Despite new growth, long-standing issues of housing and dog control remain the focus in Carmacks’ municipal election.
Mayor Elaine Wyatt has been acclaimed for a third term, while five candidates are vying for four council seats.
Karen Gage, Lee Bodie and Tara Wheeler are seeking re-election. Pat McKenny and Tracy Burns are running for the first time.
“I think right now Carmacks is in a process. We’re trying to seek direction from the community about which direction we should go,” said Wyatt.
The village needs it. More young families have moved to Carmacks in recent years, she said. Mining could be a large reason.
There are 54 companies doing exploration work near the municipality, said Lee Bodie, who is seeking his third-consecutive term on council. Western Copper and Gold’s massive Casino project, about 70 kilometres away from the community, has said it expects to be fully operating in the next four years, he said.
It’s only a “matter of time” before other companies do the same, he said. This makes creating more housing a top priority.
“We’re going to be caught with our pants down if we don’t react and do something,” he said.
Karen Gage thinks growth should happen naturally.
“I think some of these mining companies that are opening are capable of housing their employees at their mine sites,” she said.
“As long as we can house our residents, then we’re not going to end up like a ghost town when the bust comes, like what happened in Faro a couple of years ago,” she said. The former municipal clerk is seeking her second consecutive council term. She’s served on council twice before.
While candidates agree Carmacks is a great place to live, finding a home there is difficult. With the Yukon River running through town, and Mount Mason and Free Gold Mountain nearby, there’s very little room to grow.
“The vacancy rate here is zero,” said Bodie. Yukon Housing Corporation has social housing units in Carmacks, but people must live in Carmacks for a year before they are eligible for them. And then they have to meet income requirements for housing, he said. Some employers are able to provide housing for their workers.
Bodie, the manager of the Tatchun Centre, understands the housing shortage all too well. After his home burnt down in February, he had a place to stay because he was working at the hotel. He was able to stay there for six months. He now lives in a single-bedroom suite while his home is being constructed.
“There’s social housing and staff housing,” said Pat McKenny. “And to meet those two criteria, it’s not always an easy fix.” McKenny moved to Carmacks four years ago and only found a place to stay because she knew someone.
Tracy Burns, who works as a social worker, agreed housing should be a priority. “Yukon Housing doesn’t work for everybody,” she said.
Council explored the idea of building units and renting them out, said Bodie. But that option wasn’t feasible.
Its small tax base makes generating revenue difficult. Neither the mayor nor council candidates want to raise taxes.
It’s a “spotted” community, said Gage. Residents of Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation also live within the municipal boundaries. They pay taxes to the territory.
“So you can’t really do a lot with our tax base and our hands are kind of tied, and we’re sort of crippled that way,” said Wyatt.
This means the two councils must continue to work together to serve everyone in the community.
Carmacks residents and the First Nation have problems with dogs running loose.
“It’s sort of like potholes. It’s the issue that’s foremost and is right there,” said Wyatt.
There’s no bylaw officer. And if dogs were caught, there’s no room in the shelter for them, said Tara Wheeler.
Neither the municipality nor First Nation can afford to hire an officer on their own. Mayor and council have been working for years to address the problem.
“An animal control bylaw needs to happen right away,” said Wheeler. Veterinarians offered spay-and-neuter clinics in Carmacks earlier this year. But dogs still run loose.
Residents are also concerned about the landfill.
In many ways, the Carmacks landfill is “ahead of the game” when it comes to waste collection, said Wyatt. They’ve been separating garbage, monitoring wells and they have a recycling centre there. But there needs to be ways to operate the site more efficiently.
It’s a top priority for McKenny, who helped secure the funding needed to move the recycling depot to the landfill.
“A lot of waste could be converted to recycling that isn’t,” she said.
People who don’t live in Yukon Housing, staff housing or are not members of the First Nation bring their own waste to the landfill on designated days. The city may consider starting residential pickup. The landfill’s hours may also be extended. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Landfill user fees may also be considered. Costs at the recreation centre may be covered the same way.
“Recreation needs to be treated as a necessity,” said Wyatt. The skating rink needs repairs. Besides increasing community health, recreation can be a form of tourism, said McKenny.
Tracy Burns agrees. The mother of two moved to Carmacks two years ago. She would like to see more team sports available.
Gage agrees that the skating rink needs upgrades.
“But we’re only two hours away from Whitehorse,” she said. People can drive to the capital to go skating if they’re gifted in that area. The cost of maintaining things like an indoor skating rink or pool is “not realistic for a small town.”
The community needs to continue to work together. “Things are doable if we put our heads together. And it doesn’t have to be something spectacular and humungous. It can just be something that’s effective for our community.”
Municipal elections are Oct. 18.
Contact Meagan Gillmore at