Communities split over election timing

Overlap between the territorial and municipal elections is “insane,” said Tagish advisery council chair Ethel Tizya on Monday.

Overlap between the territorial and municipal elections is “insane,” said Tagish advisery council chair Ethel Tizya on Monday.

“It’s confusing people, there are elections going on everywhere and when you approach people they say ‘What election are you running for?’” she said.

Tizya is running for territorial office under the Liberals in Southern Lakes.

“We have no choice but to let it ride now, but we can make recommendations for the future so that this sort of thing does not happen again.”

Premier Dennis Fentie called for a territorial election on Tuesday, October 10 — one day after Thanksgiving, and just nine days before Yukon communities will go to the polls to elect mayors, councils and, in the case of smaller communities like Tagish, local advisery councils.

“In my mind it trivializes the municipal elections,” said Haines Junction mayor John Farynowski.

“I think the territorial election should have been called either a month before or a month after — they have the flexible dates.”

The municipal election is slated for a fixed date every three years.

Fentie was obligated to call the territorial election before November 11, when the Yukon Party’s mandate officially ends.

The timing will affect not only voter turnout, but also the municipalities’ campaigning schedules, said Farynowski.

“If we want to do any campaigning, we’ll have to wait until after October 10.

“If people are knocking on doors and some are from the town and some are from YTG then it’ll be confusing and people will be getting frustrated.”

And voters may be too busy checking boxes in the territorial election to put much thought into the municipal vote, said Whitehorse mayor Ernie Bourassa.

“Obviously (the territorial election) will be the focus for both the media and the public leading up to the election and even after the election date,” Bourassa said last week.

But other community leaders disagree.

“As to the territorial election date being close to the municipals, well, so what? I don’t see it as being a big deal,” said Dawson City mayor John Steins.

Dawson is the only Yukon municipality that will not go to the polls next month because it installed its mayor and council on June 15, after two years without a town government.

Mayors from Teslin and Faro don’t think the razor-thin timing between elections will affect their communities either.

“I don’t think it will affect anything at all,” said Teslin mayor Clara Jules.

“I don’t think it will have too much of an effect,” said Faro mayor Phyllis Forbes. She is finishing her first term as mayor and will throw her hat into the ring for a second.

While Ibex Valley chair Bob Atkins isn’t worried about getting voters to the polls, he says the territorial election timing could throw a wrench in his council’s negotiations with the territorial government on land-use planning.

For half of his six-year term as chair, Atkins has been working to re-designate some spots from resource to agricultural land.

“We’ve been going through this stuff for three years and, because of the election, that’s all on hold now.

“And if there’s a change in government we may have to start this all over again,” he said.

“You just get the run around from government and these issues take too long to get resolved.”

Because of these kind of frustrations, it can be difficult to get people interested in running for council in small communities, said Atkins, who will put his name forward for another term.

“We’ve got to see this thing through,” he said.

Also in the mix is a Yukon-wide school council election on October 2.

And the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation is slated to go to the polls to elect a new chief and council on October 2.