Klondike Sun ~ April 23, 2004
Welcome to the April 23, 2004 online edition of the Klondike Sun, reproducing a selection of the articles and photographs from the April 20 newsstand edition.
The Sun has only recently been updated on the web after a hiatus since the January 16/04 issue. Current issues are now available on the site, and the archives from 1997-2003 are linked to this site.
We have had many inquiries about the absence of current issues here, and we note that the site has had more than 2,000 hits since the final new posting last January.
This issue is one of the most significant of 2004 in that it records the events of the week that Dawson’s city council was removed by the territorial government. There was a lot of press coverage other than our own, and we reproduced some of that. There were also a lot of letters and we used those. ‘
While there were some complaints about the tone and contents of this issue, it is worth noting that that it sold out completely in less than a week. All that remains of that print run are our file copies.
As we move through the back and forth process of getting all of 2004 onto our new website, changes keep taking place in the site. It is September 17, 2004 as I write these introductory notes. Our webmaster, John Steins, has now added a search engine to the site which will allow you to compile a collection of articles on any one subject including all the issues from 1996 to 2003.
Headlines from the Week that Was: what follows is a selection of headlines from various media outlets, both local and national.
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
* Trustee Appointed To Address Financial Situation In Dawson City – YTG press release
* Minister Fires Dawson City town council
* ‘It’s a bloody takeover,’ NDP says – Whitehorse Star
* Yukon fires Dawson City council – CBC National News
* YTG pulls plug on Dawson city council – CBC North, Whitehorse
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
* Jenkins Wins the Battle, Hart Clears the Mess – Yukon News
* Territorial Government Grabs Dawson’s Fiscal Reigns – Yukon News
* Jenkins Mute on Everitt’s Call to Quit – Whitehorse Star
* “It’s a sad state of affairs,” Jenkins says – Whitehorse Star
Trustee Appointed To Address Financial Situation In Dawson City
YTG Press Release
WHITEHORSE (April 13, 2004) The Yukon government is moving to appoint a former deputy minister as trustee for the cash-strapped community of Dawson City.
In announcing the appointment of former Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office Raymond Hayes this morning, Community Services Minister Glenn Hart said it has become abundantly clear in recent days that the financial crisis facing Dawson City is even more precarious than previously believed.
“The Yukon government has taken this step to protect the taxpayers of Dawson City as well as the Yukon as a whole,” Hart said. “According to recent draft financial statements provided by
BDO Dunwoody, Dawson City is now facing more than $1.14 million in a cash shortfall compared with the earlier predicted shortfall of about $850,000. In addition, city lawyers have advised mayor and council to forward more than $970,000 to be held in trust pending completion of the recreation centre arbitration process.
“Dawson also faces more than $4 million in long-term debt and significant future expenditures associated with a sewage treatment facility, as well as other potential payouts from litigation associated with the recreation centre project,” Hart added.
The government-appointed trustee is expected to begin work immediately. He takes over from mayor and council and Andre Carrel, the British Columbia-based supervisor that has been working in recent months to stabilize the community’s financial affairs.
DAWSON’S CASH SHORT-FALL…………$1,140,000
DAWSON’S LONG-TERM DEBT………….$4,468,361
FIRST ARBITRATION CONTINGENCY ….$970,000
YUKON’S INVESTMENT TO DATE IN DAWSON
RECREATION CENTRE AND POOL……..$5,600,000
SEWAGE TREATMENT TO DATE………..$4,800,000
‘It’s a bloody takeover,’ NDP says
By Jason Small
Whitehorse Star, April 13, 2004
Glenn Hart fired Dawson City’s mayor and council today. During a press conference this morning, the Community Services minister dropped the axe on the council elected by the people of Dawson City last October.
“Effective immediately, we are appointing a trustee,” Hart told reporters in Whitehorse. Hart said the reason for the mass firings of Mayor Glen Everitt and Councillors Wayne Potoroka, Byrun Shandler and Bill Holmes was the fact new documents show the town has plunged too far into a financial black hole.
Hart indicated Everitt would officially resign as the mayor, a position he’s held since 1996, this morning.
However, in another press conference shortly after Hart’s, now former mayor Everitt was supposed to announce his resignation. But when he caught wind of Hart’s directive to can him, Everitt chose to let Hart do the dirty work.
“I have not resigned, I’ve been removed,” said Everitt. “As mayor, they’re throwing me out.”
He was upset when he found out Hart was going ahead with a press conference to announce the council’s firing after Everitt told the minister about his plan to resign.
As for the financial difficulties which Hart said prompted his decision to act, he referred to a draft audit being done of the town’s finances which showed the town is short much more money than had been expected.
The minister indicated this was new information that recently came to his attention. Hart did not release the draft audit. However, the Star obtained a copy of the document, which was drawn up by BDO Dunwoody and is dated Feb. 25, 2004, 1 1/2 months ago.
The minister said the document shows the town is short about $400,000, which is more than the $90,000 initially anticipated.
However, Everitt said the new shortfall of cash actually comes from a new accounting system instituted by the territorial government.
The full accrual system, which the government has already switched to, puts a cash value on assets and spreads out the cost of capital projects.
The former mayor said it was never explained to him how the new system works. His council would never have budgeted such a huge deficit as the system was showing, he added. He said most of the deficit was on paper.
Everitt said other communities don’t have to switch to this new system only Dawson, for some reason.
NDP Leader Todd Hardy believes the debt on assets and land owned by the town caused this deficit position because it is likely more than the decreasing value on these items.
He wonders if this will happen to other municipalities, once they switch accounting methods.
As for Dawson City, the town is more than $4.3 million in debt, a figure Hart has been spouting since last Dec. 31.
He said another reason for the dismissal is the fact the arbitration ruling on the dispute between the town and TSL Contractors Ltd, which built the town’s multiplex, was going to cost the town at least $970,000 and possibly a bit more.
However, the government-appointed supervisor, Andre Carrel, determined last January there wouldn’t be a need for the council to be turfed and a trustee be appointed unless the ruling was beyond $1.35 million.
Since the ruling isn’t beyond Carrel’s threshold and the debt is not new, Hart was asked what had changed to cause him to dismiss the council.
He replied that the draft audit’s numbers were the biggest, new factor.
Everitt admits there are serious financial problems in Dawson City. The town’s precarious position has been noted since the former Liberal government appointed the first supervisor, Ken Hodgins, in January 2001.
“Our budgets have been scrutinized through a supervisor for three years,” said Everitt. He said there hadn’t been major problems then.
Everitt said Hodgins and the Community Services deputy minister, Marc Tremblay, told the town to keep going, and when major problems like the need for a sewage treatment facility had to be dealt with, the government would help out.
But under the Yukon Party government, and with Carrel as the supervisor (he was appointed last Oct. 3), the council was forced to find the money on its own, which put it in a worse position.
“Everyone in the Yukon knew we didn’t have the money,” said Everitt.
Ray Hayes, a former government deputy minister who retired last summer, has been appointed as the trustee for the town.
A new town manager, David Skid, has also been appointed since the previous manager, Scott Coulson, quit recently.
Hart said the government wants to work with Hayes and Skid to try to repair Dawson City’s problems.
Hardy wondered why the council couldn’t have been worked with in the same fashion Hart wants to work with Hayes and Skid.
Hart did not answer that question. Instead, he said the government wasn’t able to fix the situation with the council. The minister also made reference to there being “barking back and forth” between council and the government.
When asked if that meant the decision to can the council was based on a conflict, Hart said: “It’s not a personality decision at all.”
However, Everitt said Carrel has written a report that indicated a personality conflict has been a factor in the town’s troubles.
The former mayor said Carrel read parts of that report to him. Part of it indicates the long-standing feud between Everitt and another former mayor, Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins, now the Health and Social Services minister, has kept the town from positively moving forward and kept Carrel from doing his job properly.
Everitt, who will continue to live in Dawson City because it’s his hometown, said one part of the problem has been removed himself. He challenged Jenkins to do the same and resign to help the town.
“That would be the honourable thing to do,” said Everitt. “I think you would have to take out Webster’s and spell out the definition of honourable (to Jenkins).”
Liberal Leader Pat Duncan, who has publicly battled with Jenkins for years, said that like it or not, both men were elected and therefore they should have tried to get along for the good of the people of Dawson City.
“You were duly elected to get along,” she said.
Hardy said part of Jenkins’ problem is the fact he still doesn’t understand why he can’t be mayor and MLA at the same time.
The Municipal Act currently prevents that.
“I’ve heard it from his mouth,” said Hardy. The NDP leader believes this is Jenkins’ way of getting “absolute power”.
Hart said the government could ensure the day-to-day operations of the municipality would be conducted — the water will run and the garbage will be picked up — but beyond that, he made no promises.
Hart said Dawson City will be without an elected council for at least the next year. He will give Hayes that period of time to do his job.
Hardy said Hayes may be able to do good work in Dawson.
However, both opposition leaders decried Hart’s decision to axe the council and mayor.
“It’s a bloody takeover,” said Hardy. “A hostile takeover.”
“It’s arrogant, disrespectful,” Duncan said of the action. “It’s unilateral decision-
Klondike democracy becomes a casualty
Whitehorse Star Editorial by Jim Butler, April 14/04
Given the ceaseless barrage of miserable financial news and the poisonous relations between two levels of government, something had to be done to rein in the mounting chaos in Dawson City.
Only time will tell whether Community Services Minister Glenn Hart’s dramatic firings of Dawson’s ex-mayor and councillors were a stroke of sensible crisis management or politically-motivated overkill.
One trusts the minister appreciates the grave ramifications of the extraordinary situation he has created with Tuesday’s announcement.
Using his vast territorial powers, Hart has bluntly repudiated the electoral desire expressed by Dawson residents only six months ago when they re-elected then-mayor Glen Everitt and chose a new council. This brand of direct democracy in the Klondike has indeed been circumvented; those votes, cast in good faith, suddenly rendered mute.
Hart’s sweeping obliteration of the ex-council is a slap in the face to those well-meaning citizens who let their names stand for what they knew would be a very stressful job. This affair could well prove a disincentive to people around the territory thinking of serving their communities at the municipal level.
Members of other councils, meanwhile, must be wondering if they’d suffer the same fate if their community fell into debt to the immense disapproval of the territorial cabinet.
Then again, would the government have opted for this move had it involved municipal leaders in Watson Lake, for example, or in Teslin?
Meanwhile, confusion reigned in the wake of Tuesday’s trusteeship announcement.
While Hart told reporters Dawson is short $400,000, a government news release put the figure at $1.14 million.
Everitt made reasonable responses to the fiscal damage done during his watch. He has correctly conceded the town took on too many major projects in too short a time frame. In quick succession, there was the relocation and refurbishment of the firehall, the renovations of the swimming pool to lengthen its season and the building of the recreation
centre, which ushered in a protracted arbitration dogfight with the contractor.
The ex-mayor agreed to have his pay slashed in half and offered an apology to his community yesterday.
With his loss, Dawson has been robbed of an influential voice across Canada. His lobbying, for instance, helped his town secure millions of dollars in federal infrastructure projects last year. His work as president of the Association of Yukon Communities was likewise a valuable contribution.
To be sure, the town made major mistakes, but not all the blame can be confined to the last two councils. For the last three years, after all, Dawson has been under the scrutiny of territorial officials and a financial supervisor. According to Everitt, the town was essentially told to keep doing what it had been doing in its budgetary work.
At this point, so many current and future dollars are committed that the
former council would have had little leeway to traipse down unwise fiscal routes anyway.
Again, that raises the question of why a trustee is expected to do better with the same budgets that confronted the ex-mayor and council.
Everitt also says it was never explained to him that a new system of accounting the government imposed on the town would make its deficit far greater than council had envisioned. He wonders why other communities have not had to follow the same new accounting practices as swiftly as perplexed Dawson council members were obliged to. His question is a valid one.
Though Hart doggedly begged to differ on Tuesday, personality clashes indeed played a pivotal role in the wicked, corrosive brew that Dawson’s local politics have become. Andre Carrel, the supervisor the government appointed last fall, agreed that volatile personality differences between Everitt and Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins were impeding progress on Dawson’s financial troubles. With the qualified, respected and personable Ray Hayes moving in as trustee, the overall environment can’t help but improve.
There will always be suspicions that certain elements of the cabinet wanted Everitt gone from day one. Significantly, though his ex-council colleagues have been invited to play advisory roles to Hayes, Everitt has not.
Jenkins has denied any background role in the saga. Nonetheless, he has been remarkably silent through all this when one would normally expect an MLA to defend the autonomy and democratic standing of the duly-elected council in his riding’s major population centre.
NDP Leader Todd Hardy flatly declared the striking down of Dawson’s municipal leaders constitutes “absolute power” for Jenkins in the town’s affairs.
Many Dawson residents agree, and are alarmed and angry as Hart prepares to face them at a public meeting this evening.
Others, according to Jenkins, support council’s removal. Again, another schism, another problem to resolve.
Hayes, objective and non-partisan, could well succeed in cleaning up a portion of this mess in the next year without painful service reductions or tax increases.
To facilitate that, the government will probably have to bite the bullet and bring more special financial relief to Dawson. It’s unlikely the town can ever claw its way out of this hole without this boost.
If the helping hand comes, the former council’s supporters will immediately ask why the council couldn’t have managed that infusion itself, albeit under Hayes’ watchful eye.
Either way, through all the painful miscalculations, project pratfalls, fingerpointing and stealthy activities, Dawson residents have suffered the most.
They didn’t ask nor deserve to have this situation evolve into the fundamental question of whether they would continue to enjoy the same type of publicly-elected local government that most other Yukoners do.
Dawsonites didn’t deserve to see their local governance system turned upside down and shovelled out the door like unwanted placer tailings.
As Liberal Leader Pat Duncan said Tuesday, they expect their various levels of government to get along. They were sorely let down in this regard.
In exchange for losing the council they entrusted their affairs to last October, Klondikers are entitled to remedies that will rebuild their community’s fiscal health and return normalcy to their politics.
And that means the timely restoration of a local government whose direction comes not from a government-appointed trustee, but from a group of local citizens duly installed by local citizens.
Dawson Councillor Resigns: One Down and Four to Go
by Dan Davidson
(April 6, 2004) Dawson City’s council is one member smaller after last night’s regular council meeting, when Joanne Van Nostrand, now in her third term, resigned in protest after council was forced to rescind the contract it had awarded for garbage collection and give it to another company under the watchful eye of financial supervisor Andre Carrel, who sat in the gallery with about 25 other people.
During discussion on the two motions that it took to accomplish this act, all councillors present (and Mayor Glen Everitt by speakerphone from Alaska), spoke to the fact that the award they were being forced to make was the wrong one. It was not, said councillors Shandler and Potoroka, an award to the lowest bidder, but an award to the lowest level of service in a situation where that had already proven inadequate. Nevertheless, those three councillors voted in favour of the supervisor’s edict, in motion padded with “whereas” phrases that made it clear they did so under protest.
Van Nostrand did not. She eloquently defended the original contract award to Callison Waste Management and the process by which it was accomplished, pointing out that council had made its decision within the framework of the Carrel report’s financial plan and with the foreknowledge of the supervisor, who had told them he was not interested in the details of the “request for proposals” when they issued it in January.
Following the passage of the resolution giving the contract to Ed Repair, she produced her letter of resignation, which she read with a voice full of strain.
“As mayor and council we are elected to make decisions for the community in the best interests of the community to the best of our abilities, and I believe that I have done the best I possibly could to meet these commitments.
“If our decisions are to be overturned by the territorial government at the threat of removal, then what position do we really represent …?
“Being a councillor is a huge commitment which comes with little gratitude. The only reason I put my name forward for this position was that I felt I could make a difference and believed in what I was doing. My satisfaction came from knowing that I was doing the best that I could.
“I feel very little satisfaction and very much frustration in holding the position of an official paper shuffler.
“What has transpired here tonight has made it clear to me that this is our new position. We are being manipulated by cheap personal and political agendas which I find offensive and intolerable.”
Thanking the city staff, and supportive citizens of the community, she handed chair of the meeting over to Mayor Everitt. Voice shaking with the emotion of the moment, he thanked her for her years of hard work and adjourned the meeting, adding that he would be giving a lot of hard thought to his own future as mayor of Dawson during the next few days.
Andre Carrel, who had sat with his head down taking notes during the two hour meeting, was just about the first person out of the council chambers. Kathy Webster, a teacher and council supporter, yelled out “Way to go, Andre!” as he left the room.
Said Webster, “I’m very angry that we lost an excellent council person. I think the territorial government has to wear a lot of the responsibility because they are giving Andre Carrel the power to do this.
“The other thing that I ask out loud is where is out MLA? He’s supposed to be defending Dawson. Where is he?”
Van Nostrand, remaining at the council table, was surrounded by hugging well wishers, a number with tears in their eyes, including city office staff.
Mayor Everitt, on the phone from Alaska, indicated that he thought his opposition’s hope had been that it would be him resigning.
Former councillors Shirley Pennell and John Mitchell were clear about their feelings outside the hall.
“I hope Andre Carrel got the message that the citizens of Dawson are steaming mad,” said Pennell. “They have a right to be mad. What’s happening has been done totally illegally. The contract that has just been given for waste management is totally, totally illegal. I think that’s what quite sickening about the whole thing.
“I think the person that forced the council into doing that knows that that is not legal procedure for awarding it.”
“I’ll have to cut a lot of my adjectives,” said John Mitchell. “I’m totally frustrated and angry. I think we all know that there’s different camps in Dawson, the Peter camp and the Glen camp and a whole bunch of the rest of us in the middle. What this has done is draw us all out in support of the fact that we have a municipal council.
“I think some genius in Whitehorse better take a look at the calendar and figure out when the next territorial election is. That’s gonna be the answer. All this baloney, BS or whatever, is gonna come and go, and Dawson’ll still be here. It’s gonna come back around – in spades.”
Hart Faces Packed YOOP Hall to Explain Decision
by Dan Davidson
According to former financial supervisor Andre Carrel the simple reason why Dawson’s council was replaced on April 13 was that “there was more money going out than there was coming in.”
Carrel was part of the front table panel convened at the YOOP Hall at 6:30 on Wednesday night, the day after, to explain to a gathering of about 130 people just what had happened. He came armed with comparative spreadsheets and budgets to prove that the City of Dawson’s 2003 budget had, in defiance of his own earlier predictions in January, ended with a deficit of $1.14 million.
He had earlier predicted a deficit of $90,724.00.
He had no problem showing how the audit had produced the larger number, though he did not deal with the glaring discrepancy between the two.
When challenged by Mark Lombard, a local carpenter, as to whether the difference between a balanced and unbalanced budget could be found in a line item which showed that government transfers were down by $1.3 million over what had been budgeted, Carrel said it was due to an accounting error which had had the City of Dawson expecting to receive $2.1 million in 2003 which it had already received in 2002.
Under questioning Carrel indicated that only he had caught this error. It had passed by Dawson’s administration, a former YTG supervisor, a deputy minister, an outside accounting firm hired by the government to examine Dawson’s books, and had ultimately been part of a budget which had been approved by the territorial government.
Asked why Dawson alone should be responsible for a mistake made by so many people, Carrel said he couldn’t answer that one, and passed it off to the new Trustee, Ray Hayes, who had been introduced earlier by Minister Glen Hart.
Hart explained that Hayes, a retired YTG manager, had been brought on board to help solve Dawson’s problems over the next year, and repeated many times that the whole purpose of the exercise was help the town “for the sake of Dawson and for all Yukoners.”
Working with Hayes will be David Skid, appointed as an interim chief administrative office here.
Both former mayor Glen Everitt and former councillor Joanne Van Nostrand indicated that they were familiar with these individuals and were pleased to see them appointed to these positions, if things had to be this way.
Van Nostrand questioned that they did. Carrel must have known some time ago, she said, that an audit under the new Public Sector Accounting Board standards would produce a deficit. Both she and Everitt had been warned that an inflated deficit would be reflected in this audit by the town’s auditors, B. D. O. Dunwoody.
Carrel denied that this was the case, or that this new system had anything to do with it.
Van Nostrand persisted, giving, in a long statement, what she believed to be the true agenda behind the dismissal.
“I believe that this was a well thought out plan constructed several months ago to accomplish the removal of mayor and council. For some reason, our MLA, representing the Yukon Party, was determined to have Glen and I removed from council.
“This was made obvious during the (municipal) election when both Glen and I were made aware by people visited by our MLA, Peter Jenkins, that he was going door to door campaigning to ask people not to vote for us. When we proved successful in the election, then our MLA had to push another agenda to be successful in having us removed. I congratulate him on his success. A job well done at the expense of this community!”
Van Nostrand questioned the timing of the release of the audit, which was given to council on Good Friday, when there was no way to consult with their auditor, and the timing of the dismissal, on the day after a long weekend, before there was any chance to get an expert opinion.
Hart had earlier said that his final decision was made when he saw the draft audit. Van Nostrand objected.
“DRAFT statements are meant for internal use only. A draft statement should never go outside the City office prior to it being finalized. It is the initial review that is subject to change and may even contain errors. A draft statement is meant for internal purposes only. This draft statement has been used for making serious decisions outside of the city office. Why not wait for the final approved audited statements?
“The only reasons I can think of for acting on the draft statement is: They did not want the council to have opportunity to discuss the statements with the auditor.”
These statements were not addressed by anyone at the table.
Van Nostrand joined in the call from her former council mates for an independent public inquiry to get to the bottom of all matters surrounding Dawson’s financial crisis.
Former councillor Byrun Shandler demanded to know what would be done about issues that were in progress now that a trustee was running the show. There was the potential to gain $250,000 by contesting a legal point in the arbitration ruling, which he said Hart had pretty much released over the last two days, even though council had been enjoined against doing this by the arbitrator. He asked if the YTG would be pursuing that.
He demanded that YTG follow up council initiatives to obtain the nearly $1 million that would be needed to fix the Rec. Centre roof, which a YTG hired engineer had confirmed was in trouble due to substandard engineering and construction.
“That was a good speech, Byrun,” the minister said. “We’re here to help out.” But he did not commit to follow up those issues.
Dick Van Nostrand wanted to know how the advisory board to assist the new CAO and Trustee would be chosen. Not, he hoped, merely political appointees of a certain stripe.
Ray Hayes indicated that he would be drawing up a list of names – he didn’t know who yet, but he was, he said, wide open to suggestions. He would take that list to the minister. It might take a few weeks, he said, asking for time.
“This is one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced,” the retired deputy minister said. He won’t be moving here, but he expects to be here a lot.
Martin Gehrig, speaking strictly as a local businessman, thanked Carrel for having found the problem in the finances, even if he didn’t, he said, like the message.
Miriam Kaytor, asked Hart if new money was going to made available to help Dawson dig its way out of its mess now that the council was gone. The minister eventually replied that he thought that was possible.
Aedes Scheer, with the Humane Society, asked about funding for that agency, which runs Dawson’s Animal Control program in partnership with the town. From what she had heard, the animal control funding was in place, but the money that would run the animal shelter and the society wasn’t. This gave them about six weeks before they would have to close their doors. She was assured it would be looked at.
Scheer also wanted to know about public meetings. Council met in televised sessions twice monthly and she wanted to know what would be happening under the new administration. Hayes said he was open to public meetings.
There was applause for many of the comments made through the night. Van Nostrand was applauded, as were Shandler and Everitt, and even some of the press questions. One of the loudest outbursts, however, came when musher Brent McDonald took the microphone to ask, where, in this time of trouble, was MLA Peter Jenkins?
That, too, did not get an answer.
Erik Magnusson did his best to moderate the meeting and make sure that a wide variety of voices were heard, but Glenda Bolt (Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in heritage branch) still felt it was not a happy room, and, in the last speech of the evening, called for a round of applause for all those present and past who had ever sat on council, either for the town or the first nation. The clapping went on for more than half a minute, and seemed a good way to end a tough meeting.
Uffish Thoughts: Reflections on Dawson’s Black Tuesday
by Dan Davidson
What a lovely Easter present that was! The Bunny must have been working overtime to bring Dawson City such a gift.
Just think: a whole new government structure overnight. Delivered by chartered airplane at a cost of $2,954.00.
And that’s not even counting the cost of the wages ($800 a day) and three trips to Dawson for the government agent, Supervisor Carrel, who helped to organize the whole thing.
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Well, I’m being sarcastic, of course. I’m sometimes accused of that, and today I have to admit I’m indulging myself.
At the public meeting on Wednesday evening I was restrained, did my best to ask proper journalist’s questions which betrayed as little self interest as possible. But I do live here after all, have for 19 years, and it was tempting.
How odd that Mr. Andre Carrel, who told an audience in the same room in January that he really had no credentials at all for what he was doing, managed to catch what seems to have been a relatively simple accounting error in Dawson’s 2003 budget, an error that was missed by three accountants here, the previous supervisor, a deputy minister, and an outside accounting firm before being approved by the territorial government for action after three readings by the council.
The excuse being given for the council’s removal is that this elusive error added up to deficit of $1.4 million. We have been told that Dawson was unable to pay its bills.
That’s odd, since the only cheques that have bounced lately have been ones that were mistakenly rejected by the local branch of the CIBC after the order was given to have Mr. Carrel authorize all future spending. The bank jumped the gun on cheques that had been issued days prior to the order.
At one meeting recently, I heard someone suggest that the CIBC error story was a lie. It wasn’t. It may perhaps be true that not everyone got phoned in advance by the town’s treasurer to warn them that this was going to happen, but I know that the Klondike Sun did, because our bookkeeper warned me it was going to happen before I heard about it at the public meeting.
What’s more, I have beside me now the letter from the bank, which was sent out with the reissued cheques, explaining that it was their mistake.
All kinds of mistakes get made, of course.
In an interview published in the other paper on Wednesday, MLA Peter Jenkins refers to his impression that the new recreation centre was supposed to be a “year-round indoor hockey arena”.
That would be another mistake.
I’ve been to lots more council meetings (two per month on average) than Mr. Jenkins ( two or three in total) over the last eight years, and I am certain that artificial ice was not part of the short range plan for the arena. It was hoped to have it in a decade, if the town could afford it. In the meantime, the ice surface was the same natural ice that has been here (and on just about the same piece of land) since 1979, except that it froze faster and lasted longer.
We got chased out of the arena early this season by a roof which was suspected of being about to collapse in the curling rink next door.
Now that was, to quote Mr. Jenkins again, “a sad, sad state of affairs for residents of my community.”
Dawsonites can only hope, of course, that the new administration will be instructed to follow the trail of responsibility for that fiasco to where ever it leads, even though Mr, Jenkins seems to have decided already that it could not possibly be the contractors.
I see I’ve gone off on a slight tangent. My students get me to do this in class too, so I’ll just do what I do when it happens there.
To get back to the original point, which was that budgetary error, it’s hard to understand why a mistake that was made by so many people should now become the sole fault of five, who should then be punished for it.
It’s hard to see why the community should suffer when government appointed bureaucrats guided the council members in just this direction over a two and a half year period, assuring them at each step along the way that they were doing well, being responsible. I’ve seen the letters, talked to some of the people. I know this is true.
Yes, it was going to be tight. This was the year, pinpointed three years ago as the crisis year, when pickings would be slim. But it was supposed to have been workable.
Still, errors get made. Maybe it was all a slip of the tongue, like when Environment Minister Jim Kenyon stood up during Question Period yesterday and seriously suggested that prime fish spawning habitat was being disturbed by the passage of the George Black Ferry across the Yukon River and that that was a good. environmentally sound reason to built a bridge.
I’ve never heard that suggested before. Just imagine fish spawning in the midst of a 7 knot current. What stamina those eggs must have to stay in place long enough to hatch. Whatever they’re using for glue, we should research it and patent it.
Such a substance would probably be strong enough to hold together the tissue of innuendo and fault finding which has brought us to Dawson’s Black Tuesday.
There were many letters to the Editor regarding the events of April 13. There isn’t room here for all of them, but these are the strongest.
This Hostile Takeover is Undemocratic
After the tragedy of 9/11 the way in which governments behave towards the people that elected them has changed forever. From the Bush Administration’s point of view, the cloud of 9/11 contained a ‘silver lining’. Namely, ‘carte blanche’ permission for the USA, Britain and other powers to bully other, smaller countries. Remember Bush’s State of the Union Address when he attempted to reduce the world into a simplistic good guy, bad guy environment? You’re either with us or against us! This renewed doctrine of America knows what’s best for the rest of the world and the methods used to carry it out is the yardstick by which many lesser powers now measure their performance.
These events have emboldened smaller governments to carry out an agenda that is, at times, dubious to say the least. The Yukon Party government and their hostile takeover of Dawson’s Municipal Government is a case in point.
Of course, the question is not about terrorism; the issue here is the abuse of power by the Yukon Party to meet a political objective based on personal prejudices within their Caucus. It was because of the personalities, actions and attitudes of duly elected Dawson Council that it has been held in the crosshairs of the Yukon Party since coming to power, not because of any wrongdoing. The Yukon Party has decided to flaunt the democratic process to get their way, to get rid of a contemptible itch, a troublesome gnat in the name of some higher cause. Worse, they are getting away with it, much like their much bigger governmental ‘brothers’.
Despite my dislike for the Yukon Party and its dictatorial practices I feel true compassion for Glenn Hart. Here is an MLA who has found himself totally out of his depth. As Minister of Community Services he is, by default, the front man – or should I say, footboy? – for the master manipulator, Peter Jenkins. Anyone who has observed Yukon politics over the last twenty or more years will understand that Jenkins is a clever fox who has made a good living in the Yukon henhouse for a long time. You can be sure that a newcomer like Hart was repeatedly running down the hall to Jenkins’ office like a little puppy, seeking direction on the Dawson question, ever eager to please.
My suggestion is obvious. What has happened in Dawson is more about Peter Jenkins than it is Glenn Hart and the Municipal Act. Even Premier Fentie is in Jenkins’ pocket. I remember the day when Dennis Fentie attended a NDP strategy meeting in Dawson, days before defecting to the Yukon Party, drumming his fingers impatiently, wishing he could quickly get back to his room at Jenkins’ Hotel so he could fall to his knees, take the leap of faith and swear allegiance to the Yukon Party mandate of hypocrisy and lies.
All of this could be just another hilarious episode of a daytime sitcom called ‘Days of Our Yukon Lives’. Unfortunately, the implications of what has happened and continues to happen is not only a blatant disrespect for the democratic process but, even more troubling is the thought that many Yukoners seem not to care. Complacency by the electorate provides fertile ground for fascism to take root. We only need to look back to see the sour fruit of that kind of unawareness in the Europe of the thirties and forties.
Yukoners of every political stripe should understand one simple thing: a newly elected Dawson Town council was forcibly removed from office on trumped up charges to satisfy a political objective and this was not done in the best interests of Dawsonites or other Yukoners. The reasons given were brought forward in a spirit of denial, confrontation and completely out of context and devoid of an honest understanding of what has transpired with Dawson finances and capital projects over many years.
Yukoners should also understand that replacing Town Council with a Trustee will not cause it to magically repay its debts.
Nor will it help to retain deadwood like André Carrel as financial advisor with the excuse that he has a “corporate memory” of Dawson finances. My “corporate memory” of Carrel has him leaving town with his tail between his legs after an ill-fated stint as City Manager in the (late) seventies (and early eighties). The only effect of these arbitrary actions is the continued demoralization of the citizens of Dawson. Apparently this is the perverse wish of the Yukon Party Government.
If it is Dawson’s debt that is central to the takeover, then why is the total loan amount owed to the taxpayer by Jenkins and a few other deadbeat debtors in Dawson City of more than a million dollars allowed to remain unserviced and uncollected? The Yukon Party has the nerve to bring the hammer down on the Municipality of Dawson but allows these and other individual delinquent debtors to enjoy an indefinite repayment holiday.
Our forefathers laid down their lives to defend our democratic rights and freedoms. They didn’t die to defend a Yukon Party dictatorship.
Who is Stage Managing this Cosmic Show?
Councilor Joanne Van Nostrand voted her conscience last night. She spoke truth to power. We need such people in our service.
The machinations of this winter of discontent threaten to bankrupt our spirit. I have not the words, but here are some lines from Robert Service.
Who is stage-managing this cosmic show?
Blind fools of fate and slaves of circumstance,
Life is a fiddler, and we all must dance.
From gloom where mocks that will-o’-wisp, Free-will
I heard a voice cry: “Say, give us a chance.”
There’s no haphazard in this world of ours.
Cause and effect are grim, relentless powers.
They rule the world. (A king was shot last night;
Last night I held the joker and both bowers.)
Chance! Oh, there is no chance! The scene is set.
Up with the curtain! Man, the marionette,
Resumes his part. The gods will work the wires.
They’ve got it all down fine, you bet, you bet!
I support the Council we elected because it is responsible to us. I have the right to question and to challenge its decisions directly, and I have exercised this right from time to time. Our councilors live among us. They are we.
However, I am not in charge. We are not in charge. Our Council is not in charge.
Democracy is hard work, but surely this cosmic show is worse?
There was a Plot to Get Rid of Us
Open Letter to Minister of Community Services, Glen Hart and to Premier Dennis Fentie
(Note: This is the text, with a few amendments, of the speech Joanne Van Nostrand delivered at a public meeting in Dawson City on April 14, 2004)
I have to ask if what took place this Tuesday was a well constructed plan that was thought out months ago. Follow me through with these thoughts and then respond to my final questions:
Andre Carrel, the City’s appointed supervisor recommends that the City has its audit done on the new recommended accounting standards. He is very familiar with these standards and has recommended to the Yukon Government that all the communities in the Yukon adopt this standard. This is after he has completed his review of Dawson’s finances, statements and budgets. With his knowledge of these new accounting standards, he was in the position to forecast 3 4 months ago with accuracy, the outcome of the audited statements just received, and present this information to the Minister.
The DRAFT audited statement arrived at the City office on April 5th, and they were not shown to the council until Good Friday. This is a holiday, when our auditor is not available to answer questions that the council may have. Council was removed Tuesday morning, immediately following the Easter holiday weekend without the opportunity to seek explanations from the auditor. Had the council had the opportunity to talk with the auditor, they would have the explanations for all the discrepancies that are being announced to us through the source of the media.
DRAFT statements are meant for internal use only. A draft statement should never go outside the City office prior to it being finalized. It is the initial review that is subject to change and may even contain errors. A draft statement is meant for internal purposes only. This draft statement has been used for making serious decisions outside of the city office. Why not wait for the final approved audited statements? Would a week or two make any difference?
The only reasons I can think of for acting on the draft statement is: They did not want the council to have opportunity to discuss the statements with the auditor.
The new statements do not change the position that our supervisor was aware of from 2 3 months ago. The reporting on the new standards changes it’s appearance on paper. It does not change the cash position of the city. This is our tough year which was predicted when we pleaded for help and had the first supervisor appointed to us 3 years ago. This was the projected critical year and that has not changed. We knew we would need help this year, and were always advised by our previous supervisor that help would be there when this time came.
Any municipality in the Yukon asked to change their reporting to this standard over night like we just have, would undoubtedly experience similar discrepancies and deficits. They have the opportunity to receive training on these new standards and have time to make a slow transition.
If this mayor and council are guilty of anything, it is in having trust and confidence in our Government. We are guilty of trusting the commitments made by our NDP Government which were not honored by the succeeding Governments and resulted in the 4 million loan. We are guilty in trusting in the advise of our financial supervisors. We are guilty of trusting in YTG’s representatives on our project management teams giving us advise on the recreation and sewage treatment projects. Council prepared a 7 year forecast after the commitment by the NDP Government was not honored and the $4 million loan was put in place, predicting that we would be in this situation this year. The result of that plan was the appointment of our first financial supervisor who confirmed to YTG that our situation is real. What we could not predict were the problems of the recreation center, but YTG provided us with expert advice at the start of the project to try to avoid complications that would add to making our situation worse. Problems happened despite their expertise and here we are today.
I believe that this was a well thought out plan constructed several months ago to accomplish the removal of mayor and council. For some reason, our MLA, representing the Yukon party was determined to have Glen and me removed from council. This was made obvious during the election when both Glen and I were made aware by people visited by our MLA, Peter Jenkins, that he was going door to door campaigning to ask people not to vote for us. When we proved successful in the election, then our MLA had to push another agenda to be successful in having us removed. I congratulate him on his success. A job well done, unfortunately at the expense of this community!
I urge the government to do a full inquiry into the removal of mayor and council and what lead up to the financial situation of Dawson and justify the action taken by the Yukon party. I believe the government owes it to this community. I think YTG must accept their share of responsibility for where this City is today.
My hope for Dawson is now that we have a well respected trustee in place, that the Yukon party will provide Dawson with the financial support that we need to move on and jump over this hurdle. I back up Glen’s request and challenge for Mr. Peter Jenkins to resign, to pay his bad debt owe to the City of Dawson for cable TV and convention fees, and his bad debt to all Yukoners, and allow Dawson to move ahead in a positive way and put all of this behind us. As long as Peter Jenkins is our MLA, the other half of this problem will still be in the faces of the citizens of this town. If we are going to start fresh without any bias, the only way it can happen is by removing both sides of the conflict. With this statement, I am putting closure to my years as a city councilor and leave you with the following questions to answer if you are able or for others to think about.
My questions to the Yukon Party are:
With the knowledge that our supervisor had of the new standards and the implications it would have on our final audit, why was council not advised 3 or 4 months ago that by changing to these new standards in this audit, we would incur a further deficit on paper, (not through transactions), that would possibly result in this action?
Why was council not provided with the draft audited statements prior to Good Friday so they could consult with the auditor?
Why did the Minister base all his decisions on the Draft statement that the City Treasurer has not even had the opportunity to review? What was the rush that you could not wait for the final approved audited statements and give the council a chance to review the situation and have input? Would a week longer have been a significant delay to know you are working off final approved statements?
Will the government approve a full independent inquiry to the situation leading to Dawson’s financial situation and the removal of mayor and council? Will the Government provide protection to the YTG employees who wish to speak out but may loose their jobs in doing so?
Joanne Van Nostrand
Ex-councilor for the City of Dawson
The Hostages Have Been Freed!
Political Hostages Mayor and Council are finally freed, although this may not have been any of their decision. The petty political vendettas that have had Dawson Mayor and Council by the “ahums”, have really gone out of their way to punish the residents of our little City of a Town. All the conflicts, accusations and pushy petty politics have taken their toll.
Mayor and Council did not need an appointed Babysitter, they needed support. Mr. Babysitter brags about how he gets $800.00 a day for his services in past editions of the Yukon News, why couldn’t this money be allocated to some of the budgets that were cut. Cut so we could pay his $800.00 expense a day, not to mention support a hotel that still owes the “taxpayers” of the Yukon money. I think that some really outlandish decisions have been made and not on the best behalf of Dawson. What goes around comes around.
I don’t understand why Peter Jenkins is still in office after he was repeatedly asked for his resignation. I for one as a resident of Dawson, born and raised would like to publicly ask for Mr. Jenkins resignation. I feel that he is not here for the betterment of Dawson, and is making decisions on a blinded whim based on past conflicts with Mayor and Council.
As for Mr. Carrell, why are you still an appointed babysitter, to push out Mayor and Council and to make way for your and Jenkins “followers”. What have either of you done for this town? I am extremely upset and disappointed in how this has turned out. You are not in Grade school anymore. If you want to do something productive for Dawson then you need to grow up and focus on us as a community, as a whole community.
I am not ashamed to voice my opinion, my parents always taught me to fight for what I believe in and I for one believed and still believe in Mayor and Council.
Born and Raised in Dawson
What is happening at City Hall?
(Ed. Note: We made the National news on April 13. The item caught the attention of former Dawson treasurer, Rob Bristow, who e-mailed with this comment.)
It is with absolute amazement that I read the article on the CBC website about the firing of Dawson’s city council
It was over 10 years ago when I was treasurer (1989 and 1990 to be exact) but I still have so many very special memories of my time up north. If I recall correctly, when I left, the City was in very solid financial shape. There was money in reserve, the debt situation was well under control and suppliers always were paid on time. We were recognized as having perhaps the best administration of any community in the Yukon (Allannah Tunnicliffe was the city manager, Harry DeWitt was the works Super, Holly Kushniryk was the Rec. Director and, of course, Dennis Montgomery was the fire chief and I was proud to have worked with them). We also had a tremendous support staff including Shirley Moi and others who really cared about the community and what Dawson was all about. We also had a (somewhat) functioning council that kept a close eye on those of us on the admin side to make sure things were running smoothly.
It is also interesting to note that one of the big issues today is a recreation centre, an issue we tackled when I was around. At that time, I had recommended against a proposed indoor pool project as I thought the costs were well beyond what the taxpayers could afford (my speaking out on this was, I suspect, one issue that led to my demise as certain politicians seemed to have an edifice complex). I guess, after all these years, someone, somewhere, still wasn’t listening.
(Ed. Note: To clarify, Mr. Bristow is referring to one of several rec. centre / pool proposals that were developed but not built during the tenure of former Mayor Peter Jenkins. He confirmed in a second e-mail that this was the proposal that would have seen a high end aquatic centre complex located on Fourth Avenue, just behind the Eldorado Hotel and adjacent to the Robert Service School.)
This is too bad about this mess as the people of Dawson, many of whom I still read about on the Klondike Sun website deserve a whole lot better than this disaster.
Here’s hoping that common sense kicks in and this whole mess can be sorted out.
Robin D. Bristow, CA CFE
Chartered Accountants, Insolvency Services,
Forensic Accounting, Trusts & Estates
#100, 2903 – 35th Avenue
Vernon, BC V1T 2S7
The PMT Should Be Accountable
By Rick Riemer
To the people of Yukon
re: Dawson City Project Management team (PMT)
The PMT of Dawson City is a team of people that was put together after two previous projects went over budget and encountered construction problems due to several reasons, some of which were pointed out in the 1999 BDO Dunwoody analysis of these capital projects.
The PMT came into existence late 2000, early 2001, long after the main contract had been let. Now this is the approximant time the Liberal government of the day was appointing a supervisor for Dawson and during the time when city manager Jim Kincaid was looking for work elsewhere. The only thing the city manager would say was Dawson City is seeking a new management style and that he was fired.(see Star archive Mar. 5, 6 2001)
I was also working at the rec. center in Dec. of 2000 when Mr. Kincaid came on site to ask how much it would cost to shut the project down, due to not having enough money. I think Mr. Kincaid saw the road the city was taking and did not agree with it .So he was punished.
So now we are in early 2001 and this project was in trouble financially, not to mention the improper installation of the thermosyphens and the ground work that was not done to spec. The ground prep and thermosyphens was a separate contract done by the city prior to the letting of the main contract. Dawson now has a PMT which has all access to the engineers’ reports ,the contract to TSL and every thing you would need to make the proper decisions to keep this project on course.
The make up of this PMT consisted of council members Potoroka, Shandler and Van Nostrand. A consultant that was sole sourced, Randy Shewen. City manager Scott Coulson and treasurer Dale Courtice. The main player from Community Services was Pat Moloy. So there you have it folks; with a team like that in place one would think we as citizens shouldn’t have to worry about the project running off it’s tracks.
One should try to touch on how much this PMT cost the people of Dawson and the Yukon. Well in 2002 tax payers paid just for the consultants $179,735.00. This does not include direct expenses or indirect expenses for the rest of the PMT. I believe one will never no the real cost unless a forensic audit is done.
One has to ask just what did people of Dawson gain from this PMT in relation to the rec. center and what did the rest of the taxpayers gain? Well we do have a facility.
We have a lot of legal fees that should have never happened, like trying to drag the contractor to the supreme court of Yukon when the contract was very specific about dispute resolutions, but who cares when you are spending tax payer’s money right?
The ground conditions at the facility are worse than they were 25 years ago. Why? Well, because the city went in and tore down the existing facility exposing permafrost that had not been exposed for the past 20 years, then to make matters worse excavated for thermosyphens, which never could have worked due to the installation, and to add to the problem never back filled them properly. This resulted in the City having to go in and dig out material and replace it with the proper material. They did this in July of 2001 normally the hottest month of the year. Maybe this will help answer how the ground got exposed to the summer weather (see Star archives Mar 15, 2002).
One of the biggest atrocities this PMT did was held the kids of our community hostage from using this facility by holding the contractor tied to the contract to pour the cement pad even though the ground work was flawed before the main contract was let. This caused no organized hockey and the result on our kids was very evident at the Haines Junction novice tournament. They could have installed the plastic liner or began excavating the permafrost once the engineers said not to pour the cement in August 2001, instead they tried to hold the contractor to pouring the slab even though the ground conditions were deteriorating. This in my opinion, no matter what the outcome of the arbitration, will cost Dawson and Yukon taxpayers money, just because this PMT could not come up with a common sense approach to the ground conditions they created.
The PMT is totally responsible for us being in arbitration with the contractor; that is the last place you want to be as an owner of a facility. Mediation could have been a better approach, but when you try to drag the contractor to the supreme court of Yukon to get the ruling the PMT would like to see ,you’ve just lost all respect and credibility for mediation.
One of the biggest flaws of the local members of the PMT was they never listened to the people. Some members were told of the ground problems in late 2000 but it never went any where. Why didn’t they ask some of the locals? Newt Webster knew what had to be done, Han construction has excavated the permafrost out many times from their buildings, Gary Gammie has, Harry Campbell has. They could have just asked the Nagano boys ,the Taylor family or just maybe our historian John Gould, what was in that area 30 to 40 years ago. That would have been too simple.
So folks, no matter what community you come from, demand accountability and common sense from your elected people. Even if it means not passing the city budget if you are on council. It is your right. The people are your strength and just because this is the Yukon it doesn’t mean we don’t have to be accountable. The PMT of Dawson City is going to cost all Yukoners money in the end. They have to be held accountable.
(Ed. Note; Rick tells us this is the original version of a letter which appeared in a much edited form in the Yukon News some weeks ago. Just for the record, this is the first time we had had it sent to us to print, or at least, the first time we have received it.)
Career Fair Brings Visitors to Dawson
By Miriam Kaytor
In November of 2003 personnel from Tr’ondek Hwëch’in, Yukon College, Robert Service School, and Klondike Outreach formed a planning committee for a Career Fair. Utilizing the resource package from the 2002 Fair that was organized by TH Special Events Coordinator, Lue Maxwell the Career Fair began to take shape. With today’s labour market and the mobility of workers the theme of “Buses to Boardrooms How many Routes will you take?” seemed the perfect fit. Invitations were sent out to private, public and other organizations to participate in the event. The date was set to coincide with the Dawson Film Festival, so that people had the option of staying the weekend to enjoy other community events. Information letters were sent to the schools in Carmacks, Pelly & Mayo inviting them to attend.
On the evening of April 7 a “Meet & Greet” was hosted at the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Culture Centre for the Panelist and Exhibitors. Refreshments were provided with Salmon being donated by Chris Ball & Sylvain Fleurant.
Students, staff and parents from Carmacks arrived on Wednesday and were given a tour of the TH facilities and a youth dance was hosted for them in the evening. School was not in session for Pelly, however a group of adults traveled to participate in the event.
April 8 the Fair opened with a Panel Discussion held at the Culture Centre. Our appreciation is extended to Sandy Silver for being the M.C., of the event. Students and community members filled the Centre to standing room only. The panelists, Karen Dubois, Peggy Kormendy, Aedes Scheer, Tara Christie, and Eldo Enns shared a wealth of life, work and academic experiences. This was a great way to set the tone for the Career Fair.
The afternoon was filled with community members, students, and teachers visiting the 22 booths that participated. Many of the booths had incentive draws along with a skill testing question. The goal was for the student to get at least one piece of information from each booth. Three outdoor displays were part of the Fair this year, and all indications are they were popular sites to see. Yukon Geological Survey attended from Whitehorse, along with two local displays. Thanks to Chief Isaac Fire Fighting Crew for setting up the tent and being available for questions and information. In addition Han Construction had the creative idea of hosting a hands-on carpentry event. The students were invited to participate in the actual building of three dog houses which were drawn for at the end of the day.
Even with being on the eve of a long weekend out of town organizations participated. We thank both Dawson Personnel and Travelers for the work and time that went into preparing and participating in the event. As part of hosting the event each exhibitor was given a lunch token and thoroughly enjoyed a choice of meals prepared by Nora Van Bibber and helpers. In addition volunteers, Nancy Van Fleet and Theresa Smith worked a fundraising concession on behalf of the Moosehide Gathering.
The full day of events were enjoyed by grades 7-12, who were given passports as part of the day. When they returned a passport with stamps from each booth and answered questions on the back page their name was entered for the grand prize. The grades 5 and 6 toured in the event after 2:00 p.m. but did not participate in the passport program.
The day ended with drawing for all the prizes. The grand prize of a CD stereo player was won by Amy Guest.
Thanks and appreciation are extended to the many that helped with the event. The partnering of TH, the College, Robert Service School and Outreach left no one organization with all the work. The skills and resources in Dawson are evident. A special note of thanks to Tr’ondek Hwech’in for donating both venues, and assisting with the financial expenses.
Dawson City International SHORT FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES AWARD WINNERS, PRESENTS $7000 IN PRIZES
Dawson City, YT (April 15, 2004) – The lights are up, the screen is down, and the popcorn has been swept away for another year, bringing to a close the 5th annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival. Over 1400 enthusiastic film buffs took in this year’s event, which featured 11 screenings of 77 films, including a record 34 Yukon-made productions. “More than the number of Yukon productions, it was the quality and diversity of the films that stood out for us and for the audience,” says Festival Producer Dylan Griffith. “Animation, drama, comedy, documentary, experimental – all of these were represented in films made by Yukoners.”
Other highlights included a candid and often hilarious on-stage interview between iconic Canadian writer/director Bruce McDonald (Highway 61, Hard Core Logo) and radio and television personality Terry David Mulligan, the latter in town to cover the festival for CHUM’s Movie Television. “Terry’s show is seen in more than 120 countries,” says Griffith, “so his being here was a real coup in terms of exposure and raising the profile of the festival and the region. His agreeing to sit down and interview Bruce in front of our audience was the icing on the cake. They’ve known each other for a long time and have a great rapport, so they put on a really fantastic, entertaining, and informative show.”
A standing-room only presentation on the Dawson City Film Find by Parks Canada employee Michael Gates was another highlight, as was the screening of silent newsreels and film clips from the find that followed, complete with live piano accompaniment on an historic Bechstein grand piano. “It was wonderful to see these films, dating from 1915-25, screening in the 100 year-old Odd Fellows’ Hall ballroom, with Barnacle Bob playing along on a turn-of-the-century grand piano that was in Dawson during the Gold Rush,” says Griffith. “All the more so for the fact that the screening and Michael’s presentation will be included in Peter Rowe’s documentary on the history of film in Canada. It’s a bit odd to think of a town that hasn’t had a proper movie theatre in thirty years as an epicenter of film history, but that’s one of those bizarre paradoxes that make Dawson such a strange and wonderful place.” 2004 Award Winners
A total of 8 awards were handed out at this year’s festival, with prizes valued at over $7000. The festival’s premier award, the MITY (Made-in-the-Yukon), went to EVELYN POLLOCK for her celebratory documentary on the Dawson City Music Festival, FOR THE JOY OF IT. Sponsored by the Yukon Film Commission, the Northern Film and Video Industry Association, the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture and the Tromso International Film Festival, the MITY prize package includes $1000 cash, an ounce of raw Klondike gold, professional grip package rental time, and a screening at the 2005 Tromso International Film Festival.
The MITY Emerging Talent Award, open to students and newer filmmakers, went to ANNE BURGER for her beautifully animated short UNTITLED. Burger will receive $500 cash, 4 days professional production package rental, and 40 hours editing suite rental, courtesy of CBC North and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture. CHRIS CLARKE & EMILE BOUFFARD the festival’s first mother-son filmmaking team – were the runners-up with AWAY WE GO, a humorous animated warning about the threat of pollution. Clarke and Bouffard will receive $250 cash, 3 days professional production package rental, and 30 hours editing suite rental, courtesy of Lonely Seal Productions and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture. Honorable mention goes to JAY ARMITAGE for SPRING AHEAD, a stop-motion take on spring-cleaning. Armitage will receive $100 cash, 2 days professional production package rental, and 20 hours editing suite rental, courtesy of Northern Town Films and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture.
New for 2004, the Best Use of a Yukon Location Award is open exclusively to films made by students in the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture/Yukon College Arts for Employment program. Taking home the $250 cash prize, courtesy of Rob Toohey Locations, is FLORIAN BOULAIS for SITTING ON MY ROCK.
Selected by audience ballot, the ZeD People’s Choice Shorts Award goes to Linda Fitzpatrick’s LYNN & HARRIET, a humorous yet poignant documentary about a Newfoundland woman and the pig she raises for meat. Second place was a tie between Peter Rowe’s RIGHT HOOK: A TALL TAIL and Jonathan Hayes THE SCHOOL, while the third most popular film was HELP!, by Romanian filmmaker Marian Cristan.
The ZeD People’s Choice Awards are generously sponsored by ZeD, CBC Television and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture.
The 6th annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival takes place March 25 27, 2005.
Dylan Griffith, Producer 867.993.5005 or email@example.com