Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SETTING OUT THEIR VIEWS – Mayoral candidates Patti Balsillie, Samson Hartland and Laura Cabott are seen left to right at Wednesday evening’s Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce forum at the Yukon Inn Plaza.

Would-be mayors stake positions at forum

The three mayoral candidates for the Oct. 21 municipal election faced 10 questions at Wednesday evening’s forum hosted by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

By Chuck Tobin on October 15, 2021

The three mayoral candidates for the Oct. 21 municipal election faced 10 questions at Wednesday evening’s forum hosted by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

The audience was small, with just 14 people on hand to hear the answers from incumbent city councillors Laura Cabott and Samson Hartland and Patti Balsillie, a newcomer to municipal politics. The event, however, was live-streamed.

The questions focused on key issues facing the city, ranging from housing, crime, parking, the shortage of commercial lots, climate change and addressing ongoing issues at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.

Moderator Oshea Jephson asked the candidates about how they would promote a better way to meet the needs of the business community, about how they would support the economic recovery.

The candidates were asked to describe the three top priorities in their campaigns.

They were asked how they would would work with a largely new council, with Mayor Dan Curtis not returning after three consecutive three-year terms. There will be at least three councillors not returning, depending on the outcome of the mayoral race.

For two hours, the audience heard of the candidates’ perspectives on various matters.

All of the candidates spoke of the need to support the business community, tackle the housing crisis and climate change.

They all acknowledged they were on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Counil.

A strong relationship with the First Nations is of great importance, they all agreed.

The moderator asked 10 questions, with each candidate taking turns providing their answers.

Below is a summary of each candidate’s position, appearing in alphabetical order.


Inclusiveness, listening to what people have to say and contribute is of paramount importance, she told the audience.

As someone who has worked in a variety of executive positions and who has been involved in all aspects of the tourism industry for the past couple of decades, Balsillie said the industry needs support to return to a place of stability. The pandemic knocked the teeth out of the economy, especially the tourism sector, she said.

“Tourism is deeply entrenched in the quality of our lives.”

The candidate believes there is an opportunity of finding ways to advance the industry.

She said working with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the 500 members it represents would be essential.

“It is the private sector that gives us our personality,” Balsillie told the audience.

She said the new mayor and council will have the opportunity to complete the work that has gone into reworking the Official Community Plan and developing the 2040 OCP. They will have the opportunity to examine the housing crisis through that work.

She says what the city is doing to address the issue of property crime is simply not working.

Property crime is not just an issue for downtown, but for all the neighbourhoods, she said.

Climate change, said Balsillie, will never be reversed, but it can be slowed down.

The cost of battling climate change can be expensive, but the cost of doing nothing could be more costly.

The candidate asked the audience to imagine what could be accomplished if the city could inspire its 32,000 residents to jump on the train to battle climate change.

The city, she said, can be more accommodating when it comes to dealing with the business community, both in examining permitting fees and looking at the type of restrictions the city has in place.

“The only thing I want to increase is the value of your dollar,” said Balsillie.

She said dealing with the emergency shelter is a complex issue. The RCMP, she said, will tell you they are there dealing with issues there non-stop.

She said part of the problem is people who are coming out of jail on the road to a better life are put in the shelter, where they are surrounded by the negative atmosphere.

“I would bring innovation and problem-solving,” she told the audience. “I represent change.”


Cabott says she has the skills and leadership qualities to help guide the new council.

The next council will be a majority of new faces and it will require strong leadership, the incumbent councillor told the audience.

“I believe that is me,” she said. “I am running for mayor because I really enjoyed my term as councillor. I feel I made a lot of positive contributions.”

She said she has a vision and has learned a lot of ideas knocking on doors and talking to the business community.

It takes collaboration and commitment to lead, to get all seven members of council pulling in the direction. It’s important that the new council feel welcome.

“I would be very welcoming and would reach out to people, ask them how they are doing, but be welcoming.”

Cabott said she believes there is an opportunity to bring on a full-time position dedicated to focusing on the tourism industry.

Anything the city does to support tourism is a benefit to the hotel industry, is a means of attracting events and highlighting culture, she said.

She said completing the work on updating the 2040 OCP will help to address the housing crisis. It is a high level document but is shows you what is coming down the pipe in the next 20 years, Cabott said.

She said the city needs to engage the two local First Nations to see what they want to do about residential development.

“With COVID-19, more and more people are going to move here. That is not a bad thing. It’s how you address it.”

The city just can’t keep washing its hands or the growing crime rate, she said, noting bylaw officers are limited in their authority but do communicate with the RCMP.

“The citizens are asking for something,” she said. “They say we have a role to play and I absolutely agree with them.”

Cabott said the city can’t afford to do nothing about climate change.

Establishing an advisory committee on climate change would be a step in the right direction.

“We have incredible experts here,” she said. “We need to reduce our climate footprint.”

There’s the opportunity to provide a special tax rate for renewable energy projects, she said.

Cabott said the city has to balance out its needs to make sure taxes are reasonable, but the issue of taxes is a tricky one.


The mayor has only one vote of seven votes on council, Hartland reminded the audience.

He said it takes collaboration and unity among council to advance the city’s interests.

“The key to this is to be a consensus-builder,” he said. “You have to be a good listener, you have to be able to build trust and respect among your colleagues.”

Hartland said you have to be careful not to promise the moon because there are six others on council. But as a veteran of the last two terms, he understands the city’s strategic plan and the city’s priorities.

Hartland told the audience one of the keys to encourage business and tourism is to reduce the red tape. Red tape, he said, means hoops to jump through.

“In these time of stress and economic uncertainty, the last thing you want to worry about is the hoops you have to jump through to keep your business afloat,” Hartland said. “How can we make the job of business easier?”

To get a handle on the housing crisis, he said, the new council will have to understand the OCP that provides a vision into the city’s future.

Housing boils down to a supply-and-demand issue and demand is currently outstripping supply, he told the audience.

Hartland said addressing the housing crisis will take collaboration among all the players – the city, the First Nations and the Yukon government.

“We do want to complete that OCP so that we can have that certainty.”

Hartland said the increase in crime is bigger than all of us.

Combatting it will require a collective effort, ongoing communication with the RCMP and the Yukon government, he said, adding he met with the police last month to discuss the issue.

Hartland said the new council will need to empower itself to help address the rising crime rate.

“We can make this community safe again,” he told the audience.

Examining options available to improve city infrastructure, making it more green, is a means the city can use to reduce its carbon footprint, he said.

Hartland said examining the use of biomass or wood for heating can be looked at, as can looking at converting the city’s fleet of vehicles to electric vehicles.

“Are we doing as much as we can? Maybe not, but we are making strides,” he said.

See profiles in News Section.

Comments (12)

Up 10 Down 0

TJ on Oct 20, 2021 at 4:44 pm

These folks need to understand that we are talking municipal politics.
Start with: Snow removal, potholes, twinning Mountainview, lowering taxes, getting cheaper lots on the market and parking downtown.

Stick to your lane. Climate change, LGBTQ rights and crime are all out of your jurisdiction. Maybe if you can fix all the municipal horrors you can assist YG.

Up 5 Down 1

Nathan Living on Oct 19, 2021 at 8:05 pm

I think all candidates can do well as mayor.

It's nice to have a change and I hope there is change in a number of areas because Whitehorse has fallen to a very low level.
From the street level of petty crime and drunkenness and drug use to the entitled use of side by sides basically everywhere with non adherence to bylaws.

And the city is giving away environmentally sensitive areas for no compelling reason. Welcome to the new Whitehorse which is far from the wonderful city we used to have.

Up 16 Down 4

CBC sensorship on Oct 19, 2021 at 9:25 am

This is what I tried to post on CBC, but free speech is no more :
Content deactivated
I have a genuine question to CBC: how do you decide on which articles comments are allowed? There was an "opinion" on the three candidates last weekend which, I found, was incredibly insulting. However, no other opinions, or comments, were allowed. Feel free to email me through my profile, CBC. I really want to understand your logic.

Up 18 Down 3

Yukoner on Oct 19, 2021 at 8:36 am

I, too, am disappointed that other than Samson mentioning it, none of the three addressed the rising crime in our City and what to do about it.

Just equally on the list for me is traffic congestion and parking. COW keeps allowing "exceptions" to reduce parking spaces for new developments (whole other story!) and does NOTHING to deal with the increased traffic. Where is that highway access from Whistlebend??

The Climate change "emergency" is not a city mandate; ensuring your citizens safety and quality of life is.
Finally, not one candidate, including councillor, came to my door. But maybe I just don't live in the right part of town.

Up 10 Down 22

Jamie on Oct 18, 2021 at 10:22 pm

Vote no for Hartland. This dude couldn’t plan a 1 car parade.

Up 13 Down 6

Max Mack on Oct 18, 2021 at 5:38 pm

Disappointed to hear Hartland's take on climate change. I guess he had to toe the line or the easily duped public wouldn't vote for him -- even many conservatives have bought into the whole climate change disasterism. Also, lots of money flows from the Feds and YTG for climate change . . . so, there is that.

One thing that I hope stops flowing is more money out of my pocket. Nobody seems to be talking about fiscal conservatism or making living less expensive.

Up 16 Down 5

dick on Oct 18, 2021 at 10:43 am

The unfortunate thing about this election here, and throughout the Territory is elected officials have been reduced, mostly to figure heads, rather than game changers. Administrations within make policy, and put them into practice. They do go to councils to have them rubber stamped, but you never see much from politicians in regard to real change in their jurisdictions. Same has happened at the territorial level. Not sure how to change this, but unless something happens, all we will get is another round of the same old.

Up 26 Down 7

TheHammer on Oct 17, 2021 at 10:25 am

Climate change, housing crisis, and supporting the business community rule each other out. Crime, public drinking, pan handling are all issues of law and order, and are out of control. It will take a coordinated effort of Federal/Territorial Government, FN, and Police to deal with the growing lunacy. Financed by social services, and supported by the Liquor corporation/outlets, and illegal drug dealers.

Up 21 Down 37

Snowman on Oct 16, 2021 at 1:32 pm

Sorry Samson but you lost me by saying "Let's make the city safe (great) again". That's just throwing red meat to your rabid conservative base by trying to sound a bit like Trump. He is trying to appeal to Cathers' crazy base out in Hidden Valley/Grizzly Valley even though half of them can't vote in this election. lol

Up 31 Down 16

Rick S on Oct 16, 2021 at 10:01 am

Well, at least Hartland understands "not to promise the moon."
Good to see they were all ideologically vetted for climate change.

Up 38 Down 7

Jim on Oct 15, 2021 at 5:21 pm

It’s somewhat concerning that the mayoral candidates and councillor hopefuls all seem to be promising various solutions to items that the city hasn’t set a budget amount for. Climate change, is there an amount set aside for this or is this more Steve Roddick wasting months declaring an emergency with no follow up or plan. How many tax grants can we give to landlords to build low cost (or market value) rentals before it affects the tax base. First Nation partnerships with YTG and City will also reduce tax revenues on leased lots.
Not one councillor or mayor candidate has talked about infrastructure issues such as traffic flow and pedestrian safety on our streets. The existing bunch thought lowering the speed limit by 10kph was the fix. So when the population increases again, do they lower it another 10? The solution is simple and right in front of them. But unfortunately it’s not the touchy feely election type stuff. Or how about simplifying the building process for a change. But that’s what the City is supposed to do for us. Keep the roads maintained, put the fires out, pick up the garbage, and make sure the crap runs downhill.

Up 40 Down 22

bonanzajoe on Oct 15, 2021 at 5:15 pm

Cabot: "With COVID-19, more and more people are going to move here". Is she telling us, that the high rate of Covid 19 is attracting new people to the Yukon? And then she says, "Establishing an advisory committee on climate change". How about establishing an advisory committee on the climate change scam? And finally, "There’s the opportunity to provide a special tax rate for renewable energy projects". Not on my taxes missy. Cabot sure isn't a conservative. When she favours more taxes she must be a left wing socialist.
Now of the 3 I liked Hartland's ideas better.

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