Peter Jenkins wants to be mayor of Dawson City again.
He’s challenging incumbent John Steins in what promises to be one of the most colourful match-ups in Yukon’s upcoming municipal elections.
Jenkins served as mayor for 14 years before becoming the Klondike’s MLA for a decade. At one point, he was Yukon’s deputy premier.
“There’s a lot of people who have asked me to run again,” said Jenkins. “The town’s been in the doldrums for a while.”
The way Jenkins tells it, Dawson City still hasn’t recovered from its past financial woes that led the Yukon government to oust its council and administration in 2004, after the territory found the city deep in debt and uncovered evidence that the mayor and administration of the day had misspent nearly $200,000.
But times have changed since then, said Steins, an artist by trade who was elected in 2006.
The city’s no longer teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. And it enjoys better relations with the territorial government, he said, resulting in repairs to the recreation centre and ongoing work to build a sewage treatment plant.
“The morale in town is a lot better than three years ago, and mayor and council should be credited with that,” said Steins.
Not that Steins is happy with all of the Yukon government’s work. He has butted heads with Steve Nordick, the Klondike’s current MLA, over the paving of Front Street. Steins worries the smooth asphalt may jeopardize Dawson’s hope of becoming recognized as a United Nations heritage site.
Jenkins amassed his share of controversies during his political career. But that’s never stopped him from being re-elected.
He’s still known to some as Pirate Pete, a nickname he earned with his scheme to provide free satellite television for Dawson’s residents while he was mayor.
He did so by purchasing a residential satellite subscription under the names of long-dead pioneers and broadcasting the signal for free.
“That was the wish of the electorate,” he said. “So we put in television.”
Earlier, he spent six months in prison for perjury in the 1970s, when his hotel was found to be stealing electricity.
And he had an acrimonious break with the Yukon Party in 2005, which resulted in Jenkins quitting cabinet to sit as an independent for a year before sitting out the 2006 election.
The split was caused by Jenkins owing the territorial government $300,000 in loans, according to Premier Dennis Fentie. But Jenkins has denied this is why he left the Yukon Party.
A collection agency was called in to recover the overdue loans Jenkins, and others, owed the government.
The biggest controversy Steins has faced during his term as mayor has to do him airing concerns that Dawson’s gas stations are gouging customers with inflated prices.
Council recently censured Steins for his comments, after the wife of a gas station owner complained at a meeting about the mayor’s remarks.
Council also passed a motion that asked that the mayor and council not make public remarks about gas prices. But Steins stands by his remarks.
“I’m stopped continually in the street and congratulated for bringing that up,” he said. “One person jumped out of her car and gave me a bouquet of flowers. I’m serious.”
And he doesn’t plan to become less outspoken.
“I can’t do that,” he said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. What you see is what you get.”
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