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Dan Curtis balks at big promises in run for second term as mayor

Every day serving on Whitehorse city council is a learning experience, says Dan Curtis. The incumbent mayor is seeking a second term in the upcoming municipal election.

Every day serving on Whitehorse city council is a learning experience, says Dan Curtis.

The incumbent mayor is seeking a second term in the upcoming municipal election. He’s up against Wilf Carter and Mandeep Sidhu.

Curtis said it took him about a year to get used to the position and fully understand the demands that come with the job.

“I soon realized that all the things I’d suggested and promised during my campaign, well I just didn’t know what the city could afford,” he said.

“I thought I was well-informed. In reality, though, you’re only one of seven votes and they all have different perspectives.

“I’m better equipped now for the position, but every day is a learning curve.”

Curtis said he’s seen the same kind of behaviour from some of the candidates in the run-up to this year’s municipal election.

He’s cautioned a few of them that making unrealistic promises won’t lead anywhere, he said.

“The cheque will bounce,” he said, adding that it would be impractical and even naive to suggest that one person could lower property taxes, for example.

Looking back at his term as mayor, Curtis said he’s especially proud of the relationship the city has developed with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. But a lot of work remains to achieve the same kind of rapport with the Yukon government, he added.

More than one candidate in this year’s crop has criticized the city’s relationship with the territorial government. And it’s no secret Curtis has had a few run-ins with various ministers over the years.

Last year, he lashed out against Brad Cathers over affordable housing, saying the former Community Services minister had tarnished the relationship between both parties.

Cathers was later moved to the Justice portfolio during the government’s cabinet shuffle in January.

In early May, Curtis defended his decision to vote against the government’s plan to build an outdoor sports complex in the Whistle Bend neighbourhood.

He gave Community Services Minister Currie Dixon a tongue-lashing for implying he had single-handedly vetoed the project.

And in the same speech, he scolded Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski for stating that if the city wasn’t amenable to the idea of a sports complex, the next council might be.

A few weeks later, during a city council meeting, Curtis clashed with Education Minister Doug Graham over the future site of the Riverdale skate park.

Curtis was frustrated with not being able to schedule a meeting with Graham over the issue.

“The candidates are saying they want to see better inter-governmental relationships, and I couldn’t agree more,” Curtis said.

“We want to work more closely with them (Yukon government) and it’s getting better. I’ve put out an olive branch - I’ve put out the whole tree to say, ‘Please, let’s work together.’”

Curtis also defended the city’s decision to spend $56 million over the next three years on two new headquarters for city staff. Some of the candidates said they would re-visit the decision, if elected.

Curtis called it the “dark side of politics.”

“Sometimes you’re just looking for something to blame,” he said.

“The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce supports it, we’ve had public input meetings and open forums. I’ve sent the report to more than one candidate.

“I’ve heard it’s not budgeted properly, and it’s unfortunate to have that misinformation out there.”

If re-elected, Curtis said he also wants to focus on the city’s new curbside recycling program. The tender contract is set to be awarded this fall. It’s a big part of the plan to keep diverting as much garbage from the landfill as possible, Curtis added.

In 2013, the city pledged to divert 50 per cent of waste from the landfill by the end of this year. By June this year, waste diversion was up to 33 per cent, but members of council have conceded they won’t meet their goal by the end of the year.

Curtis stopped short of saying it was too lofty a goal.

“We need to find a sustainable, financial plan,” he said.

“We realized we couldn’t go to the businesses and communities and demand 50 per cent diversion and be militant about it. We’re trying to not do too much, too fast, too soon.

“I think 50 per cent is very obtainable, but we have to work with our partners at the Yukon government. More help from them would be very beneficial.”

The municipal election takes place tomorrow. Find a round-up of candidate profiles on the Yukon News website.

Contact Myles Dolphin at