Yukon’s Community Services Minister Currie Dixon is going to have to step in to fill vacancies in some local advisory councils after too few people came forward on their own.
Even after extending the deadline for nominations to Thursday, there are still two vacant spots on the Tagish council and three in the South Klondike area, the department confirmed.
The five-seat councils in unincorporated communities are meant to advise the territorial government on local concerns.
“You represent the voice of your community,” the department’s community advisor Chris Madden said ahead of the deadline.
“Some of these local advisory areas have populations that are approaching that of some municipalities in the Yukon.”
Councils get together monthly. In the past 12 months there have been two forums organized to meet with the minister, Madden said.
These councils don’t have the same level of authority as the municipal kind found in bigger populations like Whitehorse. They can’t, for example, make their own bylaws.
The Department of Community Services bought ads in newspapers, on the radio and online to try to get people interested in running in all the local elections coming up on Oct. 15.
Things were looking a little more dire before the deadline was extended. At that point no one was interested in representing Carcross.
The territory’s Municipal Act gives the minister authority to appoint members to the councils when there are vacancies. But it doesn’t give him a bigger carrot to offer people.
Whoever Dixon appoints still has to meet the same qualifications as someone who could have put their name forward earlier, meaning they have to live in the area.
“We keep talking to the community,” Madden said.
As it stands, advisory councils in Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne have been acclaimed.
Ibex Valley is the only place where there will be an election. Before the deadline was extended, there were two empty spots on that council. The three people who put their name forward ahead of the first deadline have been acclaimed. Now there are five people vying to fill the last two spots.
Kevin Barr, the MLA for Southern Lakes and the NDP’s community services critic, said he goes to a lot of the advisory council meetings.
He believes the number of vacancies is a sign that the communities don’t feel like they are being heard by the government.
“There’s also frustration … with being an advisory board, that the government doesn’t take their advice,” he said. “That relationship, I think, is also a factor.”
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