Betty bets on city council, again

Incumbent city councillor Betty Irwin wants your vote for a second term. She hopes to see the city expand their vision of what is possible, and she doesn’t plan on backing down.

Betty’s back, and you can bet she won’t be beating around the bush.

Incumbent city councillor Betty Irwin wants your vote for a second term. She hopes to see the city expand their vision of what is possible, and she doesn’t plan on backing down.

“If you truly believe in something, a cause or a principle or whatever, then you have to be prepared to take a stand and say, ‘This is as far back as I will be pushed. There’s your line in the sand, and I will defend my opinion,’” Irwin said.

Irwin has taken some contentious positions in her three years on council. She was the only politician to vote against $1.6 million to fund a new chairlift at Mt. Sima.

“I was horrified to learn that Mt. Sima leases that land from the city for how much? A dollar a year? Surely you’re joking. No. A dollar a year.

“And yet we charge other sports and cultural groups a lot more than that for leases on facilities.”

Irwin supports the regulation of ATVs and snowmobiles, and in fact believes that the current bylaws do not go far enough, she said.

She would like to see a ban on those vehicles within the urban containment boundary, which encompasses the developed, serviced areas of the city, she said.

Irwin suggested that the current bylaws will likely be ineffective because they are too nuanced and too hard to enforce.

“The push has been to educate and use sweet reason. It doesn’t work, I don’t think it works. I said it openly, that I thought the best education was a really good stiff fine.”

Irwin would like to see some of the money the city spends on recreation diverted to things like affordable housing.

“I have asked for three years why the city does not have a responsibility to provide housing for its citizens, affordable housing. And I’m told it’s not in our mandate, we can’t do that, we’ve never done that. And my question is, why not?”

Irwin pointed to other communities that have taken some responsibility for providing housing to residents. Her favourite example is the town of Airdrie, Alberta.

That municipality formed its own housing corporation and bought 12 condos, two town houses and a 32-unit apartment building to rent out to low-income residents.

Irwin wants Whitehorse to research those kinds of solutions and see how they could work here.

She would also like to see citizens become more involved with their city government.

Irwin hopes that Whitehorse will explore models of participatory budgeting, where citizens get to vote directly on how the municipality’s money is spent.

“The citizens, this is their city. This isn’t my city, it’s not the mayor’s city. It belongs to the people here. They’re the ones paying the salaries. Shouldn’t they be demanding good service for the money they pay?”

Irwin believes that if people have a direct say in their government, not only will we see increased participation, but council will have to become more reflective of their community, she said.

“I have seen time and time again, council will approve something, and the citizens will come out in, almost in droves, to protest that.”

Irwin wants the mayor and council to open up their thinking and start investigating innovative ways to serve citizens.

“Let’s see how we can do better, and find out,” said Irwin. “And wouldn’t it be wonderful, you know, at some time in the future, I could say, ‘I had a hand in this, I had a hand in building that apartment building that people could afford to live in. I had a hand in bringing in participatory budgeting.’ Wow. Wouldn’t that be something to put in your memoirs?”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at