Cathers and city will try to work together

If Whitehorse city council couldn't work with Minister Brad Cathers on Monday, it seems today it is willing to try. Councillors unanimously passed a motion this week.

If Whitehorse city council couldn’t work with Minister Brad Cathers on Monday, it seems today it is willing to try.

Councillors unanimously passed a motion this week calling on Premier Darrell Pasloski to remove Cathers from the Yukon Housing Corporation and Community Services files.

Mayor Dan Curtis accused Cathers of disrespect in his dealings with the municipality.

The premier spoke to the issue in a news release Wednesday. He does not directly address confidence in Brad Cathers or if the government would consider shuffling him to a different position.

“This government operates as a team,” said Pasloski. “We presented ourselves as a team during the 2011 election campaign and that’s exactly what we continue to deliver to Yukoners. Our team, including Minister Brad Cathers, has worked together to accomplish great things to date, and there’s more to come. There may be disagreements from time to time, but it’s essential to keep the discussion professional and respectful, and not to personalize debate.”

The premier’s response was “predictable,” said the mayor in an interview Thursday.

“He’s going to stick up for his team, just like I would. We’re very like-minded that way. You’re only as good as your team. That’s exactly what I would have done.”

But the resolution was a strong statement that things cannot continue the way they have.

“Whatever that government decides to do, we still have really really important pressing issues that we have no choice to work together on, and I look forward to working together, but I want the opportunity to work together and the have the dialogue and the mutual respect,” said Curtis.

The issue is not personal, he said.

“I’m not upset. I’m not angry. I’m just concerned that the actions of this minister have not been proper protocol for the way one government works with another. I would just like him to work with me to address our issues that we have that address the concerns of all our citizens.”

Cathers and Curtis have a meeting scheduled for today to discuss several issues.

Neither Pasloski nor Cathers have responded to interview requests this week.

Cathers said in a news release, “It is disappointing that the mayor and council have chosen to take this unusual approach, especially when our government has worked hard to ensure a cooperative and open relationship with the City of Whitehorse and other municipalities.”

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver asked the premier if he has confidence in the minister during question period on Thursday.

Pasloski did not answer the question.

We know agreement on challenging issues is not always possible, but it is our job as elected officials to solve problems and not to create new ones,” he said.

“Now the approach that was taken by the City this week was disappointing, because really what it does is it polarizes and it personalizes issues that are important to this territory.

“Yukoners expect their leaders to work together to find solutions. Ultimately, I’m confident we will find ways to move ahead together, because all of us are working on behalf of Yukoners.”

The Yukon Residential Landlord Association has come out in defence of Cathers and to criticize the position taken by the City of Whitehorse.

Cancelling planned affordable housing projects for Whitehorse was a good move on Cathers’s part, wrote Annette Truitt-Avoledo, the association’s president, in a letter to the mayor that was also shared with media.

“We commend Minister Cathers for his ability to see the flaws with the previously proposed (Northern Housing Trust) projects and are grateful that he had the courage to put a halt to the misspending of the funds, and pursue a plan to use the funds more effectively,” according to the letter.

The methodology for collecting rental statistics in the Yukon has recently changed to include all rental types, not only buildings with three or more units.

With this new calculation, Yukon’s vacancy rate is 7.1 per cent, according to the most recent statistics.

This is a more accurate representation of the rental market, the landlord association said.

But the city maintains that affordable sections of the rental market are still squeezed, according to a letter in response to the association.

Vacancy rates for townhouses, detached homes, apartments and mobile homes are between 0.9 and 2.7 per cent.

Affordable housing is available to those who are willing to adjust their expectations, the landlord association said.

“People who can’t afford it should not expect to obtain new units or housing in the prime downtown locations, when there are more affordable and practical units available a short distance away from the higher-rated downtown area. Is that not why taxpayers contribute to the public transit fund, so that people can commute to various areas of the city? This is a very common situation in cities across Canada where people commute from more affordable outside areas to obtain ‘affordable housing’ without the government funding them.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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