To review or not to review, that’s the municipal question

Community Services Minister Archie Lang may not want to open up the Yukon Municipal Act, but Yukon Party candidate Mike Nixon is willing to.

Community Services Minister Archie Lang may not want to open up the Yukon Municipal Act, but Yukon Party candidate Mike Nixon is willing to.

Nixon has distributed letters of support to Black Street residents, many of whom are frustrated with the voting rules applied to a proposed local improvement charge.

Citing the municipal act, the city will only count physical votes against the proposal. If a majority of eligible Black Street residents oppose the idea, it will be defeated. But, in an unusual twist, if residents stay home, those missing ballots will be considered an endorsement of the local-improvement project, which will cost each homeowner up to $11,000.

In the Black Street project to improve underground pipes and the road, curbs and sidewalks above, 50 ballots were issued.

Of that 50, 38 per cent – or 19 votes – were against, 16 votes were in support of the project and the remaining 15 votes were not received.

It is clear the voting rules could be done better, says Nixon.

And so, barring some other solution, the rules laid out by the act should be reviewed, he adds.

“Opening up the act might be one of the solutions, but there might be another solution that’s equally as effective. But at the end of the day, if there’s no other solution and it means we have to open up the act to address that one concern, then we need to open up the act and address that one concern.”

However, opening the act is something Lang is reluctant to do.

While he refused comment, in the legislature this fall he cited an ongoing territory-wide review, Our Towns, Our Future, to address any concerns with the act.

But that is not the intention of the review.

“That’s not the mandate of this committee at all, the municipal act,” says executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities John Pattimore.

“Of course it’s related to how municipalities operate, but only if we hear something … I would imagine the committee would make some recommendations on it.”

The Municipal Fiscal Framework Review Committee is conducting the review, and its focus is municipal finances, says Pattimore, one of AYC’s committee representatives. Yukon government officials also have seats on the committee.

The committee has finished touring all Yukon communities, except Whitehorse.

So far, not much has been heard about the act, says Pattimore.

Nixon’s and the committee’s proposal to only open and change specific sections of the municipal act is the wrong approach, says NDP Leader and Whitehorse Centre candidate Liz Hanson.

“I believe it is time for a complete review of the municipal act, not an ad-hoc quick fix,” says Hanson.

It is something she claims she has been saying for years.

The court case about Marianne Darragh’s attempt to hold a referendum on developments near McLean Lake in 2008 marked the beginning of the end of public engagement and participation on a municipal level, which is something that must also be reviewed, says Hanson.

However, it is only the voting on local improvement charges that Nixon is interested in reviewing at this time, he says.

If elected, it is something he will begin working on immediately, he says.

“Obviously it’s at the attention of the party now, and it’s at the attention of the minister. We’ll just have to see what happens after December 13th and I’ll go to work at it then.”

The Whitehorse public meeting for the Our Towns, Our Future review will be at the public library on Monday at 7 p.m.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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