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Watson Lake: Battle of the quinquagenarians

There's not a lot that separates the two candidates vying for the mayor's chair in Watson Lake. Both of them are 51 years old and both see a lot of potential in the small southern Yukon town.

There’s not a lot that separates the two candidates vying for the mayor’s chair in Watson Lake.

Both of them are 51 years old and both see a lot of potential in the small southern Yukon town.

“Watson Lake is well positioned to be a shining example of a community in Canada,” said incumbent Richard Durocher. “We just have to keep concentrating on making sure that we stay sustainable and safe for everybody and take advantage of any opportunity that comes up.”

Both Durocher and mayoral hopeful Fred Statham agree that the town needs to do more to encourage people to settle in the community.

“The problem that we have right now is the two mines we have up here, Cantung and Wolverine, the majority of their workers are from the Lower Mainland in Vancouver ... and that’s detrimental to Watson Lake because they’re not paying any taxes or spending any money in Watson Lake,” said Statham.

Attracting more people is all about infrastructure, said Durocher.

“Food prices are high, but when you take out the tax regime that B.C. has, it pretty well comes out to the same thing or cheaper,” he said. “So we’re trying to show them that we have top-quality education prospects here, we have heath-care services second to none and recreation facilities.”

The main piece of infrastructure that Statham would like to see improved is the Watson Lake airport.

Revitalizing the airport would go a long way to alleviating the sense of remoteness and isolation that can be a turnoff for many people, he said.

Last year Watson Lake established an economic revitalization committee, chaired by former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, to work on jump-starting the economy.

It’s those kinds if initiatives that Durocher is most proud of. “I’m a very strong believer in community involvement at every level,” he said.

It’s why he ran for a third term in 2009, after sitting out for three years.

“I felt the community needed a new direction and needed to develop a stronger organization with more community input,” he said. “In the last term we started developing committees that will help us with things like infrastructure and economic development and recreation.”

But there’s still a lot of work to be done, both candidates agreed.

While Statham applauds the work that council has done on things like much-needed water and sewer improvements, he feels that the planning could have been done better.

“The logistics and the common sense of how they’ve gone about it has been very disruptive to the community,” he said.

Though Statham has only been living in Watson Lake for three years, the former school guidance councillor has really thrown himself into the community.

In the last year, he set up a soup kitchen and food bank and is working on getting a men’s shelter up and running.

As mayor, one of the things he wants to champion is getting Jaedyn’s Law passed.

The proposed law would outlaw collapsible soccer nets, like the one that killed a five-year-old girl in Watson Lake a few months ago.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, and the floods this summer, the community really pulled together, said Durocher.

It’s one of the reasons that he likes living in Watson Lake so much.

“It’s one of those communities where everybody supports everybody else,” he said.

Contact Josh Kerr at