Mayors seek clarity in Municipal Act changes

Yukon's municipalities are looking for more clarity when it comes to proposed amendments to the Municipal Act.

Yukon’s municipalities are looking for more clarity when it comes to proposed amendments to the Municipal Act.

That was the message heard by the Association of Yukon Communities at its latest meeting in Whitehorse last weekend, according to president Wayne Potoroka.

Making the law’s language as clear as possible would help avoid potential issues in the future, he said.

“The big takeaway from the meeting was that if there is clarity that needs to be applied to the act, we think we should take the time to do that,” he said.

“It means we won’t have to worry about misunderstandings or legal issues down the road because of the language.”

The Municipal Act, a lengthy document that guides the business of town councils in the territory, came into effect in 1998 and was revised in both 2003 and 2008.

In 2012, the current review of the act began and resulted in 11 proposed amendments.

A few murky issues were raised during the meeting.

The role of the Yukon Municipal Board, for example, isn’t clear to a lot of communities, Potoroka said. One of the changes would remove the board from its role in vetting changes to official community plans.

Revenue sharing was also brought up. Some communities said they want the ability to levy certain fees, but aren’t sure if they can under the current Municipal Act.

One idea that’s been floated in the past is for municipalities to be able to levy a hotel tax.

“The response we got from the government is that yes, that ability is in the act but if we can’t see it, let’s take the time to make sure the wording is right so it’s clear to everyone,” Potoroka said.

Another contentious change would allow city council decisions to be overturned by citizens who launch a counter-petition. This is meant to be an alternative to through a costly plebiscites or referenda.

“We didn’t see that as being a useful tool for municipalities,” Potoroka said.

“People can talk to us on the street, or phone us, and we’re accessible 24 hours a day just by leaving our house. We felt there were enough tools and mechanisms already in place to allow citizens to say their piece.”

Last, local advisory councils, which represent non-incorporated communities, have told the association they want more say and control in the direction of their communities, Potoroka said.

“What’s we’re hearing is that where the capacity exists, they want a stronger hand on the tiller in setting direction for their area,” he said.

The AYC finished drafting a response to the proposed amendments this week and will submit them to the Yukon government soon, said Potoroka.

The government is also gathering feedback from individual municipalities. It says it will look all these comments over in the coming months before making any final decisions.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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