The two men seeking the mayor’s chair in Watson Lake are in agreement about at least one thing:
The biggest issue facing the community is the availability of housing.
This year’s mayoral race, to be decided when Watson Lake goes to the polls along with other Yukon communities on Oct. 21, is between incumbent mayor Christopher Irvin and Justin Brown who has also spent time as mayor.
Irvin was first elected to Watson Lake’s council six years ago. He was serving as deputy mayor when former mayor Cheryl O’Brien resigned amid fraud and forgery charges. After taking on the mayor’s chair mid-term, Irvin won an October 2020 byelection with 154 votes of 357 cast. Brown was also on the ballot and placed fourth with 49 votes.
Brown served as Watson Lake’s mayor from 2015 to 2018, losing the seat to O’Brien when he sought re-election.
Whether Watson Lake voters select Irvin or Brown, helping create places for people to live in the community of about 800 people will be a high priority.
Irvin lamented that some teachers at Watson Lake’s school live in hotels and RVs. He said there is work available for people in the town if they can find a place to stay.
Brown said that young families in Watson Lake were struggling to find a place to live, forcing them to rely on friends and family for accommodation. He said without places to live for people Watson Lake won’t be able to grow, as people will settle in Whitehorse or outside the territory.
Both candidates say freeing up lots for development is a major hurdle in addressing the town’s housing shortage.
Irvin said he could only recall two lots coming up for sale in the past four years. Brown recalled that when he was mayor he lobbied the government to free up more lots for development and was told the community didn’t need any. Irvin said that while the Yukon Housing Corporation is taking steps to increase the number of units in the town there is no space for private development.
Along with the major housing issue, Irvin said there is more work to be done on other municipal business such as roads that are in disrepair. Brown said the Town of Watson Lake and Liard First Nation have not been as close as they should and, if elected, he said he wants to try to get together with the First Nation’s leadership more often.
Along with the two men seeking the mayor’s chair there are five candidates for four councillor positions: incumbents Thomas Slager and Lauren Hanchar, running alongside Dale Burdes, Beckie Ann Lussier and Denina Paquette.
-With files from Stephanie Waddell and Lawrie Crawford
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org