Two Mounties in official red serge flanked a gaggle of politicians at the ground breaking ceremony for a new recreation centre in Dawson City, just days before the election was called in September of 2011.
Today the government says that loudly trumpeted affair was no campaign promise.
Multiple levels of government were represented. One person had a shovel.
But the government says that doesn’t make it a campaign promise.
Dawsonites have been dealing with problems at the Art and Margaret Fry Recreation Centre for years. According to a 2009 report, the building, which includes a hockey arena and a curling rink, was built on melting permafrost.
The Yukon government has promised millions of dollars to fix the current building, but so far only about a million has been spent by the city.
Liberal Leader Sandy Silver brought up the promise to build a new recreation centre Wednesday in the legislature.
The ceremony was held just a month before Silver beat incumbent Yukon Party MLA Steve Nordick for the Klondike riding.
“Before the 2011 election, the Yukon Party candidate in the Klondike held a sod-turning ceremony with the former Yukon Party Minister of Community Services (Archie Lang) to begin construction of a new recreation centre in Dawson. Three years into the government’s mandate, the long-standing Yukon Party commitment to build that rec centre has fallen off the table,” Silver said.
“This year’s budget contains no funding, and nothing is mentioned in the long-term plan either. Has the government broken this promise to my community?”
Premier Darrell Pasloski dodged the question, instead listing off projects in Dawson the government has spent money on: the new hospital, Macdonald Lodge and “special asphalt that came all the way from France.”
Minister of Community Services Brad Cathers suggested that promises made by the former Yukon Party MLA hold little weight with the current Yukon Party government.
“I would point out that what the member is referring to is a commitment made by a previous MLA of something he would work for, but it is also not something that is part of a platform commitment. For the member to suggest that we’re not keeping our commitments, the member is absolutely wrong. What we are doing is continuing to work with the City of Dawson.”
Silver referred to a September 2011 Whitehorse Star article that covered the ceremony.
“What we saw in the newspaper was a sod-turning ceremony with the Minister of Community Services and also the candidate for Klondike. If that’s not a campaign commitment, well I don’t know what is,” Silver said.
“Let’s recap. The Yukon Party candidate in Dawson – he ran a platform on building a new recreation centre. He lost and the government now is refusing to honour that commitment.”
Cathers did not respond to an interview request.
Cabinet spokesperson Elaine Schiman said she’s seen the photo – including Nordick, Lang, the Mounties and the shovel – and read the corresponding article.
“But I can’t vouch for anything that was said at that time … That was prior to the election. That was reported on Sept. 7 and I believe the election was called on the 9th so it was a couple of days before the election was actually called. What I can vouch for really is what is in our platform document.”
That platform does not include a new recreation centre for Dawson City. It does commit to improving the recreation infrastructure that is already there.
In 2009 the Yukon government announced $4 million in funding assistance over five years for Dawson to improve the current centre.
According to community services spokesperson Ben Yu Schott the money is for structural repairs, renovations and safety improvements to the existing centre.
The municipality manages the project, meaning it decides how to spend the money. It submits annual plans to a joint committee outlining the work that will be done.
To date, the municipality has accessed $1,058,688.74, and the 2014-2015 work plan budget is for $636,000, according to Yu Schott.
The agreement has been extended to March 2017.
Meanwhile, a new study has recommended an estimated $12.5 million worth of work.
A report by Stantec from February of this year suggests knocking down and rebuilding the curling rink, building a new ice plant and renovating the hockey arena and administration building.
Contact Ashley Joannou at