IserveU election model draws ire at Yellowknife municipal election forum

The IserveU voting model came under fire from city councillors during a municipal election forum Wednesday night.

'Don't sit here and minimize what I do,' councillor Linda Bussey told an IserveU candidate

The IserveU voting model came under fire from city councillors during a municipal election forum Wednesday night. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The IserveU voting model championed by a Yellowknife non-profit came under fire from city councillors during a municipal election forum Wednesday night.

"Don't sit here and minimize what I do," councillor Linda Bussey told IserveU candidate Dane Mason during a particularly tense moment near the end of the forum.

Under IserveU, councillors like Mason would vote on what they term "major issues" based on the views expressed online by registered IserveU website users.

"When I take this job, I take it seriously," said Bussey. "I listen to people and I do my work."

The heated comment came after Mason, who was seated right beside Bussey, suggested that IserveU will invigorate public discussion of city council topics.

"If we take the best ideas of the eight people who will be behind this counter, we're going to have a limited amount of ideas," said Mason.

"If we can depend on all of you [the public] to interact with us and say, 'There's different ways to things, things we haven't thought about,' then we've already got a better discussion going."

The first half of the forum was a series of mock city councils using motions provided by local social justice groups; it proceeded uneventfully and ended relatively early.

Current and aspiring councillors alike criticized the P3 funding model for projects like the new Stanton Territorial Hospital but did not relish turning their backs completely on the idea of using P3s.

During another mock debate, all participants except for Adrian Bell, Rommel Silverio and Niels Konge voted in favour of the City of Yellowknife paying its employees a living wage of $20.68.

Bell and Silverio said doing that would increase costs for employers — costs that would likely be passed down to the public at large.   

City council candidates at a municipal election forum Wednesday night in Yellowknife. The first half of the forum was a series of mock city councils. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Once the forum was turned over to the crowd of about 150 people for questions, however, it was IserveU that sparked the most interest (and the most groans from audience members who eventually tired of hearing questions about it).

Bell said the effectiveness of IserveU will depend on how many people actually register to use the website.

"If there are 5,000 people...and if they're regularly engaged, that's going to be an incredible enhancement," he said.

"If there are 300 of them, then I think the candidates who are running on that platform should have the right to say, 'I don't think the platform is providing me with the moral authority to follow this vote.'"

Mike Westwick, a communications coordinator for IserveU, says more than 1,700 people have asked to be notified when the system goes live.

Westwick says that will happen immediately after Monday's election — regardless of whether Mason and other IserveU candidates Marie Soleil-Lacoursiere and Silverio are elected.

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