Liard First Nation nearly tops list of tax deadbeats

The Liard First Nation owes nearly $71,000 in property taxes to Watson Lake.

The Liard First Nation owes nearly $71,000 in property taxes to Watson Lake.

This means the First Nation has the unsightly distinction of being Watson Lake’s number-two tax deadbeat, according to a list of property owners in arrears published this week.

It’s second only to South Yukon Forest Corporation, which owes $184,136 for taxes on a lot parcel found at kilometre 1,022.5 of the Alaska Highway. The company was the owner and operator of a short-lived sawmill, which opened in 1998, only to shutter in 2000.

But it’s the First Nation’s arrears that will prove most interesting to many, because the properties in question are tied up in a controversy that involves three hotels, one cabinet minister and almost $3 million in federal funds.

The Liard First Nation bought the Belvedere Motor Hotel, Watson Lake Hotel and Gateway Motor Inn in June of 2007. The First Nation financed the purchase with its $2.83-million share of the federal Northern Housing Trust, with the promise that it would convert part of one hotel into affordable housing, according to the First Nation’s consolidated financial statements.

But more than two and a half years later, no affordable housing is available at the hotels. The Watson Lake Hotel is shut, its windows boarded up or smashed by vandals.

Chief Liard McMillan insists the federal housing money was never used to buy the hotels. He expects the public to take his word – he won’t release documents to substantiate his claim.

Plans to build affordable housing in part of the Watson Lake Hotel had to be put on hold because of the economic downturn, he has said. But nine houses have been built with the housing money and three more are on the way, according to him.

The Yukon government administered the funds, but released the money with few reporting requirements. With so few rules in place, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said there would be little for her to investigate.

Neither McMillan nor Alex Morrison, CEO of the First Nation’s development corporation, responded to calls about the tax arrears before press time.

The First Nation’s name doesn’t grace Watson Lake’s list of tax deadbeats because the properties are registered under a numbered company that is controlled by the First Nation’s development corporation.

An advertisement taken out by Watson Lake warns that those in arrears have two months to pay up before legal action is taken. But, in practice, the town prefers diplomacy over legal strong-arm tactics, said Jerry Bruce, Watson Lake’s acting chief administrative officer.

Some title holders have sat on Watson Lake’s arrears list for a decade, so it’s unlikely that the hotel doors will be padlocked any time soon.

Liard First Nation is also fighting the taxman in federal court. In July of 2009, the court ordered Yukon’s sheriffs to seize property from the First Nation’s development corporation for $43,404.12 owed in income taxes.

It remains unclear how this dispute ended. The sheriff’s office won’t say. Nor will officials at Revenue Canada, because of concerns of client confidentiality.

But the First Nation’s consolidated financial statements for 2007 describe how, since March of that year, Revenue Canada has pursued the First Nation for more than $2.2 million in payroll taxes deducted from employees from 1999 to 2003. The First Nation maintains that Ottawa had granted it a “moratorium” on paying taxes. The disputed status of this tax ban is one of many reasons why the First Nation is suing the federal government, according to the financial statements.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read