A case of the nuclear nerves

Fears over Japan's nuclear crisis have reached Whitehorse, where pharmacists are receiving frequent requests for potassium iodine tablets. The Medicine Chest Pharmacy has received approximately 10 such requests each day since Japan was rocked by a 9.

Fears over Japan’s nuclear crisis have reached Whitehorse, where pharmacists are receiving frequent requests for potassium iodine tablets.

The Medicine Chest Pharmacy has received approximately 10 such requests each day since Japan was rocked by a 9.0-point earthquake last week, say staff. The pills are issued to survivors of nuclear disasters to help ward off radiation poisoning.

But the Medicine Chest doesn’t carry the pills, and health authorities in British Columbia, who have seen a huge run on the pills since the earthquake, warn that improperly consuming the pills could cause serious side-effects.

Health authorities in Canada and the United States currently don’t expect radiation from Japan to reach North America.

The fear is that radiation would be blown by trade winds across the Pacific Ocean. But, after travelling thousands of kilometres, any remaining radiation is expected to be too widely dispersed to pose a health risk.

Alaska has nuclear monitors in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks, according to a report by the Anchorage Daily News. The state is considering adding further monitors that could detect radiation in rural Alaska.

In the Yukon, the territory depends on the federal government and Alaska for radiation monitoring, said Community Services Minister Archie Lang on Tuesday, in response to a question by the Liberals’ Darius Elias.

“I don’t think we have the wherewithal to do that inside the territory,” said Lang.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson called on the Yukon Party government to rule out the use of nuclear power in the territory. Recent public meetings held by Yukon Energy touted many alternatives to new hydroelectric projects – including nuclear power.

Hanson also wants a ban on uranium mining in the territory. And she threw her support behind Yukon MP Larry Bagnell’s private members bill to ban nuclear weapons in the Arctic.

Premier Dennis Fentie said he shared Hanson’s concerns for Japan. “We’re not proceeding with the development of nuclear power generation in the Yukon,” he said. “We see no reason to be concerned about nuclear weapons in the Yukon.”

Ambulance base over budget: Elias

The new emergency services base being built on Two Mile Hill will cost far more than originally budgeted, warns the Liberal opposition.

The building, which will house ambulance attendants and other emergency services staff, is expected to cost $8.7 million over the next two years, according to the government’s multi-year capital plan.

But new estimates put the base’s cost at $13 million, according to the Liberals’ Darius Elias.

“The project is long overdue. The costs are escalating. The budget allocation is too small to finish the job, and the government won’t reveal the true costs,” said Elias on March 9.

But, beyond off-the-record grumbling by government staff, the Liberals don’t have hard proof that costs have grown for the project. So Elias has spent the past week asking Archie Lang, the Public Works minister, to state the project’s current total cost.

Elias’s figures are “not correct,” replied Lang. The cost of building the footprint remains within budget, he said.

But Lang dodged Elias’ key question, which is what the whole project is now expected to cost. “We are building an EMS building at the top of Two Mile Hill, whether the Liberal party likes it or not,” said Lang. “The resources are in the budget. There’s a two-year plan. Property management is going to oversee the construction and the building will be built.”

Public Works officials did not respond to a query by the News about the project’s current cost, before deadline.

The Yukon Party government originally promised to build a base that would also house the city of Whitehorse’s firefighters, but talks with the city fell apart. So the city built its own public safety building, which opened in January, for $10.4 million.

Lang conceded the government’s initial plans “did not pan out,” but insisted that the current project, rather than being wasteful, offers “the best bang for the buck for the taxpayers of the Yukon.”

Hanson hammers helicopters

NDP Leader Liz Hanson doesn’t like helicopter training at Whitehorse’s airport.

She took aim at the whirly-birds last week, after receiving complaints from downtown constituents who fear a chopper may fall out of the sky and hit their homes during training, between April and June.

Besides posing a safety threat, helicopters “cause considerable noise and air pollution” and “have a negative impact on the quality of life of the people of downtown Whitehorse who live near the clay cliffs directly under the flight path,” Hanson said on Monday.

She asked Archie Lang, minister of Highways and Public Works, whether he would commit to moving helicopter training to an “alternative and safer location.”

Instead, Hanson received an earful of scorn.

“The alternative is to shut down Erik Nielsen International Airport,” said Lang. Helicopter companies and airport officials assure Lang that training occurs over the airport, rather than over the downtown, he said.

Air traffic comes with living near an airport, said Lang. “I live under a flight path that has five jets a day that blank out the sun,” said Lang. “I understand the need to have air transportation in our community.”

Hanson persisted and asked again for Lang to find a new spot for helicopter training.

“Maybe Abbotsford,” Lang sarcastically replied. “That would be a good alternative to our helicopter industry.”

Housing petition garners 500 names

Approximately 500 Yukoners have signed a petition that calls on the territory to support a plan to help house hardcore alcoholics.

The signatures were collected by the Northern City Supportive Housing Coalition, a group of nonprofits that aim to build 20 units of supportive housing. NDP Leader Liz Hanson tabled the petition in the legislature on Monday.

It’s been seven months since the coalition of non-profits announced their plans. They already have a proposed site, design plans and a building team lined up.

Both the Yukon Liberals and NDP have expressed support for the project. So has Whitehorse’s city council.

What’s missing is Yukon government support.

Later on Monday, Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell asked Jim Kenyon, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, to support the proposal.

Kenyon demurred. The housing corporation’s board of directors hasn’t yet made any decision on the project, and Kenyon said it would be inappropriate for him to intervene.

“This is not a political decision,” he said.

That’s not entirely true. The housing corporation may offer a federal grant to help the coalition build their facility.

But, for this money to flow, the coalition needs to show it can pay for staff at their project. That would require an operating grant from the Health Department.

Health officials have worked with the coalition to bolster the project’s business plan. Officials are expected to pass a proposal up to the cabinet table soon.

Then it will be a political decision.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (yfned.ca)
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read