Four of the five mayoral candidates — Wilf Carter, from left, current mayor Dan Curtis, Colin Laforme and Rick Karp — during a debate in Whitehorse on Oct. 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse’s mayoral candidates square off

Four of five mayoral candidates attend a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce

Four out of five candidates for Whitehorse’s mayor came to the mayoral forum at the Gold Rush Town Hall on Oct. 4.

Kelly Suits, a former casual city bus driver, did not appear at the forum, which was hosted by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

“I don’t know why I didn’t show up,” he told the News on Oct. 5. “I must have been busy.”

He did tell the News that, if elected, he’ll work to bring cheaper beer to Whitehorse, and that if he can’t make that happen inside of a year, he will resign.

Beer was not the focus of any of the questions asked during the forum, which was moderated by Tim Kucharuk of CKRW.

Instead, questions were concerned with the modernization of Whitehorse parking meters, what mayoral success means to each candidate, building reconciliation with the First Nations, public transit, and the city potentially being subject to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Right now, the city doesn’t fall under ATIPP, which, among other things, protects personal information and gives individuals access to government records.

Responding to a question about where housing improvements are needed in the city, and what one innovative approach might be to solving the crisis, mayor Dan Curtis brought up the Cornerstone building the city contributed $1 million to this year, and recited numbers on unit availability for 2018. He said there’s a lot of talk about the housing crisis, but that he doesn’t think things are as grave as they seem.

Colin LaForme, a city bylaw officer, said he knows the city is working on land availability, but the cost of lots are not feasible for most residents, from low-income to middle-class residents. He said he’d like to see the city focus less on single-family homes and more on solutions including more tiny homes, community living, and building up instead of out.

LaForme also said part of the issue, in his mind, is that the city doesn’t have a large role in land development. He said Whitehorse should lean on the territorial government to create more options, and look within existing bylaws to create more opportunity for densification.

Wilf Carter said the biggest issue around the housing crisis is money. He said the city needs more housing money from the federal government. He also said the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kwanlin Dün First Nation are sitting on land that could be developed.

“We have to have a plan and all the players at the table as partners,” said Carter.

Rick Karp focussed on developing downtown at 5th Avenue and Rogers Street. Karp said density and affordability are key when it comes to addressing the housing crisis, which affects everyone from new buyers, to seniors who can’t realize a return on investment when they downsize because even smaller units are expensive now.

Every candidate asked said he was in support of the city being subject to ATIPP, though Curtis said he thinks the city is already transparent.

Carter disagreed with that, saying he has tried and failed to find statements online about where city money is being spent. Carter came close to attacking Curtis a number of times, referring to him as “this guy” and had to be reminded by Kucharuk not to do so.

LaForme said that, while he wasn’t well-versed in the legislation surrounding ATIPP, he is for protecting the privacy rights of citizens.

Karp said there’s no evidence the city isn’t following guidelines when it comes to privacy protection, but that it could be a positive thing that would only lead to greater transparency, fairness and equal rights

Overall, Curtis focussed on highlighting the work council has done in its previous term, saying that, even if he’s not elected this year, he feels he and current members of council can hold their heads high knowing the changes that have been made in the last three years.

LaForme emphasized open lines of communication with all residents. He said his work as a teacher, a corrections officer, and a bylaw officer mean he’s approachable and level-headed.

“I’m a great listener but I want to hear what you have to say,” he said.

Carter leaned heavily on what other jurisdictions, from Alberta to Nova Scotia, have done to address issues including housing, disadvantaged populations, and traffic.

“We can learn a lot from other people,” he said. “We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. The wheel was invented 5,000 years ago.”

Karp said he wants more involvement from the residents of Whitehorse. From everything from business incentives, to addiction, to reconciliation with the First Nations, he put a focus on speaking with individuals and developing relationships, something he said he did frequently as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

The Whitehorse municipal election takes place Oct. 18.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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