Whitehorse’s next mayor and council face many challenges and unique responsibilities.
There is the upcoming Canada Winter Games.
The over-budget Games centre.
The lack of housing lots.
Industrial development … the list grows.
Four have stepped up to vie for the mayor’s job — a restaurateur, a cabbie, a consultant and an insurance broker.
And eight will jockey for six council seats.
The election is Thursday.
Here’s a brief bio of each candidate and what they hope to accomplish if elected:
“We have to recognize decisions we make today will have huge impacts 30 or 40 years down the road, and we have to recognize what those impacts will be.”
With things like the Canada Games Centre, Games planning, trail networks and waterfront development, this council has done a lot, said Ernie Bourassa, the incumbent two-term mayor.
“There’s an awful lot of good stuff going on — I think the city’s never looked better,” he said.
The next few years will see a raft of long-term city projects completed, and he wants to be there to guide them through.
“I made a commitment when I started that I would see the Canada Games through, having been there from the get-go,” said Bourassa.
There’s the infrastructure development on First Avenue and improvements to the city’s waterfront.
And there’s the $18.5 million coming to Whitehorse in federal gas-tax funding that must be doled out around the city to improve its infrastructure.
Bourassa’s first priority is upgrading roads in Marwell and the Industrial area to encourage more businesses to set up shop.
“It should have been done years ago, frankly, and we’ve never had the funding to do it,” he said.
Then he’d look at Old Town and start replacing the water and sewer lines.
As for land development, Bourassa would have the city take a longer-term view of planning.
“We’ve already accomplished an awful lot with the land-use protocol,” he said of the newly-inked agreement with the territory outlining which government will be responsible for different aspects of development.
“It’s a huge change in how we do things and bodes well for lessening the conflicts that we’ve had over the last number of years.”
He’d also push to up the building height restriction from six to eight storeys in some downtown areas to increase density and solve the housing crunch.
“The time has come, land is too scarce in this community, especially in the downtown area,” said Bourassa.
As a businessperson and insurance broker for nearly 20 years, Bourassa learned to deal with people.
And after six years in the mayor’s seat, he’s eager for another three, he said.
“No more outside consulting unless absolutely necessary; I think we’re smart enough to figure it out on our own and it’ll save city money.”
Infill development, improving transit, controlling traffic and revisiting the city’s smoking bylaw top the list of issues mayoral candidate Robert Barry wants to tackle.
“People in Whitehorse want to see a change and I thought the time was right to run,” he said on Thursday.
Although careful to not “make any promises he can’t keep,” Barry has a list of changes he’d make to the city’s current traffic system.
He’d slow down Second Avenue to make it safer for pedestrians, add another lane to the bridge linking Riverdale and downtown to ease congestion and replace the four-way stop in the industrial area with a traffic light to cut wait times.
And, of course, there are a few places he’d make sure were left alone.
He doesn’t want to see any more traffic circles installed, and he’d make sure Fourth Avenue stays as it is.
Then there’s land development, where Barry says the city should revisit its plan to infill areas that have already been developed.
It should only be looking at untapped areas, like the lower bench in Porter Creek, down the road if needed, he added.
Barry also wants to revisit the smoking bylaw.
“How it was put into effect was wrong; it was basically shoved down our throats,” he said.
“The problem is that bars and restaurants we’re never even given a chance to put in a smoking room,” said Barry.
“As an adult, you go into a bar and you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Currently Barry works at the airport as a baggage handler and he “makes sure the planes get off safe.”
After 18 years in the airline industry, and owning and operating a cab for another 10, Barry knows how to deal with people.
And that’s important for elected office.
Anybody that makes a comment or is a critic has it in them to be a politician, he said.
“Communication is the currency of leadership.”
After three years in council, Bev Buckway has the “background and the experience” to challenge Bourassa for his full-time gig.
Why give her the job?
Just look at the record, said Buckway.
She has a 94-per-cent attendance rate at council meetings.
She’s heavily researched the issues and made site visits.
“And I’ve listened to what people have to say and responded to the concerns they present which means lots of phone calls and lots of e-mails,” she said.
“That’s what I’d like to take forward on a full-time basis. I’d like to continue that work and not have to balance it with another job.”
And by vying for the mayor’s chair Buckway has “upped the ante,” she said.
But Buckway sees a bright future for land development in the city with the newly inked agreement with the territory.
And the Canada Games Centre?
“We have people choosing not to use it, but we also had people that chose not to use the Millennium Trail and the arts centre and they’re missing out on a lot of things,” she said.
For her, communication is key.
First, relations with the territory and First Nations must be improved. Both are big landowners in the city.
“If you can sit and talk, you can alleviate the crisis before it becomes a crisis.”
She runs a consulting business called Buckway at Large and is currently helping a friend start a tourism business.
She was born in the Yukon in the “old, old hospital” and spent 10 years in Beaver Creek.
“I certainly have the community experience and understand how Whitehorse, as a city, is important to the rural communities.”
She’s been volunteering for 33 years.
“What I want to bring is a strong and different approach to leadership,” said Buckway.
You must maintain a dialogue with all members of your group and keep people informed, said Buckway.
She learned this through work with the Rotary Club, as president, and as a board member of Crossroads Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centre.
“I’m not running on my issues, I’m running on your issues and your neighbour’s issues.”
Ray Kitz has been serving the city in many capacities for decades.
Now he hopes to bring his experience to the mayor’s office.
“I think there are some things that must be addressed and maybe a new perspective could be helpful,” he said Thursday.
“I’m an employer and an employee, a landlord and a homeowner, I get to see municipal politics from all angles,” he said.
Kitz has a handle on what the city needs after a six-year stint as a engineering technician with the federal government.
And, as a firefighter for 28 years, he built the skills to thrive under pressure and has more than a dash of common sense, which may be the most important thing, said Kitz.
Tops on his list of concerns are the fate of the Canada Games Centre and the lack of building lots, both residential and commercial.
“The city must come to an agreement with YTG to take over land within city limits, so then you have one less layer of government to deal with when you decide to develop.”
As an entrepreneur, Kitz wants to see the process for starting a business streamlined.
And, although crime prevention falls under federal and territorial jurisdictions, the city does see its share of petty crime, which must be addressed, he said.
As for his political experience?
“Since age 21, I’ve been a voter,” he said with a smile.
He has sat on a board at Ecole Emilie Tremblay, and was president of the Whitehorse Firefighters’ Association for six years.
Now, Kitz is a co-owner of the Whitehorse restaurant La Gourmandise with his partner Karen, who refers to him as the “quality-control guy,” which means tasting all of the food.
“We refer to each other as 49-51,” he said with a smile.
“A long time ago I realized that 50-50 doesn’t work — if you have a decision somebody has to make it.”