Mandeep Sidhu, 27, is running for mayor of Whitehorse.
The youngest son of business magnate Paramjit Sidhu, he’s also the youngest candidate in the race, but that’s not something that he sees as a disadvantage.
He’s hoping that he’ll be able to bridge some of the generational divide and get more young people to vote.
In last year’s byelection only 19 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. And only 37 per cent of voters came out for the full municipal election four years ago.
Most of his friends admit they don’t vote, said Sidhu.
Many have pledged to vote for him, but whether they do or not is another story, he said.
Regardless, he hopes his candidacy will boost the number of ballots cast.
“Even if votes don’t turn out in my favour, I would just like to see more people turn out,” said Sidhu. “When you have less than 30 per cent of the population voting and over 90 per cent of the population complaining, it’s absolutely useless.”
Reaching that demographic of 18- to 35-year-olds is important because they’re the most likely to bear the brunt of the city’s housing shortage.
“I was talking to a woman in the bank yesterday and her son was with her and she was saying, ‘He’s just graduating and what’s he supposed to do?’” said Sidhu. “You can’t get a job that pays enough where you can afford even an empty lot in Whistle Bend.”
Born and raised in Whitehorse, Sidhu just returned to the city after spending several years studying in San Diego and Victoria.
He’s still considering a career in law, but he’s not in any rush.
“At 27, I still have a lot of doors open, but politics has always been my passion.”
Although he doesn’t have any experience in municipal politics, he has a lot in business.
“I’ve been working at my family’s laundromat since I was six,” he said.
As a teenager, his father sent him to Watson Lake to work at the gas station and RV park his family owned.
Eventually he took over as manager, but he started at the bottom.
His father wanted him to learn the business from the bottom up, so he made him the janitor, said Sidhu.
But he isn’t looking to start at the bottom of municipal politics. He’s going straight for the top job.
Sidhu feels his skill set is best suited to the position of mayor, he said.
“I do really well with resolving conflict,” he said. “I’m personable, approachable and I know how to run a business.”
Not that the city should be “in business.”
“It should limit itself to legislating business,” said Sidhu. That’s something the city could do much more of, he added.
“After living in major cities and then coming back here, it’s amazing to see how we make such small issues into such a big deal.”
After years of study, there still isn’t a proper detox centre in Whitehorse, said Sidhu.
Following the inquest into Raymond Silverfox’s dealth in RCMP custody, a report commissioned by the territorial government recommended a “sobering centre” downtown, which would house a medical detox and homeless shelter under one roof.
The territory has shelved these plans in favour of more modest upgrades. The city should push harder for a sobering centre to become reality, said Sidhu.
Although it falls under a territorial jurisdiction, “it’s a Whitehorse problem,” he said.
“What we’re starting to become is more like a small B.C. city. We need to be able to adapt to that,” he said. “We still want to be a frontier town, but we have to understand we’re becoming a metropolis.”
As the city grows, it’s up to municipal politicians to take a leading roll on issues like housing affordability, drug addiction and other social problems, said Sidhu.
“It’s issues like that, the city keeps pushing those to the side.”
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