Stella Martin poses for a photo on the bank of the Yukon River on May 19 holding the article about Whitehorse in 2020 written by her father Frank Mooney and published in the Yukon News in 1986. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Man reflects on time spent as part of think tank predicting 2020

Mooney says it was a good experience

In 1986, Frank Mooney took part in a think tank that aimed to look at what Whitehorse and the Yukon could look like in 2020.

Mooney, now 94, and his daughter Stella Martin spoke with the News on May 20 to go over his experience on the Action Committee of the City of Whitehorse and see how close the group’s vision was to 2020.

The committee was comprised of approximately 20 people. Mooney was not able to remember who participated but he did say the committee was made up of colourful characters from a variety of backgrounds and points of view.

“There were a lot of people involved who saw a different vision for Whitehorse and Yukon,” Mooney said.

He said the discussions were friendly and there was always time for a laugh. Mooney felt these meetings were productive.

“Oh yes,” Mooney said.

Mooney had difficultly remembering why he joined the think thank. Martin said her father was once the regional manager of the Northern Canada Power Commission in the 1970s and she figured this experience made him a viable candidate for the committee.

She adds that he had experience working with First Nations and was part of the Aishihik Power Plant construction.

She said that her father was an active member of Whitehorse’s Rotary Club and very involved in the community.

“They might have thought he was a good candidate,” Martin said.

Mooney could not remember any specific discussions from that time. He did say the discussions were general in nature and involved “a lot of people”.

Martin remembered her father sharing some of the topics. She recalled the subject of developing the waterfront so people could walk along the banks of the Yukon River in Whitehorse.

She could not say for sure, but she feels the Millennium Trail has similarities with how the waterfront was envisioned.

“All that is certainly here now,” Martin said.

The committee was a group that aimed to look at the economic development, the environment and recreation in Whitehorse and the territory. Mooney said things were changing during that time as the economy was diversifying away from relying so much on mining.

Martin added that the group was looking at the tourism industry as well as trying to predict what the population would be come 2020. The group estimated that Whitehorse would have a population of 30,000 by 2020. This prediction came true with the Yukon Bureau of Statistics finding the city has a population of 31,161 in June 2019, according to the bureau’s Yukon Monthly Statistical Review.

“I think that’s about where we’re at,” Martin said.

Martin provided a clipping from the Yukon News of a letter Mooney wrote on Oct. 8, 1986. According to the letter, the committee figured the territory’s population would grow to approximately 60,000. The Yukon did not reach that mark, with the same bureau review finding the territory having a population of 39,968.

On tourism, the group estimated that it would be a $250 million dollar industry. According to Tourism Yukon’s 2018 Year-End Report, retail sales attributed to tourism totalled $833.5million and restaurant receipts totalled $77.3 million.

The group figured there would be an increase in solar energy and hydroponics in the city and territory by 2020.

On the environmental front, the group estimated that there would be warmer seasons based on changes already observed.

Martin added that there was a prediction that the territory would be producing 50 per cent of its food. This included people having large gardens. She is unsure how this turned out.

Not every idea saw the light of day. The group’s report contained a suggestion of moving the Whitehorse Law Centre to a new unnamed location and using the building as some kind of First Nations cultural centre.

Overall, Mooney felt more of the group’s predictions came to pass than did not. He added that the city has changed so much that there are times where it can be hard to recognize.

Martin pointed out that when her family first moved to Whitehorse in October 1970, there were only two sets of traffic lights. They were along Main Street at Second and Forth Avenues.

Mooney moved his family to Whitehorse, including his wife and their eight kids, when he got his job for the federal government at the power commission.

Martin indicated that the Alaska Highway has changed a lot since then, being less windy and paved now.

Mooney said he stayed in the Yukon because it gave him an appreciation of Canadian history. He explained it was the mountains; rivers and lakes that gave him the appreciation.

He said he thinks people may be interested in joining a think tank looking to the future but figures people are more focused on the country as a whole.

He adds that back in 1986 no one had ever though that a virus like COVID-19 would be circulating and having profound impacts on the world.

“This caught them (everyone) by surprise,” Mooney said.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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Stella Martin poses for a photo on the bank of the Yukon River on May 19 holding the article about Whitehorse in 2020 written by her father Frank Mooney and published in the Yukon News in 1986. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

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