Whitehorse Votes: Meet the 17 candidates for city council

People in Whitehorse will elect a new group of city councillors this month. They told CBC why they're running, and what their priorities are.

Candidates explain why they're running, and what their priorities are

Whitehorse city hall. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

One thing's already certain about Whitehorse's municipal election — the new city government will look a lot different than the last one. 

With longtime mayor Dan Curtis not running again, the city will soon have a new mayor. And there will be at least four new councillors this time, as only two councillors are running for re-election to the six-person council (two other sitting councillors are running to be mayor).

CBC Yukon asked the 17 prospective councillors to briefly summarize why they're running, and what their priorities are.

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. Some submissions have been edited for length. 

Dave Blottner

My wife and I have lived in Whitehorse for 16 years, my children were born here; we are happy to call Whitehorse home. I have led a number of different non-profits, including the Boys and Girls Club of Yukon and the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society. I am currently the executive director of the Food Bank. I have always cared about Whitehorse, volunteering for charitable and community organisations, serving both front lines and on the board of directors.

I have a number of issues that I hope to work on as a city councillor, notably: housing; affordability; protecting small businesses and city infrastructure. I believe that a city councillor has a responsibility to work with their constituents, to listen to the experts, and to liaise with different levels of government to find solutions and implement them in a timely manner. 

Dan Boyd, incumbent

As a lifetime Yukoner, I have great respect and appreciation for the North. I believe strongly in the importance of protecting everything we have been naturally gifted as well as those things that we have worked hard to achieve.

I have extensive experience in the construction industry and in government service, along with my previous experience on council, I feel I have achieved a substantial level of knowledge and skills that will enable me to continue to be an effective voice on council.

If re-elected, I will continue to work hard to improve our housing availability and affordability, protecting our environment, making our community safer, rebuilding our critical infrastructure, and enhancing our rich cultural and recreational opportunities. Fiscal responsibility will continue to be one of my top priorities. I believe in respectful, fair and honest dialogue that leads to the best possible outcomes for our community.

Kirk Cameron

I was born and raised in Whitehorse and have lived most of my life here. I bring experience to this municipality having been on council from 2011 to 2015, a public servant (including deputy minister) in federal, provincial and territorial governments, and almost 20 years in the private sector as a consultant. I've started a local company, Northern Governance Institute, which serves Yukon First Nations, governments and the private sector. 

We are in an important phase in our growth. The city has now matured to a point where we need a charter or Capital City Act to recognize that we are a main "player" in governing parallel with other capital cities in Canada. I want to bring new ideas into the Official Community Plan process relating to the alignment of our values: environmental, cultural, economic and recreational. Two critical issues that are my priority: housing and crime; I have ideas.

Michelle Christensen-Toews

I moved to Whitehorse in 1973. After going outside to attend post-secondary school, I returned to Whitehorse to work and live.   

During my career, I worked in the private sector and then with the Government of Yukon. I worked 13 years as a paramedic, an emergency planner responding to the H1N1 pandemic and flooding, and lastly, I was a workplace safety advisor for over 10 years. My last year of work focused on implementation of COVID safety measures. 

As our city is projected to continue to grow, I have concerns about lack of bylaw enforcement impacting citizens' safety and quality of life. My focus is improving the processes of the city's policies and bylaws. Policies and bylaws are to guide responsibilities and actions of citizens and city staff. Enforcement should not require citizens to first complain to trigger the process. We need to build our neighbourhood communities, not create factions.

Jocelyn Curteanu, incumbent

Having served on Whitehorse city council for the past nine years, I've decided to run in this upcoming election because it's important for good governance to have a balance on council of old and new, and people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Upon realizing that only one incumbent councillor was seeking another term, and with some significant municipal issues to address, I needed to step up again.

Whitehorse is growing in population and diversity much faster than we'd expected. Despite its many benefits, growth also comes with challenges. Housing availability and accessibility, delays and hurdles in development processes, climate change mitigation and adaptation, public and active transportation enhancements, and community safety concerns are top-of-mind for lots of our citizens.

If re-elected, I'm committed to utilizing the skills, experience and networks I've acquired through my previous tenures to meet these and other challenges in support of our community's growth and prosperity.

Noah Curtis

I have lived in the Yukon for my entire life and hope to keep it that way. 

I have decided to run for council in order to help keep our community as amazing as it has always been. There are challenges to this with the massive increase of population with no end in sight. Our city is continuing to grow with infrastructure just not able to keep up. 

If I am lucky enough to be elected, my priorities would be to continue the climate change emergency so we can protect the planet for future generations, [and] create and maintain partnerships with all levels of government and our small business community in order to continue developing our community to keep up with our growing population. 

Michelle Friesen

I am a proud Yukon First Nations citizen belonging to the Wolf Clan. The City of Whitehorse sits on my family's traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council.

It's been decades since we've had an Indigenous voice on council and I'm looking forward to bringing my diverse perspectives to the table. I have worked to advance Yukon First Nations issues and priorities through my work at the Assembly of First Nations and currently work in Indigenous Relations with ATCO Electric Yukon.

I have sat on the board of directors for Contagious Mountain Bike Club (CMBC), the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women's Circle and the Yukon Status of Women Council.

Housing, climate change, encouraging green transit and safe, accessible active transportation routes are important priorities for me. I've learned from so many who call this city home and I'm ready to put that experience to work advocating for creative solutions to today's pressing issues.

Doug Graham

As a life-long Yukoner, I have watched as Whitehorse has grown from a small town of 4,000 to 5,000 people when I was young, to the growing, vibrant municipality we now see. I have been involved in sports and community organizations and have served four terms on city council as well as two terms in the territorial legislature. I intend to use this experience in government, as well as my ability to really listen to residents, to help re-align city priorities, to ensure property tax increases are kept to an absolute minimum and to use these property taxes for essential municipal services. I will also encourage good, cooperative government in city hall. 

My priorities would be to increase the amount of land available for residential construction in Whitehorse and to also increase the parking available. As the city creates smaller residential lots and multi-unit condominiums and apartments, the parking problem will only become worse, especially in the downtown core.

Kelsey Hassard-Gammel

I am running for city council because I want to do my part to make Whitehorse a more affordable and welcoming city. While Whitehorse is a wonderful place to live, it is getting increasingly expensive to live here and has lost a lot of the sense of community it used to have. 

I believe that through working collaboratively with First Nations governments, local businesses, and organizations we can tackle the affordability and sense of community Whitehorse is losing. Through working collaboratively, I believe that we can tackle issues such as housing and recreation. In my experience, working collaboratively can bring about the most effective solutions.

My priority is the lack of affordability when it comes to living in Whitehorse.

Cameron Kos

I have lived in the North for the past 29 years. My family, children and grandchildren, and most of my extended family live in Yukon. I retired from 33 years of provincial, federal and territorial public service working in diverse areas including education, health, Corrections Canada, Environment Canada, and Highways and Public Works, and now enjoy working in the private sector and developing my own company to keep my days busy.

Over the past 25 years, I have volunteered for many clubs and nonprofit groups including sitting as chair of the Holy Family Elementary School school council for two terms. 

I am running for city council as I don't feel the voices of citizens are heard sometimes, and I want to be that voice. I also see missed opportunities when some ideas and opinions of the public are not considered.

My first priority will be to ensure we spend within our means!

Ted Laking

As a father of two young children, I am increasingly concerned by the pressures Whitehorse residents and businesses experience regarding affordability.

With over a decade of senior government and management experience, I am committed to bring a common-sense approach to council and work collaboratively to address our shortage of land and housing; which has made it unrealistic for so many to find a home or succeed in business with the lack of commercial land or housing for employees.

We must plan for the future on many critical issues; from the next subdivisions and traffic congestion to parking and property crime. I will also advocate for infrastructure maintenance and improved municipal services in all neighbourhoods. I do not believe our city requires extravagant administration buildings; rather, Whitehorse citizens want a city that prioritizes essentials of affordability and livability to ensure value for their hard-earned tax dollars today and into the future.

Eileen Melnychuk

I was born in Whitehorse, and this is where I work, live, and give back.

  • Twice nominated for the City of Whitehorse Volunteer of the Year award.
  • President of the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre.
  • Proud to have been part of the team to start our Whitehorse Community Thrift Store, where I remain a board member.
  • Board member with Volunteer Bénévoles Yukon.

I am running because I am concerned about the future affordability, sustainability, and livability of our city. I appreciate our unique Klondike history but know [that] for Whitehorse to grow responsibly, we need to remain sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

If elected I will work with the new mayor and council to advance innovative solutions to address our housing crisis, waste management programs and transit system while ensuring our municipal services meet our growth. 

I am also passionate about the outdoors and would like to see the Whitehorse North and South trail plans completed and implemented.

Mellisa Murray

I am a second generation Chinese-Canadian, a mother of two and a born and raised Yukoner. I am an active member of the city's arts and business community, I'm heavily involved with [non-government organizations] and have led community initiatives

I am running for city council because it needs to reflect our diverse community. Our city has a lot of potential but if we want to address all the issues, we need to be more proactive. It's time for change, new voices and new ideas. I want to create real positive change, and I believe I have a lot to offer.

My priorities include:

  • Development and land use planning, including creating affordable housing and an economic development strategy.
  • Creating a climate action plan by encouraging citizens to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Becoming a more diverse and inclusive city.
  • Promoting the health and safety of our citizens.

Robin Reid-Fraser

I grew up here on the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council. I went to school in Tio'tia:ke/Montreal for environmental studies and industrial mechanics. I'm the building manager at the Francophone Centre and a bike mechanic at Cadence Cycle.

I'm running because I love Whitehorse and I want it to be even better for more people, and because I enjoy collaborating with others to find creative solutions to complex problems.

Here are my priorities:

  • Serious action on climate change by reducing emissions and building resilience against extreme weather.
  • Making Whitehorse more accessible to people with all types of disabilities, and more friendly to active modes of transportation.
  • Expanding the public transit system so it works for more people in more places.
  • Doing everything in the city's power to increase access to safe and affordable housing.
  • Creating a more responsive city government.

Telek Rogan

Telek Rogan did not respond by deadline.

Michelle Stimson

Michelle Stimson did not respond by deadline.

Janna Swales

Almost 20 years ago I came here as a hiking and canoe guide, then enrolled in Northern Studies at Yukon College, completed a degree in Northern History and have worked in the not-for-profit heritage field ever since. 

As well as being a money-conscious homeowner, I am a mother, executive director at the Yukon Transportation Museum, an active board member on the Yukon Chamber of Commerce energy committee, the Yukon Historical and Museum Association and the Tourism Industry Association Yukon. 

Whitehorse is a city overflowing with opportunities for well-being, business, families, and culture. We are athletes, we are champions for inclusivity, we are award-winning musicians, writers and performers.  We are the place that nourishes talent, diversity and passion.   

The city has powerful tools in its soon-to-be Vision 2040, in its zoning decisions, its partnerships and its taxation strategy. The city has timely opportunities as we are poised to lean into reconciliation, clean energy, and smart and active transportation systems.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from more candidates, and will be updated again if we hear from the last two.