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Support expressed for municipal term extensions, less so for rural respondents

Government says ample consulation occurred
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The impact of changes coming to the Yukon’s Municipal Act varies according to who you talk to. The planned changes to the legislation extend the terms of office for municipal and local advisory councils.

Most rural councils, had a difficult time recruiting nominees for council positions for a three-year term last election; and some said it could get even harder finding people to come forward for a four-year term.

The News contacted members from four of five local advisory councils. Among them were three women who said the prospect of a four-year term was more than a little daunting given their ages.

The ‘what we heard’ report, released Dec. 1 disclosed the findings from a 149-person pool of respondents from Engage Yukon about the term length extension for municipal and local advisory councillors.

The report shows how 62.4 per cent of 149 respondents support a four-year term of office –or about 122 people.

Although there appeared to be support, more female respondents disagreed with the extension than their male counterparts, and only 54 per cent of rural respondents supported the change.

Comments in the report included concerns that the extension could dissuade people from putting their name forward due to family or financial considerations.

There were only nine respondents who lived in any of the five local council areas of Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake, Tagish, Carcross and Mount Lorne. None of those respondents were residents of Marsh Lake or the Ibex Valley.

A communications spokesperson from the territory’s department of Community Services wrote saying that “community advisors both informed LACs and encouraged LACs to participate in the public consultation process in September.”

The email went on to say: “There was plenty of public engagement on this matter. There were multiple opportunities to be heard.”

The government billed the decision on a need to bring municipal governance in line with other jurisdictions across the country, and to save money running elections. The proposal was endorsed at the May meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC) by unanimous consent.

Community Services told the News that “LACs participate in AYC and were supportive of the original resolution at the AYC AGM asking for the term change.”

LACs have a different involvement with AYC than do the municipalities, who are full members. Four of the five LACs pool money to pay a reduced AYC fee; are considered associate members; and are granted a collective single vote at AGMs in return.

Those four are Marsh Lake, Tagish, Carcross and Mount Lorne. The Ibex Valley LAC does not participate in AYC. Those areas share a combined population of well over 2,500 people, according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

Only one of the six people on five LACs the News spoke with, recalled a formal discussion on the issue at their meetings.

The ‘what we heard’ report contained several comments, and some people proposed two-year terms, or staggered four-year terms as alternatives. One asked for a limit to terms served.

Ted Laking, president of AYC, told the News Dec. 1 that “this isn’t the end of the conversation.”

READ MORE: Yukon’s community councils are stretched in the wake of election season

READ MORE:Not enough nominees to fill local advisory councils positions so deadline for nominations extended

Contact Lawrie Crawford at lawrie.crawford@yukon-news.com