Lang avoids municipal dogfight

As Community Services Minister, Archie Lang has "presided over the decay of local democracy," according to the NDP's Steve Cardiff.

As Community Services Minister, Archie Lang has “presided over the decay of local democracy,” according to the NDP’s Steve Cardiff.

Cardiff offered these harsh words on October 27 while asking Lang why he hadn’t intervened in spats between residents and municipal governments that turned into lengthy, expensive court battles.

The best-known case is Marriane Darragh’s failed campaign to turn McLean Lake into a protected park to stop a proposed concrete batch plant.

Darragh collected more than 2,500 signatures with the aim to trigger a municipal referendum on the matter. But the city of Whitehorse fought the petition through the courts, and eventually won. The BC Court of Appeal ruled that referenda can’t overrule planning matters spelled out in the city’s Official Community Plan, which is changed through another public process.

As minister, Lang could have called on the Yukon Municipal Board to help resolve the dispute, said Cardiff. Or Lang could have asked the territory’s ombudsman for help.

Instead, “He sat on the sidelines,” said Cardiff.

Lang supports the court decision. “They made a decision and the government stands by that decision,” said Lang.

“Everyone has a right to go to court,” Lang added. “I’m not going to pick winners or losers in that.”

That didn’t impress Cardiff. “If the courts ordered (Lang) to jump off a cliff, he might even do it,” he said.

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