EDITORIAL: Only voters get their say

by Editorial Board - October 12, 2018

Yellowknife’s municipal election – a very important election that might go a long way to determining the future of the city’s schools, housing and its economic direction – is this Monday. That’s right, Monday.

Mark the date on your calendar, affix a sticky note in your place of work or make some other effort to get out and vote.

After two terms as mayor, Mark Heyck is not running for re-election, which means change is coming to city hall. Four candidates: Rebecca Alty, Adrian Bell, Jerald Sibbeston, and Bob Stewart are vying for his job.

There are 16 candidates running for eight councillor positions. Five of them are incumbents. The rest are a mix of professionals and entrepreneurs, mavericks and policy wonks, lifelong residents and new arrivals – married people and single folks.

Past elections have not had such a wealth of candidates and it is encouraging to see so many people willing to serve their city.

We hope readers find we have done our part. Our print editions have been thick with coverage and our online election page is populated with stories, profiles, videos and responses to issues we have raised with the candidates for mayor and council. In this newspaper you will also find profiles on all the candidates running for school board trustee.

Citizens who are educated are a pillar of an effectively functioning democracy. We hope voters will put in the effort to inform themselves as a number of important issues are at stake in this election. That means reading and listening to what the candidates have had to say.

The ballot will include a proposal to increase mayoral and city council terms to four years from three. What do you think?

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Earlier this year, city hall was beset by scandal when allegations of workplace misconduct at the Municipal Enforcement Division were leaked to the press. Council ordered an inquiry, which concluded that an initial investigation in 2014 was handled properly. Was the situation handled properly?

A proposed 5.64 per cent property tax increase was reduced to 1.86 per cent this year by eliminating several projects.

Would you pay higher property taxes for more facilities?

The city currently has 230 full-time employees but administration recently told council it needed 13 more. This year, wages and benefits will eat about $27 million out of $76 million in total spending. Should the city hire more employees?

According to the GNWT, the territory is in the middle of a tourism boom. A record number of visitors came to the NWT last year and spent over $200 million.

Unfortunately, the Northern Frontier Visitors’ Centre was shut down last year after it was discovered the building was sinking into a marsh. Since then the tourism centre has been run out of the basement of city hall. Where do we go from here?

Also, the city continues to struggle with rampant homelessness and the hollowing out of the downtown core.

What is to be done?

But without a doubt, the most important issue facing the city is its long-term economic viability.

According to a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada, the NWT’s economic future is “grim.”

All three of the territory’s diamond mines are scheduled to close by 2034, which will be a massive blow to the city.

To offset lost mining jobs, we need strong leaders who will be able to move beyond petty political feuding to create an entrepreneurial economy.

All the candidates for mayor and council have addressed these issues in our pages and on our online election page at nnsl.com/yellowknife-municipal-election/. It is free of charge so if you haven’t been there yet please visit before the weekend is over and the voting begins.

Who among the current slate of candidates will be able to tackle these issues?

We’ll let the voters decide.

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