Pat Berrel might be retired, but that doesn’t mean that he’s stopped working.
The 61-year-old former principal works for number of committees and organizations, but now he wants to add another position to the list: Whitehorse city councillor.
“I’d like to be able to be part of the change and work with a team to create what I think is one of the best cities in the world,” he said. “(Whitehorse) is a beautiful place to live, but right now it is very difficult.”
The shortage of rental housing hurts local businesses, which have trouble finding and keeping employees, and the city as a whole.
“These are our kids that can’t come back here unless they’re living with their parents, because they can’t afford to rent or unless they’ve got six or seven people living in the small place,” he said. “That’s wrong. We have to change it, one way or another.”
His own son, who at 23 is still living at home because he can’t find a place on his own, is about to leave for school in B.C.
“He’s thinking that he’s just going to stay down south because (the housing situation) here is just too abusive.”
Working closely with city managers, as the chair of the city’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, has given Berrel confidence in the city’s ability to solve the housing issue.
“I’m really impressed with the level of professionalism and the quality of the people that sit around that table,” he said.
But the city can’t do it alone. To solve that problem is going to take all levels of government, federal territorial, First Nation and municipal, to do it, he said.
“If we bring all of those powers together to problem-solve, then I think we have a chance.”
He is well suited to such a dialogue, said Berrel.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m tenacious.”
While Berrel supports development in general, and applauds the city’s commitment to infilling existing neighbourhoods, he remains adamantly opposed to developing the Porter Creek D subdivision near McIntyre Creek.
“That’s not going to be affordable housing,” he said. “If you want to develop Porter Creek D, don’t vote for me, because I will vote against it.”
Originally from France, Berrel came to Canada as a young child after his widowed mother married a Canadian soldier.
He lived all over the country but settled in Manitoba, where he worked as an educator for 22 years.
With two young children in tow, Berrel and his wife moved to Whitehorse in 1989 where he took a job as principal of Whitehorse Elementary School.
Both the school and the territory were a natural fit, he said.
The city could do a better job of promoting itself as a tourist destination abroad, said Berrel.
With direct flights from Frankfurt, Whitehorse has been successful at bringing in German tourists, but there is an untapped market just next door in Northern France, said Berrel.
The city should create a partnership with the tourism section of l’Association franco-yukonnaise, he said.
“They’re ready to go,” said Berrel. “I know the community. I could create some interesting liaisons with the community to create that kind of partnership.”
This is the second time that Berrel has run for city council. He made an unsuccessful bid in the byelection last year, coming in sixth place.
With all six council seats up for grabs this year, Berrel is hopeful about his prospects this time around.
But whether he wins or loses, Berrel is committed to making
Whitehorse a better place to live.
“I love this place,” he said. “I’ve been here for 20 years. I’m now retired, but I’m not going to Victoria or Vancouver, I’m staying here.”
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