Five men promote their mayoral qualifications
On Oct. 18, city voters will elect a new mayor.
Photo by Vince Fedoroff
EXPLAINING THEIR POSITIONS – The five candidates looking to succeed Mayor Bev Buckway next Thursday participate in last evening’s forum. Left to right are Bernie Phillips, Scott Howell, Dan Curtis, Rick Karp and Mandeep Sidhu.
On Oct. 18, city voters will elect a new mayor.
Last night, at a forum hosted by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce at the Gold Rush Inn, the five vying for the position each told voters they have the experience they need to take on the role.
Over the course of the three-hour event, Mandeep Sidhu, Rick Karp, Dan Curtis, Scott Howell and Bernie Phillips outlined how they would like to see the city run and what they would bring to the role.
In some cases, they took cracks at other’s campaigns.
“I’m tenacious when it comes to money,” said Sidhu, who was the first and last to address the crowd of about 75 onlookers.
He encouraged the electorate to hold him accountable not to the dollar, but to the penny.
Sidhu stressed his management background in his opening comments while others also noted their work experience.
Karp pointed to his work as chamber president in recent years, noting he has worked on a number of issues with the city and knows how it operates.
“I understand how city hall functions,” he said after taking issue with “robocalls” that have been made concerning the election.
A number of people in Whitehorse received calls Thursday – an automated message from Curtis, introducing himself and reminding voters of the advance poll.
Curtis then took issue with what he called “misinformation” coming from others after he pointed to his experience as the executive director of Skills Canada Yukon in bringing about partnerships.
The banter between the pair continued throughout the evening on a number of matters. At one point, they feuded over the impact mining in the territory has on the city.
Curtis argued skilled workers don’t stay in the territory, with about 90 per cent flying in and out to work.
Karp offered a “correction” to that figure, noting a report showing 40 per cent of the workers at mines are First Nations.
Curtis later responded by stating that although 40 per cent of mine workers are indeed First Nations, those aren’t the 90 per cent of skilled workers he was referring to.
“Big difference,” he said.
He later stressed the need for programs aimed at encouraging locals to get the training for the trades that will be needed.
While Curtis and Karp continued their own comments back and forth on one another’s statements, Howell focused on the philosophical change he believes is needed at city hall. That, he said, would take the city out of its business mentality.
“We’re on the verge of something very philosophical,” he said after stressing, “It’s time for some real change.”
Phillips is the only candidate to have served as a councillor, from 1994 to 2000.
He used his opening statement to recall his childhood growing up as one in a family of eight sisters and brothers (including one who had cerebral palsy) and emphasized the need to support one another.
Those themes came forward as they answered questions prepared by the chamber and submitted by the audience. They were asked by moderator Larry Bagnell, the Yukon’s former Liberal MP.
They were asked to rate in order of importance property tax, sustainable development, affordable housing and transit.
Curtis and Howell said that while they would speak to each issue, they couldn’t put them in an order of importance.
As Howell noted, the city has to work on issues concurrently. Curtis said all of the issues are important.
The three other candidates each had a different priority at the top, though all put transit at the bottom, with Karp first outlining his first priority as affordable housing.
He then identified property tax and sustainable development as equally important, with transit at the end.
Phillips put sustainable development at the top of the list, followed by property taxes, affordable housing and transit.
Finally, Sidhu argued that property taxes are the top issue, with affordable housing being next in line.
Sustainable development was next, with transit at the end.
Housing, land use and city services continued to come up throughout the forum.
Curtis and Howell suggested there is enough land available and enough development plans underway to accommodate the city’s needs.
Karp took another stance, arguing that with the mining sector in the territory expanding, there will be a lot of job opportunities in Whitehorse. The city needs to prepare for the future, he said.
Phillips, meanwhile, noted he’s been asked by a number of country residential residents about being able to subdivide their lots to create additional properties.
Sidhu pointed to his “obvious” agreement in the development of the former tank farm going ahead, given that his father owns the property. He also suggested development should happen downtown.
Like Sidhu, the other candidates also noted the benefits that would come from remediating the contaminated soil of the former tank farm, then developing it for homes.
Howell was the only candidate to appear apprehensive about the proposed remediation.
He argued that Hillcrest residents, who live near the site, have valid concerns about it, though they do support cleaning up the site.
A number of nearby residents have raised issues with the possibility of noise, dust and traffic in the area should the plans go ahead.
Developers are proposing to dig up the contaminated soil. The city recently reversed its decision to put off second reading of the Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment for the temporary remediation.
It has now gone ahead with second reading, with the OCP change now going to the territorial minister for approval before it comes back to the city.
The tank farm is also set to go through the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment process, zoning and other permitting procedures.
“This is really serious,” Howell said, noting he will have to see more on the plans before he’s convinced that on-site crushing is a good thing.
Howell was also the only candidate to publicly endorse council candidates.
Each of the five wrapped up their comments again reiterating why they would make the best mayor for the city.
Howell called on voters to vote not only for himself, but also to place an X by the names of incumbent Betty Irwin, Pat Berrel and Jocelyn Curteanu when they cast their ballots.
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