Half of city council hopefuls sit during the debates at the Gold Rush in Whitehorse on Oct. 3, 2018. The candidates were split in to two groups due to the amount of those running. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Councillor candidates make their case

Council candidates show up for town hall forum

A candidates’ forum on Oct. 3 gave Whitehorse residents a tiny taste of what the city’s 20 council hopefuls are all about.

Each candidate had a total of four minutes to speak to a packed town hall at the Gold Rush on Wednesday night. After a one-minute introduction, each candidate was given two randomly-drawn questions and had one minute to respond to each question. There was then one minute to make a closing statement.

Questions focussed on city issues including housing, waste diversion and recycling, what to do with the old Public Works building, and balancing the city budget.

The evening was moderated by Tim Kucharuk, a reporter at CKRW.

Across a number of housing questions, candidates presented various ideas and approaches.

Steve Roddick said land availability is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the housing issue, and density is another. He said the city needs to make better use of residential and commercial areas to increase density where there’s already existing infrastructure.

Current councillor Betty Irwin agreed with this, saying she’d prefer to see the city build up than go out to a place like Long Lake and have to develop a new neighbourhood that would be as expensive as Copper Ridge. She said affordability means different things to different people and she’d like to see the city come up with a better working definition of what constitutes affordable housing.

Coun. Roslyn Woodcock said she also supports densification and infill, adding that the city is doing its best at the moment to offer development incentives, and to get the last phase of Whistle Bend built before the city turns its attention to new projects.

Darrell Hookey said he would like to work with the territorial government to develop new lots, and to encourage them to do it in areas that “aren’t as spiffy” as Whistle Bend, but in areas that are more cost-effective and quicker to move into.

Scott Etches raised one of his main platform points, that he thinks the city of Whitehorse needs to establish a community land trust, the way Vancouver has.

Danny Macdonald highlighted the importance of partnerships with the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation, which he said are the largest land title-holders in Whitehorse.

Oshea Jephson said he generally supports infill, but that recent country-residential infill has been a reactive response to a shortage of space and a need to get things online quickly. Jephson said he’d like future housing planning to respect the Official Community Plan, which is in place for a reason.

Transit was another big issue. Eileen Melnychuk and Jocelyn Curteanu both advocated for the use of technology, including apps, to give riders a clear sense of when buses are coming. Improved efficiency, said Curteanu, should result in greater ridership.

Speaking about the interplay between transit use and parking in the core, Coun. Samson Hartland said he didn’t know if he believed that restricting parking in the core would increase ridership.

He said we live in a fossil-fuel dependent society and culture, and there needs to be a balance between driving and options such as public transit. Hartland also brought up a fund the city established almost 20 years ago, specifically earmarked for a potential parkade (it now contains almost $4-million, he said). While he didn’t say whether he supported the idea of a parkade, he said the question has been around for a long time.

Laura Cabott said she would consider a parkade, but would want to hear first from residents and downtown businesses (Cabott’s response to the question of developing the McIntyre Creek area was similar — she said it’s up to residents what they want to see happen, and in the past she knows they’ve said no). At the same time, she said it’s not feasible to continue to rely on Old Town as de facto parking for downtown employees.

The evening ended an hour earlier than scheduled, leaving an hour for audience members to mingle with council candidates.

The Whitehorse municipal election takes place October 18. There are a number of community association forums and events in the coming days. The Porter Creek and Whistle Bend Community Associations are co-hosting an all-candidates forum at Whistle Bend Place on Oct. 9 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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