The future financial viability of rural Yukon communities is not an emergency for Archie Lang.
Fixes are in the works – sometime in the next three years, said the Community Services minister.
“This government is very concerned about the viability of our communities,” said Lang, addressing a roomful of mayors and municipal officials at the Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting in Haines Junction on Friday.
“And we’re prepared to take action.”
There will be much talking, as Yukon officials consult with their municipal counterparts. The Comprehensive Municipal Grants will be tweaked, but there was scant information about how much communities will get.
And, in the runup to a territorial election later this year, Lang was doling out other goodies, suggesting the territory will take over emergency services throughout rural Yukon – a “massive transfer of responsibility.”
Just what that would look like, Lang wouldn’t say.
“I envision doing it community by community,” he said “I’m looking at a time line of 36 months.”
As well, the government is going to open up the Municipal Act for review, and set deadlines to review it in the future reviews every five years. Again, no firm dates were given.
A review is something Whitehorse Coun. Doug Graham has heard before.
“We’ve had three stabs at revising it but the Yukon government backed off. said Graham. “Are we going to have meaningful change – not just scrape the top and make everyone feel better and go away?”
The association also released Our Towns, Our Future, a laundry list of 75 community wants and needs paid for by the Yukon government.
“There’s nothing here that any municipality will adamantly oppose,” said Paul Moore, a representative of the Yukon government who sat on the report’s review committee. “There are some areas where we would have liked to make some bolder statements, but we wanted to find a common base.”
There was some concern that the scope of the report was too broad.
“A report with 75 findings won’t accomplish much,” said Dawson City Mayor Peter Jenkins, who was disappointed there was no mention of a unified accounting system for municipalities.
Without such a system it’s difficult to make comparisons between communities, he said.
He also thought some of the recommendations were a little short on details.
“It’s a good start, but let’s get out of the fluff and deal with reality,” said Jenkins.
“There is certainly more in there than we can tackle, but it’s what the communities said,” said Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway, defending the report. “To leave something out would be an error of omission, and they’d get flack for that too.”
A tentative date has been set for another meeting in late June when decision will be made on what findings should take priority.
“I worry we may go for the easy ones first,” she said. “We have to pick the harder ones or we’ll never get to them.”
“It’s time to roll up our sleeves.”
The Yukon government said it was prepared to start right away.
Both the NDP and the Liberals said that they were prepared to continue the work.
“Regardless of the next government this should move forward,” said Yukon Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
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