect.

It seems to me I have that chance when I cast my vote in this election. Fortunately, there’s a fine array of new candidates to choose from, and I only need to pick one or two.

Here’s to anyone but an incumbent.

Marianne Darragh

Whitehorse

See more letters page 8.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read