Byelection begins

The race for city council will be ferocious. In total, 13 candidates have thrown their hat into the ring. "It's a large number for a byelection," said Norma Felker the election returning officer.

The race for city council will be ferocious. In total, 13 candidates have thrown their hat into the ring.

“It’s a large number for a byelection,” said Norma Felker the election returning officer.

To put it in perspective, only 12 people ran in the 2009 municipal election. And that was for six council seats.

All candidates are vying for one seat, vacated by Doug Graham.

Graham resigned from council last month after winning a seat in the territorial legislature.

He’s now minister of Health And Social Services.

Kirn Dhillon is one of the 13 wannabes.

The 35-year-old engineer and father of three was born and raised in the Yukon.

His father came to the Yukon from India in 1967, followed by his mother a few years later.

The Dhillons are among the first Indo-Canadian families to settle in the territory, said Dhillon.

“At the time, racial attitudes weren’t as progressive as they are today,” he said.

Though it’s slightly more exotic, in many ways his family’s story is typical of the Yukon, said Dhillon.

“If you come here and work hard enough, you can succeed,” he said. “There is tremendous opportunity here if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work.”

The city’s come a long way, said Dhillon, but it’s facing a serious problem with the current housing shortage.

Businesses are having trouble attracting talented workers and that problem will only get worse as baby boomers retire and need to be replaced, he said.

Dhillon sees infill as part of that solution but recognizes it has been a source of serious concern for many Whitehorse residents.

The city needs to do a better job of letting people know what areas are marked for development and what’s going to be protected.

“I think the uncertainty has been a source of a lot of frustration,” he said.

Given the number of candidates in the race, the city should look at increasing the size of council, said Dhillon.

“There is a real diversity of viewpoints, so I think it’s a good time to consider increasing the number of seats,” he said.

Pat Berrel is also in the running.

The 60-year-old father of two is the former principal of Whitehorse Elementary.

For the last four years he’s been the chair of the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee.

While working on that committee, he’s worked closely with city staff and council.

“Personally, I think the city has a great team and I wouldn’t mind being a part of it,” said Berrel.

Whitehorse should be working harder to solve the housing issue, he said.

“The city doesn’t just need affordable housing, but affordable rental housing,” he said.

While council often asserts it doesn’t get involved in social projects, that’s not entirely true, he said.

It has many tools at its disposal, like authority over zoning and bylaw changes, said Berrel.

Height restrictions are a good example, he noted. The city should be moving forward with easing them to get some larger rental units built.

But he recognizes Whitehorse can’t fix the housing crisis on its own.

“To really solve these problems, it’s going to have to work with federal, territorial and First Nation governments,” said Berrel.

As a former principal he said he knows a thing or two about balancing interests and working co-operatively.

The election is scheduled for December 1, with advanced polls opening the week before, on November 24.

The candidates are: Murray Martin, Pat Berrel, Norm Hamilton, Mike Tribes, Harry Hrebien, Kirn Dhillon, Cam Kos, Linda Bonnefoy, Kirk Cameron, Ted Lambert, Patrick Singh, Duke Connelly and Martin Lehner.

More profiles will be published on Friday.

Contact Josh Kerr at