Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for November 8, 2012

Circumstances play Scrooge, snare Santa’s truck

A Facebook group that has the support of at least one city councillor is calling on city management to keep a holiday tradition going.

By Stephanie Waddell on November 8, 2012 at 3:57 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

A TWO-DECADE TRADITION – For more than 20 years, this City of Whitehorse garbage truck delighted pedestrians, motorists and school students as its driver, a beaming Santa Claus, roamed the city, an explosion of colourful Christmas lights adorning his vehicle. Betty Irwin Bian Crist

A Facebook group that has the support of at least one city councillor is calling on city management to keep a holiday tradition going.

City officials are making changes to the tradition of Santa driving around in a garbage truck lit up and decorated for the holiday season.

This year, staff have said a pickup or one-tonne truck will instead be provided to be decorated for the holidays. Due to safety and liability issues, it won’t be lit up while it’s on the road.

Instead, its lights will only shine when it arrives at a destination.

“I want the garbage truck reinstated,” said Coun. Betty Irwin, who posted a “like” to a photo of the Christmas garbage truck on the “Save Our Santa” Facebook page.

The page calls on residents of Whitehorse to lobby council to undo the proposed changes for the truck, stating verbatim:

“The City of Whitehorse is considering ‘changes’ to our historic, iconic, heroic Santa and his lighted garbage truck. The change no truck and only lights when stopped. This is a Whitehorse institution, I remember when I first saw it 20 years ago.

“He spreads good will and cheer with candy to schools, hospitals, group homes and every citizen, And he needs your help!

“contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and tell them we need to keep this tradition, this hero ours and that we want to Save our Santa Claus!”

The page was created on Tuesday. As of this morning, it was up to 24 “likes” with another 11 “likes” to the statement and Irwin’s “like” for the photo.

“This is a wonderful tradition,” she told the Star this morning when asked to explain why she publicly stated her support for it.

Irwin said she doesn’t want to see the 20-year tradition taken away from local children and residents who enjoy seeing the garbage truck.

Brian Crist, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations, explained in an interview Wednesday (reiterating a number of points made in an earlier city press release) that the garbage truck simply isn’t available for use this year.

Instead, city management has offered to make a pickup or one-tonne truck available to Santa so he can carry on with the tradition of spreading Christmas cheer through town.

Last year, the city didn’t have Santa on the road. Due to health issues, Santa was unavailable for the season.

In a press release at that time, Santa said he hoped to be back in action for the 2012 Christmas season in Whitehorse.

Crist was clear the changes were a decision of management and not council.

“It’s clearly an operation decision,” he said.

As the city noted earlier, the garbage truck that’s been used for may past Christmases was retired from the city’s fleet since it last made an appearance as the Christmas truck two years ago.

The city currently has three garbage trucks, two of which are used regularly for pick-up, and a back-up piece of equipment. They are all needed for service.

“Whitehorse has grown,” Crist said, pointing out the back-up is used much more often than previously.

This week, for example, the two other trucks are having work done, which has left the back-up to be used for all pick-ups.

If this situation occurred during the Christmas season after the truck has been decorated, the city would have to make a choice between whether to take down the decorations and have garbage or compost pick-up go ahead as scheduled, or forego pick-up for that week so Santa could do his work.

The city recognizes that residents enjoy the tradition, but changes have to be made, Crist said.

“We know a lot of people appreciate this.”

He said the city is trying to strike a balance between carrying on a much-loved tradition while continuing to meet the needs of residents and the safety of the public.

With that in mind, management decided to offer a pick-up or one-tonne truck – which can be more easily spared than a garbage truck – to Santa to be decorated and used through the holiday season.

It is for liability and safety reasons that the city is not allowing any lights to be on while the truck is getting to or from its destination.

The territorial Motor Vehicles Act prohibits flashing lights on vehicles (with the exception of emergency vehicles and things like snowplows and such) unless it has a waiver.

While the city has been getting the waiver for its festive vehicle since 2003, Crist said that after looking at the issue, the city can still be held liable – even with the waiver – if there’s an issue.

He also noted there are safety concerns. As an example, he said the truck could distract a driver who may be looking at the light display and not see a pedestrian crossing in front of his or her vehicle.

While staff are prepared to have a city truck for Santa, St. Nick has not yet let city officials know whether he will take them up on the offer, but they are hopeful, and expecting, he will.

If not, the city will have to decide how to proceed with the initiative. As Crist pointed out, the work Santa does for the city is in no employee’s job description.

Santa started the tradition more than 20 years ago, decorating the garbage truck with a couple of strands of lights and dressing in his traditional red and white suit, greeting Whitehorse residents with a jolly wave and a smile behind his long, white beard.

Much like the city, the tradition has grown over time, with Santa making his way around town, delivering candy canes to eager kids of all ages.

Crist estimates that including the staff time, equipment time and so on, the annual tradition is valued at $6,000.

CommentsAdd a comment


Nov 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm

We have lots of “acts” that say being hammered/high…beating/killing…stealing folks stuff is also a liability and unsafe for “the public”...
that said, the city seems not to care about that aspect of public safety…but they need to spend time on this?

oooooo flashing Christmas lights are suuuch a danger.
light the truck up already, the hell with turning off the lights…!


Nov 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I would prefer that the money from this project go towards the Share the Spirit Campaign.  Every year, Share the Spirit helps low income families by giving them a Christmas food hamper and presents for the children in their family.  This year they have to cut back on the number of families they can help.  In my job, I often refer the families that I work with to this program as they often have only enough extra money ($3) for laundry.  These families need help and it saddens me that Betty Irwin is championing the garbage truck campaign instead of helping impoverished families in Whitehorse.

troy schamber

Nov 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

What is wrong with a one tonne truck ?

June Jackson

Nov 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I remember when we first saw the garbage truck.. it was bright and cheery.. the driver, in those days waved and smiled.. we were a borderline poor family of 6..the kids would look for the truck when we went out..

In view of the hundreds and thousands (and 6 million) dollars that the previous council threw down the drain.. 6k is not so much.

June Raymond

Nov 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I’m with Betty Irwin. I think keeping Santa’s garbage truck on the streets is great. The small kids and the big kids just love it. It is one of the highlights of Whitehorse. These do gooders from outside always want to change things. We are still a small city not a big one like Vancouver or Toronto. There is always someone to dampen things .So I say keep Santa’s garbage truck with all its lights.

Jackie Ward

Nov 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Jen, this is about the Xmas truck, not a charity. There is something called a food bank. Maybe Mommy and Daddy should cut back on booze, smokes and gambling and feed themselves and their kids first. Yes I know not all of them do that, but in the Yukon, a big percentage do. Then they whine and complain they have no money for food.
There are a lot of folks here who milk the system. I have no sympathy for their crocodile tears.

john lamarick

Nov 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I am a Buddhist but I enjoy seeing the truck and can see how it makes many people of all faiths happy.

Maybe the city can rethink the liability concern or promote some other venture that has a similar joyful impact on people of all faiths.

Free parking meters for the x-mas season with bylaw officers dressed Santa Clause? Free coffee and hot chocolate just before Christmas on main street. A free day at the Canada Games Centre and free bus transportation there (this is my best idea).

Judith White

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Pay attention. The truck that was used is gone. It had not been used for a garbage truck for many years, it used up garage space, and it was sold. It’s gone. So flogging that option just isn’t worth the effort. The $6k can be better spent. But if people want a lit up truck toodling around town for a couple of weeks, and we’re willing to pay a city employee to do that, then make it a pick up truck because the City has already explained why using one of the 3 remaining garbage trucks for this purpose isn’t a good plan. What part of this does Betty Irwin not understand?

Jackie Ward

Nov 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Hey Judith. I think the part Betty doesn’t understand is that this is a “Whitehorse Tradition” *insert sarcastic comment here*. It’s safe to assume that truck has been running in this town longer than probably you and a lot of people have actually lived here. This city is turning into a real joke. A real image of a big city. And devoid of anything friendly. If I wanted that big city feel, I’d move to a BIG CITY. Stop wrecking what’s left of our Whitehorse. And don’t bother replying with, “well, things change”. No they don’t. You just get a couple of people who’s feelings got hurt who are hell bent on wrecking everything for everyone else.


Nov 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Jackie, I’m not sure what length of residency has to do with this. Everyone who lives here has a right to express an opinion. But since it seems to matter so much to you, I’ve been here much longer than the lit-up garbage truck. Again, the truck is gone. It was not an operating garbage truck; it was a truck that was no longer used. Perhaps you’d like to go ask the person who bought it to donate it for a couple of weeks?


Nov 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm

jwhite…it does matter how long people have lived in a place. Outsiders show up here and want to make changes because that’s how they used to do it where they came from….they are not sure to stay yet and I’d bet many ‘Yukoners’ have found themselves with a new rule to follow after many of these adventurers have left.

I know you simply said they had the right to express an opinion. But that opinion is on the public record and they don’t just feel it’s an opinion.

Adele Sandrock

Nov 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Come on people - what is $6,000 when the City can pump millions for the Ski Club at Mount Sima. I believe more people will enjoy the “Electric Santa” than Mount Sima.

Regarding liability I would rather like to see that the City is enforcing their created bylaws than whining about Santa and
liability and $6,000!!!


Nov 14, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Let the truck with its flashing lights continue the tradition.  It’s a cheery sight on a cold dark winters day,  and who is Santa hurting by driving a garbage truck,  maybe his reindeer have frozen feet.

are you kidding?

Nov 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

What are all of you people smoking? THERE IS NO TRUCK!!!
I have lived here for almost 50 years, been paying city taxes for more than 30 of them (myself) and I think it’s a waste of money to have a lit up truck driving around town - not to mention the fact that it is environmentally irresponsible.

Why does every evolution get turned into a “Don’t change MY Whitehorse” issue? Why do the anti-changers think they represent every long-time Yukoner?


Nov 15, 2012 at 7:32 pm

This is really a repeat of the no dogs allowed at the Canada Games Centre. Came from nowhere, management is determined to get it through, and they’re bringing in the old fail safes of “cost” and “safety” to cover themselves.

It’s just a matter of time till they bring in the lawyers and cite some self-serving interpretation of the Municipal Act. Council just isn’t falling into line yet.

Wellll, it's the BIGGG SHHOOOWWW

Nov 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm

@are you kidding?

Are you kidding? It doesn’t matter the exact truck is gone. When something has gone over 20 years, me and the majority of people call that a tradition. You sound like Ebaneezer Scrooge. This is more than a truck. This is about making children’s face brighten up. This is giving something a kid could look forward to. Not just kids, but everybody. So stop with your argument that has no purpose in the discussion. Nothing’s happened in 20 years and now it’s a safety concern. I would like to believe them, but I don’t. There’s a lot of accidents downtown, especially 2nd Ave & Main St. If they haven’t figured out the simple solution of putting a flashing green arrow on both sides, then their cries for our safety will fall on my deaf ears. And that’s just one small example. Didn’t seem to care when millions are wasted on a useless ski hill that the majority of people have NO USE FOR.

read the post

Nov 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm

@big show…
read the post, read the article. There is no truck. Who are you arguing with?

Traditions don’t last forever and frankly, having a diesel-sucking garbage truck driving aimlessly around town while most kids are in school is silly.
It has nothing to do with being a scrooge (why, when people are wrong do they start calling names?). I’d love to see a stationary tribute to Christmas that everyone could enjoy, rather than waiting in the cold for that magic moment when the truck drives by.

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