Residents in Dawson City, Old Crow speak out against proposed riding merger

A small but vocal group of Dawson City, Yukon, residents came to a public meeting on Monday night to speak out against proposed changes to Yukon's electoral boundaries.

Last month, the Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission released its 2024 interim report, which proposes that the territory increase the number of ridings in Whitehorse from 11 to 13, due to the city's growing population, while merging rural ridings from eight down to six.

One of the proposed mergers involves the Vuntut Gwitchin riding in Old Crow, and Dawson City's Klondike riding into a new riding called Yukon North.

Fewer than a dozen people showed up for the commission's public consultation meeting on Monday meeting in Dawson City, but they appeared unanimous in their feedback: Dawson City and Old Crow should each continue to have their own MLAs.

Suzanne Crocker was the first resident to speak to the commission on Monday.

"I have to admit, I had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1 — because I thought it was an April Fool's joke," she said.

"I oppose the reform. I think effective representation in the Yukon shouldn't be based on population."

Crocker also pointed out how the balance of power between rural communities and Whitehorse could be affected if the all of the recommendations in the interim report were passed.

"If this went to the legislature right now it would be in Whitehorse's interest to all vote 'yes' because then they'd get more votes — and even if all of the communities say 'no, we don't like this,' we would be out-voted."

Resident Brent McDonald said the MLA for Klondike already has a lot on his plate dealing with issues in Dawson. Having the Klondike MLA take on another community's unique issues isn't practical when it comes to getting things done locally.

New electoral district boundaries, recommended by Yukon's Electoral District Boundaries Commission, May 2024
New electoral district boundaries, proposed in an interim report by the commission. The commission has been holding hearings across the territory over the last month and will submit its final report to legislators this fall. (Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission)

"When I think of the Klondike riding, we have a mining industry," McDonald said. "We have a tourism industry, endangered fisheries, we have a tremendous amount of geography. We have wildfires, we have our own hospital... Every single one of these issues is something our MLA needs to deal with or be involved with."

'They're concerned about their voice being lost'

The commission has been holding public hearings across the territory over the last month to hear comments on the proposed boundaries. Before visiting Dawson City on Monday, the commission stopped over earlier that day in Old Crow.

According to the commission's chair, Justice Suzanne Duncan, people in Old Crow also spoke out against the proposed merger with the Klondike riding.

"They're concerned about their voice being lost," Duncan told CBC. "They have unique concerns connected to the land, and the wildlife, and protection."

Duncan reaffirmed that at this point nothing is set in stone. She said the commission will review all of the public feedback over the summer and draft a final report that will be released for public input sometime in September.

Then it will be up to the legislative assembly whether or not to move forward on the commission's recommendations.

Duncan said she hopes to send a final report to legislators by October 9.

"What we hope is that the legislature will introduce a bill in the fall session that will propose to implement the changes we recommend in our final report," Duncan said. "It will be debated and if it passes it will become law and be in effect for the next election."

Duncan said if it doesn't get on the agenda during the fall session then it will likely be introduced in the spring session.

The next public hearing on the commission's interim report is in Haines Junction on Tuesday evening, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Elias Convention Centre. Two virtual meetings are scheduled for July 23 and August 13.