Voters worry about economy
But not all residents focused on bottom line

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 06/99) - Though only two will win a place, all seven candidates for city council got a chance to try out the hot seats in council chambers Monday night.

Taxes and the economy were the main subjects of a wide-ranging Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce all-candidates forum.

But the cost of living in the city was not the only thing on the mind of every member of the standing-room only crowd in attendance.

"I came prepared to vote against people who only have a business agenda," said resident Mark Seebaran after the forum. "But having listened to the people tonight, I'm satisfied that some of those are taking a more balanced approach than I had thought."

Arlene Hache of the Yellowknife Women's Centre asked each candidate to answer yes or no to whether they would agree to postpone talk of a new arena until a family resource, including day care and other services, centre was established.

Four of the candidates -- Fraser Weir, Alan Woytuik, Dave McCann and John Dalton -- answered no. Bruce Coomber said he would say no to a new arena, but would need further information before committing to a family centre. Garth Wallbridge said he could not answer the question with a yes or a no. Rachel Lawless was the only candidate who would put a family centre ahead of a new arena.

After opening statements from each candidate, each candidate addressed five questions the chamber had prepared for them.

Of the five prepared questions all but one, which asked what each candidate would do to improve relations between council and the media, dealt with business and economic issues. The questions went to the core of the campaign platforms of all of the candidates.

The questions resulted in some criticism of council.

"Council has to change its spending patterns if it is to have any credibility with taxpayers and the community," said Dalton.

Woytuik called for levies to be removed from water bills and, if necessary, be incorporated into tax bills. He also said the city should be doing its part to reduce the cost of housing by not incorporating the cost of roads, curbs and sewer lines into lot prices.

Coomber said the city has to do a better job promoting the positive aspects of Yellowknife if it hopes to attract diamond industry workers and needs to be more adaptable in its budgeting.

Lawless said the most important market the city needs to focus on is tourism and that it can take a few lessons from Whitehorse on that front.

Efficiency requires "a full redesign of the budget process," said McCann. He said council must have more involvement earlier in the process.

Both McCann and Weir mentioned city vehicles as an example of efficiencies waiting to happen, McCann pointing to full-sized bylaw patrol vehicles and Weir noting the four-by-four crew cabs the public works department uses as unnecessary expenses.

Weir said council has not shown itself incapable of making difficult decisions required by the downturn in the economy.

The city needs to take a closer look at joint venture opportunities with the private sector, said Wallbridge, who criticized the city's economic development as spending too much time "paper pushing" and not enough out in the community.