Moose FM’s Jesse Wheeler sits down with Beaton Mackenzie, a candidate in Yellowknife’s 2015 municipal election.
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JW: If you could sum up your platform in a minute, what would it look like?
BM: Reduce our taxes, to bring infrastructure for low-cost housing and to draw the population. Make Yellowknife affordable. The City has to see ways of being more efficient. There’s infrastructure that’s been left to the side with big projects that have happened. We’re coming into a time when we have to restrain from spending so we have to ask ourselves what we need and what we can afford. That has to be a priority for the next council.
How feasible is it for Yellowknife to host the 2023 Canada Winter Games?
Unless the federal government and territorial government come together to reduce the cost for the City, that’s an issue. Another factor we’ll have to look at is that we’ll need a minimum of 4,000 volunteers to make this work and that’s just volunteers. We’re not counting media or athletes. If we’re having problems getting volunteers for the Arctic Winter Games, the Long John Jamboree, Folk on the Rocks or even midget hockey, what are we going to do with such a large sporting event? Can we do this at the moment? I would say no.
Cost of living is a huge concern for people living in Yellowknife. A municipal government can only go so far to address the issue, but what can reasonably be done?
I know the territorial government is looking at reducing its dependency on oil for communities. Last month, $30-million was spent to subsidize the power corporation. But this year alone, we could input a solar panel system at Giant cheaper than what they spent on oil this year and there’s a good possibility that we could produce enough power for the city during the summer months that it would only come down to four months of oil to run the power plant.
We’re losing people because of the population and when they go, we don’t just lose the tax base, we lose people who contribute, we lose people with talents in the community and that’s the resource we’re really losing.
Homelessness is also a concern in the city. What would you like to see happen to address the situation here?
There are several things that we can look at long term. One, I think the City can join a taskforce with NGOs and other organizations in the city. There are a lot of people doing some good things but I would like to see them come together and work together to become more efficient. There are also some homeless people that have skills so if we look, as a community, to hire some of them part-time they may become a full-time employee.
Another group of people whose needs have to be addressed are seniors. We have a building in the Bellanca Building that would be a terrific building to renovate and put housing. The first floor could be for the arts community and they’d also have a place downtown. It could be retrofitted for seniors to have long-term care which would be significant because we’re expecting major bed shortages in the next couple of years.
You’ve said you don’t like the City going into business and buying real estate without a real plan. What would you do with the 50-50 lot?
Businesses have left the downtown because of the social issue. If people see that the City is trying to make a change, fix up the streets and do the small infrastructure first, business we’ll say, ‘they’re trying hard so I’ll join with them.’ We should see if we can also get fees lowered for small businesses to get them going. Most businesses that fail will do so in the first two years. Some businesses here have tried but because of an increase in wages and rent, they’ve been forced to raise their costs so people will turn to online shopping and now we have empty spaces downtown.
You’re obviously not running with IserveU, but I wanted to get your opinion of it.
For the younger people, they see it as their way of communication. With democracy, there’s information with consultation. You start off with an idea and then after several meetings discussing changes and your budget, I don’t think all the information would get out to people to make a sound decision. Councillors should spend a lot of time going over every article that comes to them and determine a suitable cost for every project. At the end, you have to have people that make a decision in the best interest of the people.