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Yellowknife pilot Tom McLennan launches bid for city council

As a pilot, Tom McLennan says he has good situational awareness: “Being aware of where you are and where you’re going, what’s happening next”

As a pilot, Tom McLennan says he has good situational awareness: “Being aware of where you are and where you’re going, what’s happening next”

Now, he says he wants to apply those same skills to the job of a Yellowknife city councillor: “Being aware of how different legislation interacts, and what’s coming next, and being researched and understanding all those things, so that you know how to make changes and how those changes will affect other things.”

He officially launched his bid for council on Thursday, Aug. 25 at Somba K’e Civic Plaza. The following day, he released a statement outlining the main points of his campaign: opposition to the recent residential property tax hike; addressing the city’s housing crisis; climate change and food sustainability; infrastructure; and reconciliation with the city’s Indigenous population.

McLennan came to Yellowknife more than six years ago during his pilot’s training and never left. “I’ve built a life here and I’m staying. I want all of my friends to stay, too,” says McLennan, a Yellowknife resident of six years. “This is about putting my money where my mouth is and trying to make a difference so that can happen… I’ve seen too many give up on (Yellowknife) because they couldn’t afford it, or couldn’t see themselves here for the long-term.”

McLennan’s first political experience came from helping his cousin run for Toronto City Council. The spark that led to him running this time around was a public hearing about changes to Yellowknife’s zoning bylaw in November. “I spoke at the public hearing and made some submissions to council and really liked the whole process,” he says. “So that’s probably when I started seriously thinking about it.”

McLennan says the municipal property tax hike in May, which saw residential property taxes rise by about nine per cent, was another major motivator. “We’ve got a property tax hike pushing double digits alongside sky-high inflation the year before assessments, which will inevitably increase taxes more,” he says. “Waiting and making changes at the appropriate time would have accomplished the same goals without shocking residents.”

With regards to housing, McLennan praises the city’s new zoning bylaw, adopted in March. He says it will open the door to more affordable housing.

“The city must use this new tool to incentivize the lower-cost, well-built housing we need,” he says.

McLennan also wants Yellowknife to become more independent in producing its own food.

“We need to expand our capacity to grow food here and reduce our reliance on southern imports,” he says.

In the spirit of promoting reconciliation with Yellowknife’s Indigenous community, McLennan says he would like to strengthen the city’s relationship with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, and “use local government as a tool to advance reconciliation.”

In addition to his job as a pilot, McLennan is an amateur photographer and carpenter.

With the election on the horizon, McLennan says he has a lot of door-knocking to do in the near future: “That’ll be a big one, trying to talk to as many different people as I can all over the city. And I’ll be planning to be at a grocery stores or Walmart on Sundays, sort of just sitting outside and seeing who comes by and wants to chat.”

The municipal election takes place on Monday, Oct. 17.