YK mayoral candidates clash on housing, homeless

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Yellowknife mayoral candidate John Himmelman accused incumbent Mark Heyck of presiding over a ‘disconnect’ with the public on Thursday.

Himmelman, a 52-year-old accountant, believes “there is an emphasis on revitalization and beautification when the priorities of the public are actually housing costs and social issues”.

Heyck, in response, said the city had “a consistent supply of housing” and pledged to lead a new task force on homelessness, mental health and addictions if re-elected.

The candidates appeared together on CBC ahead of Yellowknife’s municipal election on October 19.

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“I’d be the person to refocus city council and administration,” proclaimed Himmelman. “The city has been very active in land administration and management, and I think it’s doing the opposite of what Yellowknife really needs.

“The cost of housing is one of the biggest issues identified by the public. They should rethink and refocus.”

Himmelman cited the 50-50 lot as an example of administration pursuing a program of revitalization for which there is little public enthusiasm.

Background: Meet John Himmelman: Mayor Mark Heyck’s challenger

Heyck, however, disagreed with his perception.

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“The city needs to play a lead role. It shows we are serious about revitalizing the downtown core,” said the 39-year-old in defence of the city’s decision to purchase and develop the downtown lot.

“I know a lot of people who have approached me about it and certainly downtown business owners are looking at bringing some vitality back.”

Heyck admitted more could be done for the homeless and other vulnerable Yellowknife residents. He envisages the creation of a task force to unite the various organizations already working on social issues within the city.

“Things can be done in a much more cohesive fashion, taking a look at best practices from across the country and seeing what works here. We can better focus our approach and produce results that help those people who are most vulnerable,” he said.

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Asked what he would do, Himmelman took a shot at Heyck, saying: “I’d actually attend the homeless partnership strategy meetings. I look at the attendance there and I think you should make it to more than half of the meetings.”

Himmelman called for improved governance and oversight of attempts to tackle social concerns.

Lastly, Heyck said the city was taking a ‘prudent’ approach to hosting the 2023 Canada Winter Games, as he awaits the report of a committee tasked with examining the feasibility of staging the event.

Himmelman questioned the “real business benefit” of the Canada Games but said he would reserve judgment until the committee reports.

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