Yukon’s communities go to the polls

A common riff seems to run through each municipality in the Yukon. What is it? Changing demographics, dilapidated infrastructure and improving…

A common riff seems to run through each municipality in the Yukon.

What is it?

Changing demographics, dilapidated infrastructure and improving communications affect communities throughout the territory.

Given that, here’s how the mayoral races are shaping up in the territory, starting with Carcross, which is poised to elect its first local area council.

n CARCROSS

In less than a year a group of determined Carcross residents convinced the territory the Yukon’s most visited community needed a local advisory council.

Although it saw more than 71,000 tourists in 2005, the community lacks commercial development and a unified political voice.

And the Carcross/Tagish First Nations, which signed a self-government agreement in 2005, add further complexity to issues in the small gold rush community.

Of three wards for the council — composed of five seats — two have been acclaimed.

Four people in the third ward, Carcross itself, are vying for that seat and two “at large” positions in the town’s first elections on Thursday.

The somewhat complex system means all ward residents will vote to fill the three vacant seats on Thursday.

And Carcross residents will vote twice — once for Carcross and once for the at large positions.

So one person will not be elected, said Linda Pringle, a driving force behind the advisory council.

Fittingly, Pringle is in the race.

“I started the whole process, and I think it’s incumbent upon me to see it through,” she said.

If elected, Pringle hopes to establish credibility and a foundation for the advisory council.

To do that, the council must create formalized procedures and lines of communication between the council and the Carcross/Tagish First Nations, she said.

Pringle also offers an outlet for citizens to sound off on issues they would like to see addressed.

“We need to get the community involved, which means, we’ve got to get out there and do what we say we’re going to do,” she said.

“We need to talk to each other, so nobody’s working in the dark.”

Local entrepreneur Murray Lundberg was also involved in the forming of the council and is vying for the Carcross seat.

“Over the next three years there’s going to be an enormous amount of changes in Carcross,” said Lundberg.

If elected he hopes to work to retain Carcross’s “spirit,” while accepting some development.

“That’s one of the big things that concerns people here,” he said. “We need development, but it has to be very sensitive development.

“A lot of people like Carcross the way it is, we just need a more economic footing,” said Lundberg.

Resident Herb Holstein is also in the race.

Carcross is “torn apart” between two different communities, he said, offering himself as a bridge.

“I thought maybe they could get some native input there, so I signed up myself because I couldn’t find no one else,” he said.

“I think I could help the community, to try to get the both sides more closer together, and working together, instead of against each other,” said Holstein.

Dan Campbell, the fourth Carcross candidate, could not be contacted before press time. (TQ)

n CARMACKS

Unity is the issue in the village of just over 400 people nestled on the Klondike Highway.

Mayoral contender Meta Bailie has been canvassing door-to-door and she’s heard, over and over again, the village government and the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation must start working together.

“Bad history” drove a wedge between the village and the band, she said.

“Unity is number one, I know that if I do get elected there’ll be unity,” said Bailie.

“It took us years to establish the relationship with Little Salmon band and it took not even 10 minutes to split up the council.”

The sentiment is echoed by mayoral candidate Elaine Wyatt, who is sitting deputy mayor.

The ball is rolling she said, citing a meeting with chief Eddie Skookum.

If elected, she wants to sit down again with the First Nation to discuss issues, like water distribution.

Bailie, a three-term councillor, has also heard other concerns from residents, like the quality of the village’s roads.

“The River Road is beyond compare,” said Bailie.

“And the one end where the school bus runs, (the school bus driver) is really afraid to even use the road because it hasn’t been graded — it’s a real mess.

Another concern is the dump hours.

And people appearing before council must be listened to, said Bailie.

The wastewater treatment plant must be built and the village must tap its allotment of federal gas-tax funding, said Wyatt.

There are a total of four contenders for the mayor’s chair — Bailie, Wyatt, Robert Mayer and Bob Jackman.

Mayer and Jackman could not be reached before press time.

Eight candidates are vying for the village’s four council positions (LC)

n FARO

Put simply, Faro needs more people.

It is a town built for 2,500, but is now home to just over 400 and blocks of empty houses have sat derelict since the mine closed in the ‘90s.

One mayoral candidate, James McLachlan knows how to draw families to the area — restore mining activity.

This region is hardly mined out; there is lots of lead and silver around,” said McLachlan.

Those minerals are worth a lot more now than they were when the mine closed.

And Faro already has three things most mining camps don’t — an all-weather road, existing power lines and an established residential base, he added.

Now the town just has to get the word out by staying in contact at Outside trade conferences and noting its benefits to companies.

If elected, McLachlan wants to balance the town’s budget.

“We’re so close to running a deficit that it’s scary,” he added.

Incumbent Phyllis Forbes is also looking to boost the town’s population.

“We’re trying to keep the population increasing, we’re now at around 450 and our target should be 700, and when we reach that we should be reaching for 1,000,” she said.

She also wants to maintain the town’s infrastructure like its new nine-hole golf course and the town greenhouse, she said.

Meanwhile, third mayoral candidate Michelle Vainio has a raft of ideas for change.

Top on her list of improvements — getting the 37 kilometres of chip seal on the highway linking Carmacks and Faro finished.

“When it’s wet it is extremely dangerous, especially around Little Salmon Lake,” said Vainio.

It’s a job for the territory, but it’s the kind of thing that gets done by being more assertive with other levels of government, like the area’s MLA, she added.

The town needs a better working relationships with its MLA, nearby communities like Ross River and within community organizations, said Vainio.

“Communication is the key to a successful community,” said Vainio.

Five would-be councillors will compete for the town’s four seats. (LC)

n HAINES JUNCTION

It’s a two-man race to the mayor’s seat in the Junction this year.

“I thought it was time to jump back in there and get involved,” said George Nassiopoulos, who sat on council six years ago, and is now challenging incumbent John Farynowski for the title.

“I have an interest in where the community is going over the next few years from recreation to population growth to potential pipelines,” he added.

And since Farynowski was acclaimed in the previous election, Nassiopoulos knew he had to step forward as another option for leadership.

Meanwhile Farynowski wants to continue projects he’s started over his two terms, like developing a plan for the Junction’s $1 million in federal gas-tax funding and bringing geothermal heat to buildings around the village.

Six contenders are vying for the village’s four council posts. (LC)

n TESLIN

Two candidates want Teslin’s top job, and both have municipal experience.

“The reason I’m running for mayor again, in three years you don’t have enough time to finish doing what you’ve started,” said incumbent Clara Jules on Tuesday.

“We’ve done a lot of things together with the First Nation, and we’re still looking at issues we have to resolve.”

Teslin’s boundaries are the big issue in the future, said Jules.

At the moment they’re crooked and don’t allow the area to capitalize on its population, she said.

“We’d like to see the tax dollars stay in Teslin, not just leave.”

Jules also hopes a second term would allow her to seek federal gas-tax funding to build community infrastructure, she said.

Running against Jules in Teslin is a former councillor, Carl Smarch.

“It’s up to the people who they want to put forward,” said Smarch of the election, in an interview Tuesday.

Smarch wants new ice surfaces at the arena and curling rink and will make sure the work is done smoothly, he said. (TQ)

n WATSON LAKE

Richard Durocher has had enough.

He’s been Watson Lake’s mayor for two terms and a councillor for two terms before that.

But Durocher is not running again in Thursday’s municipal election.

“I’m suffering a little bit of burnout,” said Durocher on Tuesday.

“It’s time to take a step back.

“There are some good people waiting in the wings.”

Three people are vying to replace Durocher.

Nancy Moore has been one of the town’s four councillors for the last three years.

Now she wants the mayor’s chair.

Moore faces competition from Steve Nurmi and Archie Tannoch.

The mayor’s annual indemnity is $7,500, while the councillors are paid $6,000 per year.

They all make a $125 per diem while attending out-of-town activities, such as conventions or training courses.

There are eight people running for the four council spots: four men and four women. (GM)

Mayo will forge ahead with the same leadership it’s had for the past three years with all seats in council won by acclamation.

Dawson went to the polls in 2005 to elect its town council and is not scheduled to go again until 2009.