After waiting two years for an official writ to drop, Dawonsites are taking matters into their own hands.
Last week, the Citizens of Dawson Action Group set April 20th as the date for a mock municipal election that will see a symbolic mayor and quartet of councillors voted in to office.
“Senior government is dragging its heels in returning Dawson to its citizens,” said John Steins, spokesperson for the Citizens of Dawson Action Group, a grassroots collective made up of a couple dozen residents working to restore democracy to the town of 1,800.
“We believe most people in town are fed up with the situation, not only the lack of a municipal government, but also the lack of a financial plan,” said Steins. “And we believe senior government is largely responsible for our financial fiasco.”
The vote is a protest and a demand for action from the territory.
“It’s not asking or pleading or cap-in-hand; it’s demanding that they do something for their citizens,” he added.
The symbolic election will run like an official election according to the Municipal Act — a writ will be dropped and candidates will have to gather 50 signatures to be eligible to run.
“We hope that the candidates who take part in the election on the 20th will be excited enough to put their names forward for the real election when that happens,” Steins added.
In April 2004, Community Services minister Glenn Hart placed the town under trusteeship after firing the mayor and council because of Dawson’s untenable finances.
For almost two years Ray Hayes has been acting as municipality trustee.
He voiced support for the group’s action.
“It shows, in some cases, how interested the people are in having an election,” said Hayes Thursday.
“It will also create interest in the community and get people fired up about municipal politics.”
But in terms of a date for the official election, Hayes said he is as much in the dark as the citizens of Dawson.
“I spoke to minister Hart 10 days ago on the issue and he says the government is waiting to see the audited financial statements for 2005.”
The statements are expected to be complete by mid-March, and after reviewing them the government will make a decision on when to hold the election, added Hayes.
“I’m somewhat convinced at this time that YTG is doing everything they can to get an election in Dawson City,” said Association of Yukon Communities president Doug Graham.
“It’s not to their advantage to continue having Dawson without a mayor and council.”
Meanwhile, the Citizens of Dawson Action Group is also drafting a petition to speed an official election.
“The attitude we’re taking is one of citizens telling the government what to do rather than the government telling us what to do, which is an essential tenant of democracy that has been ignored, not only here but other parts of the territory and Canada and the world,” added Steins.