With his Quebecois accent, no one is going to mistake Jean-Sebastien Blais for a lifelong Yukoner, but he’s still hopeful about his prospects in the municipal election this fall.
Blais is running for a seat on Whitehorse city council.
“I just want to be seen as a guy who wants to give back to his community,” he said. “I know it’s a cliche, but what can you do?”
It’s the first time the 34-year-old father of two has run for office, though politics has been a lifelong passion, he said.
“I see city council as an opportunity to contribute positively to the city,” said Blais.
With a master’s degree in political science, specializing in public consultation, from University of Laval and experience working for a public consultation firm in Toronto, Blais said he’d like to help the city improve the way it communicates with the public. Putting up ads and holding a public meeting is not the most effective way of consulting with the public, said Blais.
“Hardly anybody shows up and the people that do either want to kill the project or want to cheer for the project,” he said.
In that kind of adversarial environment, “it’s difficult to have a good discussion on the future of the city.”
Improving the process would likely slow things down but it often leads to better outcomes, he said.
He’d also like to see the city work to improve infrastructure to better ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, especially in the winter.
Along Wann Road, near where he lives in Porter Creek, there are no sidewalks.
“We have many kids and teenagers walking around that street, especially around Goodies and it’s not very safe,” he said.
He’d also like to work to help promote increased development along the city’s waterfront.
Developers have done a very good job so far but there’s still room for improvement, said Blais.
“We have so many parking lots around the new library,” he said. “My idea is that we can turn those parking lots into something better.
“We have so many beautiful buildings around. We need to work on the surrounding areas.”
Originally from Quebec City, Blais and his wife came to the Yukon three years ago.
It was his idea to come to the North but her idea to move to the Yukon.
“As a good husband, my wife was the leader of the project,” said Blais with a smile.
His father-in-law worked as a doctor at the Whitehorse General Hospital in the late 1970s so they had some contacts in the city.
Still, without a job or any real prospects, the first six months were tough, said Blais.
“When I came to Yukon, I walked along Second Avenue and I made two wishes,” he said. “I wanted to work with Council of Yukon First Nations and I wanted to be on the Yukon Human Rights Commission.”
By the end of the year he had achieved both goals.
The experience he has working with First Nation governments would be an asset to city council, he said.
“The City of Whitehorse needs to work with First Nations, and I believe that my links with First Nations can help city council to have a better discussion with them regarding the future of our city.”
Right now, he works for the Yukon government, and is vice-president of the Association franco-yukonnaise, but with his term on the Human Rights Commission coming to an end he’s looking for other ways to make a positive contribution to the community.
“My wife said, ‘JS, you’re too busy,” but you know, it’s something that we enjoy, civic involvement is very important for us,’ said Blais. “I cannot see myself not being involved.”
The municipal elections are scheduled for October 18.
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