Candidates discuss rebuilding downtown, lack of hotels during Yellowknife mayoral forum

Four hopefuls in the running to become the mayor of Yellowknife laid out their platform to the public on Oct. 2., facing off at a forum held by the city's chamber of commerce.

Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce hosted second mayoral forum of 2018 campaign Tuesday night

Bob Stewart, Rebecca Alty, Jerald Sibbeston, and Adrian Bell squared off in a mayoral candidates forum Tuesday evening at Yellowknife's Northern United Place. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

Four hopefuls in the running to become the mayor of Yellowknife laid out their platform to the public on Oct. 2.

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce hosted a mayoral forum Tuesday evening at Northern United Place. Candidates Rebecca Alty, Adrian Bell, Jerald Sibbeston, and Bob Stewart took on questions on a variety of topics, including attracting business and increasing investment in the city.

During the forum, Stewart said the city can't look at attracting new business if its downtown isn't attractive.

"Unless somebody does something drastically to change what it looks like around there then there isn't going to be much to sell in the downtown," he said. "It's the first thing [investors are] going to see."

Stewart pointed to "hard issues" that need to be tackled downtown, like the growing homeless population. His proposed solution would be to create a community centre outside of the downtown core, which he says the city's homeless would gravitate toward.

He added that once the downtown gets a facelift, the City of Yellowknife can then pitch the many vacant commercial spaces to potential investors.

Bob Stewart, left and Rebecca Alty agree that bringing businesses downtown is an issue that needs to be solved in Yellowknife. Stewart proposed focusing on the city's downtown homeless population, while Alty suggested speaking directly with potential investors about their potential barriers. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)
"Investors want to see something pretty downtown," he said.

Candidate Rebecca Alty said her focus is on pitching the city to potential new businesses. 

She wants to share data on the business opportunities in Yellowknife with new business owners, and then talk to them about what barriers are keeping them from coming here.

"Making sure that we're out, hearing what the concerns are, and then working to address those," she said.

Alty also mentioned partnering with groups like N.W.T. Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce to find ways to improve tourism businesses in the city.

Adrian Bell said he wants to travel to trade shows in order to new businesses downtown. (Mario De Ciccio/ Radio-Canada)

Adrian Bell, on the other hand, wants to travel to trade shows in order to find new businesses who could establish themselves downtown. He also hopes to capitalize on the city's tourism potential by packaging and pitching the city to potential investors, including in the hotel sector.

"This is where the results can be achieved," he said.

Yellowknife has a slew of traits that make it attractive to investors including a high disposable income, a high density of workers downtown, and the aurora season, said Bell. 

"There is a job there for a mayor to go out there and sell this town to hotel investors, to these groups that are going to invest millions," he said.

Jerald Sibbeston suggested inventorying empty space downtown and then pitching those spaces to potential investors. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

More hotel development was an idea candidate Jerald Sibbeston also suggested.

If elected mayor, Sibbeston wants to put together a list of empty space downtown which he believes could be developed into hotels or commercial spaces. Sibbeston then suggested writing letters to hotel companies in hopes they would invest in Yellowknife.

"[Explain] to them that there's currently an infrastructure crisis here for the tourism industry," he said. "That investment dollars are welcome."

Sibbeston also pitched the idea of stopping tax and user fee increases for the business community over the next three-year term, and potentially cutting those taxes entirely to help the business environment grow.

The Yellowknife municipal election is on October 15.