Irwin offers council experiences in business and trades

Betty Irwin likes a challenge. When she signed up for an electronic repair course in 1970 and was turned away because she was a woman, she didn't back down.

Betty Irwin likes a challenge.

When she signed up for an electronic repair course in 1970 and was turned away because she was a woman, she didn’t back down.

She eventually became the first woman in Canada to get her licence in television and radio repair. And since then, she’s owned three repair businesses in Whitehorse and co-founded Yukon Women in Trades and Technology to draw other women into trades.

It is that same sort of ambition that prompted Irwin to run for city council this year.

“I love the challenge and the feeling of building something,” she said.

Many of the principles she learned while running her own business, such as budgeting and accounting, she would apply to council if elected, she said.

But city council itself shouldn’t be treated like a business, she said.

“A business’s overriding purpose is to make profit. I don’t think government should have that in mind at all.

“The purpose of government is to take care of its citizens.”

Even though profit shouldn’t be its ultimate goal, better management of city funds is always something citizens can benefit from, she said.

Irwin has already spent time poring over city budgets, looking at ways it could re-organize some of its finances.

“One of the jobs of city council is to look at these budgets very closely. And I think more searching questions have to be asked.”

The city needs to look for alternate ways to raise revenue outside of property taxes, she said. This includes searching for opportunities to lease out city services.

The city already rents specialty trucks to Watson Lake, she said. She wonders whether a similar situation could be put in place for landfill waste transferred to the city from Tagish and Teslin.

“Is YTG paying Whitehorse for these services? It’s going to be expensive – is this something that could be looked at (to raise money)?” she said.

City development carried out in “a responsible and logical” manner is another important issue for Irwin.

“If the population continues to grow, we’ll need more housing developments and any plan should have provisions for high density,” she said.

“We can’t keep sprawling all over the countryside.”

Irwin, who lives in Mary Lake, wants to see that the principles of the Official Community Plan are carefully adhered to.

When it comes time to developing the waterfront, a city plan that has been “on the back burner” for a long time, there will be serious issues to be considered, she said.

“We’ll really have to be careful – any time you dig up acres of land it impacts the environment.”

She recognizes that change and development are unavoidable, but believes development must be done responsibly.

Irwin was program co-ordinator for Yukon Women in Trades and Technology until 2008.

She is currently vice-chair of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues and the co-ordinator of the Trades Exploration Program for Women at Yukon College.

Contact Vivian Belik at