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Municipal race heats up

Several more people have put their name forward as candidates for the city council byelection. Former city councillor Dennis (Duke) Connelly, 81, is coming out retirement to take another stab at municipal politics.

Several more people have put their name forward as candidates for the city council byelection.

Former city councillor Dennis (Duke) Connelly, 81, is coming out retirement to take another stab at municipal politics.

Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, back when it was still called Port Arthur, Connelly spent 23 years in the Canadian Forces.

He moved to the territory after leaving the army to work as a diamond driller and a park warden.

He originally got into city politics because he didn’t like what he saw going on at the time.

“I’m a shit disturber,” said Connelly.

His opinion of city politics hasn’t changed much over the years.

“I think the only one that had any brains in there was Dougie Graham,” he said.

Graham left council last month after winning a seat in the legislature in the recent territorial election.

Connelly wants to see the city show a little more fiscal restraint.

And he’s putting his money where is mouth is.

When he was a city councillor back in the ‘90s, he never drew a salary.

Councillors make a lot more money today, said Connelly. But if he’s elected this time, he still doesn’t plan on cashing any of his paycheques.

“It just means I’d have to pay more taxes,” he said.

Downtown businessman and musician Patrick Singh, 48, is also hoping to win a seat on council.

It’s not his first foray into the political arena.

Singh recently made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the territorial legislature, running as the Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre.

He still has a bunch of “Who’s Your Paddy,” campaign buttons left over. He’s retained the slogan for this election.

Born in London, England, Singh moved to Canada with his family in 1974, settling in Edmonton.

Most of his family is still in Alberta, but Singh has made his home in the Yukon for the past 20 years.

Whitehorse and the Yukon are changing and it’s important that people have a voice and a say in those changes, said Singh.

“I want to make sure that the development of the city goes hand-in-hand with what people want,” he said. “There is a difference between governing and representing people.”

Living with his four-year-old son in the Takhini trailer park, Singh doesn’t think entering public life will change his life very much.

“My world isn’t insular, I’m a very public person,” he said.

In the summer, Singh runs a hotdog stand, and has recently opened a cafe downtown.

“I’m right there, accessible to everybody,” he said.

There are a lot of issues the city faces right now, said Singh.

He’d like to see the city become more sustainable and truly live up to its potential.

“It’s a vibrant and exciting place to be,” he said. “Whitehorse is the point of entry for the territory.

“I’d like to see Main Street and the downtown core become the jewel of the Yukon.”

As a small business owner himself, he’d like to see the city and the territorial government do more to support entrepreneurs.

“We need to build other sectors of our economy, so we’re not so reliant on government and mining,” said Singh.

Ron Pumphrey, also known as Capt’n Ron, is also in the running.

Originally from Newfoundland, the 54-year-old father of four has been in the Yukon since 1996.

But he’s been in the North for much longer.

Before arriving in the Yukon, Pumphrey spent 18 years in the Eastern Arctic.

His resume includes everything from bar manager to land claims negotiator.

Pumphrey also holds a degree in public administration.

He now runs his own taxi service in Whitehorse.

That’s part of the reason he’s running for city council.

The city’s new vehicle for hire bylaw is his main motivation.

“The bylaw is absolutely crazy,” he said.

Under it, all taxis have to have a central dispatcher.

Pumphrey dispatches himself, fielding customer calls with a cellphone from the driver’s seat.

Under the new bylaw, one-man operations like his will become illegal by next year.

He wants more open, public debate and consultation, something he feels is currently lacking.

“I’ll be a common-sense voice on council,” he said. “I won’t be looking at the demographics of where I’m going to get a vote, I’ll be looking at what’s right even if it costs me votes. But it shouldn’t.”

At 26, Martin Lehner is the youngest of the candidates.

Originally from Halifax, Lehner came to the Yukon in 2003 to work for Northwestel.

He’s now a computer tutor for the Yukon Council on Disability and is also a major shareholder in the Iditarod Group, which owns several service-based businesses around Whitehorse, including the Whitehorse Auto Spa and the Yukon Cigar Co.

The city’s economy is growing, and right now it’s showing no signs of slowing down, said Lehner.

“I understand business development and what it takes to create an economy where business can thrive,” he said.

Unlike many of the candidates, he isn’t that critical of city council.

“I think it’s a team that I could see myself working with,” he said.

However, he is critical of how it has managed its growth in recent years.

The city must take more initiative in tackling the housing shortage, and make more lots available for development, he said.

A mix of commercial and residential development along the waterfront is one idea he’s putting forward.

Leaving it stagnant does a disservice to the community, he said.

“It could be our city’s crown jewel.”

They city started accepting nomination packages from prospective candidates on Wednesday.

There are now nine candidates in the running.

The others are Cam Kos, Mike Tribes, Kirk Cameron, Norm Hamilton and Harry Hrebien.

The deadline for nominations is November 10. The election is scheduled for December 1.

Contact Josh Kerr at