Dawson mayor muzzled

Dawson City Mayor John Steins should stop complaining about gas prices, says an early August resolution by Dawson City councillors.

Dawson City Mayor John Steins should stop complaining about gas prices, says an early August resolution by Dawson City councillors.

Dawson City gas stations are “unconscionably gouging” their customers, Steins told the News in late July.

The article “raised the ire of one gas station operator who sent his wife to our town council meeting Tuesday to complain,” wrote Steins on his online Mayor’s Blog.

The delegation gave Steins a thorough “chewing out,” he said.

“‘The mayor doesn’t have an opinion,’‘How dare I?,’‘I should take out a full-page ad to apologize,’ and so on and so forth,” said Steins.

In response, Dawson City council passed a resolution stating the “council remain neutral on any debate on Dawson gas prices.”

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a complaint,” said Steins.

“It’s a stupid resolution,” said Andre Carrel, Dawson City’s former financial administrator.

“It exposes council to ridicule more than anything else,” he said.

The Yukon Municipal Act doesn’t provide any specifics for muzzling an outspoken mayor.

“If the mayor were to ignore (the resolution), there’s nothing the council could do about it,” said Carrel.

However, Stein’s actions could be justified by a mayoral obligation to “consider the well-being and interests of the municipality as a whole.”

Steins wrote that he will “certainly continue” criticizing Dawson’s retail gas prices, in an August 7 blog post.

“Each councillor has the right to voice an opinion on anything, at least that’s how I see it,” said Steins.

“You shouldn’t go out of your way to stir things up, but that particular issue is important to me,” he said.

In the days since the meeting, Steins says he has been assailed with phone calls and comments from Dawsonites expressing their support.

“I’ve had one person jump out with a bouquet of flowers,” said Steins.

Barring the fly-in community of Old Crow, Dawson gas prices remain the highest in the territory.

Gas stations have largely justified the higher prices as being due to “freight costs.”

However, Dawson prices can be up to 30 cents higher than in Whitehorse.

Therefore, a highway trip of only 532 kilometres, is causing a litre of gas to jump in value by up to 30 per cent.

For a 37,500-litre truck, that amounts to a premium of more than $10,000 – or $18 per kilometre.

“If council had passed a motion to educate itself and provide real information to the community on how gas pricing actually works … I think that would have been more helpful than simply telling the mayor to shut up,” said Carrel.

“It should not matter whether you sell turnips or gas, you should expect that customers will question the price of goods,” read a comment on the Mayor’s Blog.

“Is the mayor allowed to comment about bread prices? Coffee prices? Or is it strictly oil?” said Carrel.

In 2001, Toronto’s former mayor Mel Lastman travelled to Mombasa, Kenya, to secure the Ontario city’s bid for the 2008 summer Olympics.

Right before setting out, he quipped to a reporter, “What the hell do I want to go to a place like Mombasa? … I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”

The remark met with universal condemnation, and was rumoured to have jeopardized the city’s Olympic bid.

Toronto city councillors were open in criticizing their mayor.

But, they didn’t pass a motion forbidding him to speak.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com

Pull Quote”It’s a stupid resolution. It exposes council to ridicule more than anything else.” Andre Carrel/Pull Quote