Yukon business owners want the right to vote

Call it taxation without representation. Yukon business owners living outside city limits want the same opportunity to vote as municipal taxpayers. At an Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting...

Call it taxation without representation.

Yukon business owners living outside city limits want the same opportunity to vote as municipal taxpayers.

At an Association of Yukon Communities annual general meeting in December, the business community proposed a resolution to revise the territory’s municipal voting rules.

In 2006,the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce requested the Yukon Chamber of Commerce bring the issue before the Association of Yukon Communities.

“There were concerns from these members that there were people who owned businesses in Dawson, but couldn’t vote because they lived outside city boundaries,” said Yukon Chamber president Jerome Babyn.

It’s a concern shared by the Haines Junction and Whitehorse chambers of commerce, he added.

But the issue has raised some questions among Whitehorse city councillors and administrators.

At Monday’s council meeting, administration recommended the city, which has three representatives sitting on the Association of Yukon Communities board, not vote in favour of the issue.

The issue opens up too many potential problems, said administrative director Robert Fendrick.

They include the possibility of a person having more than one vote in the same municipality or in several municipalities in which they may own businesses.

“It does open up a bigger issue than just allowing business owners to vote,” said Mayor Bev Buckway, who is also the Association of Yukon Communities president.

“What if there’s three people that own that business, do they all vote? And what if one of them lives in China?”

Ironing out all those details would be time consuming and may not be worth the energy, she said.

“Enumeration within city bounds is already difficult as it is.”

The problems could be solved, said Dawson City Chamber of Commerce president Helen Bowie.

“We recognize that there’s a concern that multiple people may be allowed to vote and we would work on that.”

In Dawson, several business owners have brought the issue up to her. Most own retail businesses in the city.

“There are definitely many business owners that live just outside of city limits and that have no say in the (democratic) process,” she said.

“They feel like they have a financial and personal commitment and they want to be able to voice their concerns in the way that our democracy has been set up to do.”

In order for the issue to go through, a majority of Yukon municipalities would have to be in favour of revising the Yukon Municipal Act.

The issue has already been dealt with by councils in Haines Junction and Mayo, both of which voted it down.

Monday, Whitehorse city council will decide where it stands.

The resolution will be discussed and voted on at an Association of Yukon Communities meeting in March.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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