City of Whitehorse capital projects delayed by lack of staff, contractors, and supplies

Staffing woes, supply chain issues and busy contractors mean the City of Whitehorse didn't spend most of what it earmarked for capital projects last year.

75% of 2022 capital expenditures budget will be re-budgeted for next year

The entrance to a building, with the words 'CITY HALL' above the doors.
Of around $97 million budgeted by the city for capital projects in 2022, more than $75 million went unspent. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Staffing woes, supply chain issues and busy contractors mean the City of Whitehorse didn't spend most of what it earmarked for capital projects last year.

Of around $97 million budgeted for 2022, more than $75 million went unspent. Incomplete projects range from traffic signal upgrades to infrastructure improvements in a school zone.

It's not unusual for the city to re-budget unspent funds in the following year or years. Some projects are scheduled over several years and for those, all funding must be approved in the first year but much is carried over to subsequent years so the work can continue.

But this year has brought added delays to many projects.

Contractors booking up

At Monday night's council meeting, staff noted multiple projects that went out for tender and received no bids, or were delayed because of contractors' schedules.

"We definitely had some projects last year where there was a lack of contractors, the existing contractors were committed throughout the year," said Tracy Allen, the city's director of infrastructure and operations. "So we're definitely running into that challenge."

Terry Sherman, who sits on the board of the Yukon Contractors Association, said the past year has been a big one for the private sector.

"When it's very active in [the] private sector, most general contractors will go toward the private sector, because projects run differently," he said.

Sherman said some companies have gone that route because it can be more straightforward to take on contracts without going through the public tender process.

He said the contractors' association is still seeing bids come in for projects, but contractors have been busy and their time is booking up. Sherman added that an active market in Alberta and B.C. has meant fewer bids coming in from outside the territory.

And demand for work has only gone up, especially with a growing population in Yukon.

"We're way short on housing. Some housing projects, big housing projects have come out," Sherman said. "It's just been very, very active.

Staff vacancies at the city pushing projects back

City staff are also trying to keep up with rapid growth. The Yukon led the country in population growth from 2016-2021, according to the most recent census.

"A lot of people want to move here, make this place home, have their families here," said Oshea Jephson, communications manager for the city. 

"With that comes all the demands that come with the growing population. You need housing, you need infrastructure ... We are doing our best to plan for that."

A report presented to council Monday night shows staffing levels at the city itself also contributed to delays.

"The city of Whitehorse is also dealing with capacity concerns, and that's something that's not unique to the organization," Jephson said.

"That's shortages that we're experiencing across the organization from our technical trades all the way to our entry level positions. So it's really impacting everyone."

Equipment has also been ordered for several capital projects, but supply chain problems have meant they didn't arrive by the year's end.

Of the unspent money, $24.8 million has already been approved for re-budget on two big projects: an expansion to the Whitehorse Operations Building, and much-needed work on the Takhini Trunk Main, a major sewer line in the city.

Council will vote on whether to approve the remaining re-budget amounts on Monday.


Leslie Amminson is a reporter for CBC Yukon based in Whitehorse. She previously worked as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. You can reach Leslie with story tips and ideas at