You probably think that the title of this post is a tongue-in-cheek comment – politicians, after all, are about as loved as used-car salesmen. I’ve just spent a weekend at a Mayors and Councillors training workshop at Haines Junction, though, and have now seen municipal politicians, their support staff and Federal and Yukon government bureaucrats and staff at their best, so it’s not tongue-in-cheek at all. A large percentage of the municipal politicians in the Territory were in attendance – even though the workshop is intended primarliy for those who are new in the job, some old-timers were there to share their experiences as well (notable in that regard were Whitehorse councillors Dave Stocksdale and Jan Stick).
I car-pooled with fellow Carcross councillor Jim Schaefer, giving us our first opportunity to get to know each other outside a public meeting. In the lounge of the KPI (the Kluane Park Inn) the night of our arrival (Friday), a good crowd of locals and visitors was treated to some fine local music. I’d heard that the rooms at the KPI were pretty rough, and it was my 3rd choice after the Alcan and Cozy Corner (which were both already sold out when I phoned), but it turned out that my room was dated but clean – my bed was good, but others there were much less pleased with theirs.
The St. Elias Convention Centre was the site of the workshop – a beautiful structure that was perfect for our needs. This photo shows the Haines Junction Council Chambers upstairs, where Local Advisory Council members had a break-out session on Roles, Responsibilities and Relationships while municipalities were discussing relations with staff in the main hall. Sitting down for an hour in a small session with many of the people we’ll be working with the most over the next 3 years (Community Services Deputy Minister Marc Tremblay and his staff), put the weekend off to a good start. As most LAC members were acclaimed in this election, only Derek Hockley from the Ibex Valley LAC attended other than the 5 of us from the South Klondike, so the LAC networking I had expected didn’t materialize, however.
Over the weekend, there were 21 sessions, on subjects ranging from land planning issues and bylaw formation to a code of conduct for councillors and dealing with difficult delegations. On Saturday night, after 15 hours of non-stop listening and/or talking, I was totally exhausted, and slept for over 9 hours, something I never do. As at most conferences, some of the most useful discussions took place at the banquet. Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell was the guest speaker – I’d forgotten that he spent many years as Executive Director of the Association of Yukon Communities, and his presentation really felt like I was just listening to a friend giving advice about my new job.
Home now and trying to recall/read/filter/absorb/digest the presentations, discussions and hundreds of pages of printed material added to my briefcase feels rather overwhelming. But Jim reminded me that it’s just like eating an elephant – you take one bite at a time. And I have no doubt now that when I need information or help of any kind, I have many friends who will be there. This is a very exciting time for my friends and neighbours in Carcross as the community goes through both physical and attitude changes, and knowinging that support of virtually any kind is there for the asking is a very good feeling.
One of the biggest challenges we have back at home is communications. To allow people to keep up with what’s happening, the South Klondike Local Advisory Council now has a Web site at SKLAC.org (now dead) – as well as news about what the Council is directly involved in, the site links to the CTFN newsletter, and will link to the school and other newsletters as soon as possible.