Whitehorse Daily Star

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Mr. & Mrs. James Smith

Commissioner Jimmy Smith

A 47-year-old businessman and northern of 26 years’ residence, Jimmy Smith was named Commissioner of the Yukon Territory Friday afternoon by Northern Affairs Minister Arthur Laing.

By Whitehorse Star on October 17, 1966

A 47-year-old businessman and northern of 26 years’ residence, Jimmy Smith was named Commissioner of the Yukon Territory Friday afternoon by Northern Affairs Minister Arthur Laing.

The announcement was made before a crowd of Yukon citizens gathered in the ballroom of the Whitehorse Inn at the invitation of the Minister, for a “coffee party at which an announcement of importance is to be made.”

Since Gordon R. Cameron announced his plan to resign as of the end of May 1966, in December last year, there has been speculation regarding his successor. The position was vacant five months after Mr. Cameron’s retirement and speculation had died down considerably until last week, when it was learned that Mr. Laing was flying north Friday to end the suspense.

Then the guessing game began again. On Thursday, The Whitehorse Star ran three rows of pictures of possible (and some improbably) candidates for the job, with the headline “Guess Who?” One of the pictures was of James Smith, General Manager of Tourist Services Limited at Whitehorse, a position he has held since 1947.

Jim Smith has served two terms as president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, two years as city alderman and three years as a member of the Yukon Territorial Council. He is currently chairman of the Whitehorse Metropolitan Area Advisory Council.

Born in New Westminster, B.C. and educated at Burnaby, he came to northern B.C. in 1940 where he met and married the former Dorothy Matson of Atlin. The couple have two children, Marilyn, 13 and Eric 11. Until recently, his duties included operation of the city’s largest hotel, the Whitehorse Inn, which as now been leased to others interested.

Tourists Services combines a modern supermarket, motel and restaurant, cocktail lounge, with wholesale grocery business, and the departments under Mr. Smith’s control handled a volume of business totaling three to four million dollars annually.

In 1959, Mr. Smith attended a course in Business Administration of the Banff School of Advanced Management, and recently traveled to the Orient with a special charter arranged by other executives who had met during the course.

After announcing the name of the new Commissioner, Mr. Laing told his audience “I think Mr. Smith has a considerable number of qualifications for this job. He’s a Yukoner, and before that a northerner, he’s had a great deal of experience under conditions which were not as easy as in southern Canada. We want his outstanding business experience, and his organizing capacity. His relationship between the administration of the Yukon; the Yukon Council and my department is one of those unusually half-way houses towards independence, but in our British system with its fantastic capacity for developing democracy, it will work out. It is an unusual responsibility for a man to have.

“Mr. Smith will find some changes from his former life. Public life is different from private business ... you have to serve people and meet a wide range of complexities, try to do your best. Good judgement and the advice and ideas of those around you must be combined with the interests and institutions of our complex society.

“I want the closest possible relationship between his and the elected council of the Yukon. We are striving for identically the same things, to bring this area into some degree of self-government as soon as possible.

“The territory, in relation to the taxpayers of Canada, is a deficit area. We send several dollars into his area in relation to the tax dollar collected in the Yukon. Nothing to be ashamed of, our country built itself that way. Because we are a resource-oriented country, the brightest sky lies west of Winnipeg. There may be economic clouds in Canada’s sky at present but we’ve also got a great deal of sunshine.

“We can work progressively and soundly and with goodwill towards the development of an independent economy ... Toward being a province, and make a great deal of progress in the next few years.

“At no time since the turn of the century has the economic outlook been as bright as today for this area. You are attracting a great deal of attention. More and more Canadians are convinced that his part of the Cordilera is the richest part of Canada; more and more companies in searching for your riches.

Mr. Laing gave the new Commissioner the advise received from his old friend “Duff” Patullo, at 84, when the former Premier of B.C. told him: “There comes a time when you take advice from all people, but in the last analysis, you have to go home and think deeply and remember what your mother told you.”

For more Yukon history, purchase the three editions of history totalling over 300 pages and covering 100 years of stories reported in the Whitehorse Star from 1900 up to 2000. $3.00 per copy (shipping not included) To order e-mail: circulation@whitehorsestar.com

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