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Territorial legislation holds back city: Heyck
Mayor says important plans stalled due to GNWT's unwillingness to update Cities, Towns and Villages Act

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, September 30, 2016

The mayor says the city is hamstrung when it comes to moving forward on important legislation because the GNWT has not prioritized updating the Cities, Towns and Villages Act.

Mark Heyck made his comments after city council voted Monday night to support a motion to direct city administration to request the GNWT to consider as many as six legislative amendments that would allow the city to enact new legislation.

Coun. Niels Konge was the only member to vote against the motion. He felt the city would have a better chance of getting the territorial government to make changes if they came to it with a shorter list - a sniper approach as opposed to blasting the GNWT all at once and seeing what sticks, was how Konge put it.

Among the laws the city wants changed is one that would allow it to loan individual homeowners money to implement energy retrofits to make residences more energy efficient and eco-friendly, implement a hotel tax, phase-in municipal tax increases, making it easier for the city to collect back taxes and allow the city to serve parking ticket notices through the mail rather than in person as required under existing legislation.

"We were hopeful that there would be a major review (of the act) undertaken during the life of this assembly," said Heyck. "We're now told that is unlikely and that it will be more likely during the life of the next assembly."

Heyck went on to say the city has been waiting for these changes for many years because Yellowknife governs itself under different circumstances.

"We are by far the largest community and we have a lot of different needs than some of the much smaller communities in the NWT," he said.

Heyck said he firmly believes that Yellowknife has the capacity to govern itself, a capacity that he said does not always exist in the smaller NWT communities. He added current legislation handcuffs city council and administration when it comes to moving forward on many of its plans.

Both Konge and Coun. Julian Morse agreed with the mayor, saying the act is simply outdated.

"At the time it made sense to lump everything together under the Cities Towns and Villages Act and since that time Yellowknife has grown four times what it was back then, or more," Konge said. "It's time for some change. Some of these things have been asked about for a decade."

Morse pointed out some of the legislative changes the city is asking for would apply to smaller communities as well and it's possible they want the changes as well.

"It just so happens that Yellowknife tends to be the community that's going to push this because we are the biggest, we have the biggest government, we've got the most staff working for us helping us draft these kinds of changes," he said.

Many of the changes would come from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. Eleanor Young, acting deputy minister since Sept. 2, said the department has 19 separate pieces of pending legislation on its agenda and is doing its best to accommodate the city's requests.

"With that workload that is currently on our plate we are simply being honest but we don't anticipate a major overhaul of the Cities, Towns and Villages Act is something that can be achieved during this assembly," Young said. "We sympathize with Mayor Heyck. He may have some frustrations with the legislation ... when working with communities we can only tackle a few pieces at a time in any given assembly."

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