A Main Street business shows its hours cut back due to COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 31. Whitehorse city council members made it clear at their June 23 meeting they want to do more to help local businesses hit hard by COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse city council considers economy

Wonders how to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19

Whitehorse city council members made it clear at their June 23 meeting they want to do more to help local businesses hit hard by COVID-19, but exactly what that help will be is unknown.

City of Whitehorse economic development officer Greg Stone presented council with a report outlining measures already taken to help businesses that are impacted while also pointing to possibilities for the future.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, some local businesses reported their fears of the devastating impacts to their business,” Stone said. “As the pandemic continues into summer 2020, some businesses report they are experiencing significantly lower revenue than previous years, while others are reporting record sales.”

A survey by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce found from 211 responses, 85 per cent lost revenue due to COVID-19 with half of those reporting having lost half their revenue.

“Also within this time, 50 per cent reported laying off staff,” he said.

Stone went on to list a number of responses by the city that may have helped businesses already ranging from suspending interest and penalties on utility bills to not charging lease payments at the CGC during its closure to establishing a COVID-19 Resources for Businesses web page, among others.

He said there remains impacts on businesses as the territorial border remains closed to many, and though many businesses can reopen, there are a number of restrictions that remain in place such as distancing requirements.

Stone outlined a number of initiatives council could consider as it moves forward including waiving business licence fees and sidewalk cafe permit fees, though it was noted business licenses generated $533,637 in 2019. And while the city could look at allowing the use of parking spaces for on-street patios, given the time it takes for a bylaw to come into effect, it likely wouldn’t happen until the end of summer.

Coun. Steve Roddick continued to argue for the possibility, pointing out council has pushed through bylaws in other cases, but it was noted by staff that only happens when it is deemed an emergency situation.

Stone also pointed out council could consider temporary changes to create more flexibility for home-based businesses such as increasing the maximum number of businesses permitted in one dwelling, increasing the number of clients permitted on the site, and permitting those who aren’t residents to work at minor home-based businesses.

“Because of the requirements of the bylaw process, the new regulations could potentially come into effect in late September of early fall of this year,” he said.

Looking further ahead, Stone suggested a long-term economic recovery plan with the Yukon government could be explored, and the upcoming review of the city’s zoning bylaw would mean consulting with the local business community to identify concerns and possible solutions through zoning.

Following Stone’s presentation, council members voiced their support for looking at ways to assist.

“What do we need to do to kick-start things more quickly?” questioned Coun. Samson Hartland.

Acting city manager Valerie Braga replied by noting the work the city has already done and stressing the importance of getting a sense of what the broader business community might need.

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce had emailed the city earlier, but that has yet to be reviewed by council.

Coun. Laura Cabott said she wants to look at that and also suggested the upcoming annual general meeting of the chamber would be a good opportunity to engage with organization about what needs to happen to support local business.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read