Dawson City, Yukon Friday, November 7, 2003

The George Black Ferry comes out of the Yukon River on Hallowe'en. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Ferry Pulls Out on Friday
Former Municipal Supervisor Endorses Dawson's Financial Plan
Mayor: A Bridge Would Be Good, but Other Things Might Be Better
Yukon College Needs More Room, Instructors Say
The Power's On, but the Party's Postponed
Volleyballers Celebrate a Dawson Tradition
Dawson Vanishes in the Mist
Review: Nakai Theatre Blooms at the Oddfellows' Hall

Welcome to the November 7, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the photographs and articles from the November 4 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. The only thing you would not get is the colour photo at the beginning of the on-line issues. We can't afford to print in colour.

Since we went online in March 1996 our counter has crashed a number of times. The first counter logged about 25,000 visitors. The second one, which crashed in late March 2003, logged about 51,000. The current counter went online in April 2003 and was sitting at 16,624 on November 7, 2003.

Note to Torfinn D: We don't have your land address. We'd love to send you a tax receipt for your contribution, but we can't do that without it.

Ferry Pulls Out on Friday

by Dan Davidson

The ice is back in the Yukon River and the ferry is out. The George Black Ferry was scheduled to come out of the river on October 31, and by the looks of things on that day, it was about time.

The ferry had been on a day-to-day schedule since Thanksgiving weekend. The week after that there was a fair amount of ice in the river, but long time river watchers say that's normal. There's ice, and then it goes away for a while.

It's the return of the ice that you have to watch out for, and it was back with a vengeance as October came to a close. This ice was heavier than before and clumping more that the first batch. The ferry seemed to be working harder to push its way through, and you could hear the ice crackling as the boat pushed it aside.

It wasn't the nicest of days to scrape the ice off the runners and get them ready for the lubricating lard and the heavy strain on the pullies, but the crew had lots of experience and the only apparent complication was a pesky reporter with no apparent sense of self-preservation.


Former Municipal Supervisor Endorses Dawson's Financial Plan

by Dan Davidson

On September 29, 2003 Ken Hodgins was dismissed from his position as senior manager of community affairs with the territorial government. Among his duties was the task of supervisor of Dawson City's financial affairs.

By the end of that week, October 3, a British Columbia based consultant, Andre Carrel, who was Dawson's city manager in the late 1970's and early 1980's, was hired to supervise the community's council.

The reasons behind his firing have not been released officially. The NDP opposition spokesperson, Steve Cardiff, has suggested that it had something to do with the Yukon Party government wanting to take a tougher line with the Klondike capital.

"In a press release Cardiff wondered if Hodgins was sacrificed to put in someone who would take a greater control of the town and its council as part of "an ongoing blood feud" between Peter Jenkins, the Klondike MLA and Health minister, and Dawson City Mayor Glen Everitt." (Star, October 8/03. story by Jason Small)

If a tougher line was the intention of the YTG, then recent information indicates that Ken Hodgins would have been reluctant to carry out that instruction.

On October 10 Hodgins released a memo in regards to his duties as supervisor of the City of Dawson from the period January 19, 2001 until October 3, 2003.

In the memo, addressed "to whom it may concern", he outlines his duties as they were established under Pat Duncan's Liberal administration.

"I was charged with the responsibility for assisting the City in developing a blueprint for viability over the course of several years. I was also charged with the task of formally approving and then monitoring compliance with the plan."

This came about after the council of the day finally convinced the government of the truth that had been maintained by every mayor and council since the early 1980's, that the town would hardly be able to build and run a secondary sewage treatment plant without going broke. The Yukon Territory Water Board had directed that this was to be done, and the town was looking for help.

"The City," Hodgins wrote, "was faced with tough decisions and the need to curtail many worthwhile initiatives. Nevertheless, the Mayor and Council were fully cooperative and entirely helpful in arriving at an acceptable plan and have remained cooperative and disciplined to the parameters of that plan."

This was the seven year financial plan which saw Dawson managing to build up decent contingency reserves and still handle the financial burden, though this was not to be possible without a substantial increase in utility rates, which are already the highest in the territory.

Hodgins was not, by his own admission, an accountant, so the City's plans were tested by a number of means before he approved them. The first test was the City's own annual audit, which is carried out by an outside firm.

In addition Hodgins wrote, "At the instruction of the Deputy Minister of Community Services, a Chartered Accountant was engaged by the Yukon government to review the City's financial plan."

The town passed that assessment as well. But that was not enough, according to Hodgins.

"The current Deputy Minister, having a background of senior management in the Department of Finance, has since his selection as Deputy Minister repeatedly reviewed Dawson's audits and financial statements, including an audit just recently completed. To the extent that he continues to have concerns, he did not share with me the detail of any of these concerns."

Last spring, Hodgins was directed to obtain additional information from Dawson and his mandate was increased by the Yukon Party government to allow him to extend his questioning.

The Mayor and Council here were surprised at the time, indicating that there were no reasonable questions Hodgins could have asked that they would not have answered, given the positive relationship that had been established.

Hodgins himself writes that "This was a reasonable precaution and while the City had incorporated appropriate assumptions into its budget and financial plan, it was useful to update this information as matters evolved."

Once again he found the council to be "fully cooperative in heightening attention to this area of concern and in revising estimates. It had been our agreement to be conservative in the plan. This year's budget is reflected in the plan and it assumes legal expenses and liability generally greater that the City's legal advisors feel is necessary."

Hodgins concludes his memo with an unqualified endorsement of the 2000-2003 council's plans and actions.

"I was entirely satisfied that the City was being cooperative and compliant with its plan and believe that the plan has proved sound in guiding the City through a time of challenge and also of significant achievement."

It is not clear what purpose the memo was intended to serve. Was it simply written to assist the embattled council, or was it a report to his successor. It does, at any rate, provide a substantial boost to the council's claims that all is well here financially.


Mayor: A Bridge Would Be Good, but Other Things Might Be Better

by Dan Davidson

Glen Everitt is of two minds about the desirability of putting a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson City.

"If anyone wants to say I don't support a bridge," he said in a recent interview, "they don't know me."

In his opinion, it should have been built a long time ago, and it's the fact that it wasn't that makes it a problem now.

He admits to having qualified his support a bit at the recent election forum, and says that he took some heat for this on doorsteps during the closing days of his campaign, but he contends that people in town have to get some perspective on the issue and set some priorities.

If this bridge were to be treated like every other bridge across every other river in the territory, like every other piece of territorial highway, which is what it will be, he said, then maybe Dawsonites wouldn't have to think twice about it. Everitt says it's not like that, though.

"It's been politicised till it's just Dawson's bridge."

Certainly, residents along the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake and Haines Junction are not placed in the position of wondering if the $30 million about to be spent on the highway that runs through their towns will mean that some other piece of municipal infrastructure won't get funding.

Everitt says that doesn't seem to be the case with the bridge. Somehow, it's Dawson's bridge, as if only the town would reap whatever benefits that might come from it being in place. He feels quite strongly that if the bridge is built, and he thinks it might be, then Dawson won't see any other money for some time.

He said that if the government was truly committed to building a bridge then the money should have been allocated to that project instead of to highway improvements in the south.

"Our MLA probably argued strongly for the bridge, but there were other territorial priorities."

"Let's be clear that it's a territorial responsibility," he said.

He went on to say that it's not really a simple yes or no proposition any more: "This community has a lot of priorities, and the bridge is not the top one.

"It is the top one for a few people that think the economic impact would be great. Well, I would argue with them. It'd be very short lived.

"There'd be construction, yes. It would make accessibility across the river easier. But the highway (Top of the World) s not going to be open year round, so it's not going to change transportation routes."

As for the idea that gas prices could go down, "I've never seen the pump prices drop here, so I've never benefited from that."

There are things Dawson needs more than a bridge, he went on, if one big expenditure is all it can get.

"Yukon College is still looking for a permanent home.

"They're getting ready to do a schoolyard project at Robert Service School, which is long overdue. Put some money into that and get it done.

"We've got a medical centre that needs major upgrades, a seniors' home that needs upgrades.

"In order to have a healthy community we have to have children and seniors, so we have to cover everything in between. Those are my priorities, though I can't speak for the whole council."

That might mean that choices have to be made in the event that the territorial government should ask Dawson's council what it ought to do here.

Said Everitt, "If I have to chose between social infrastructure and a bridge, it's going to be social infrastructure first."

This isn't a welcome message to some.

"People aren't happy to hear me say that, but if they were in my shoes, looking at the whole picture, they'd feel the same way."


Yukon College Needs More Room, Instructors Say

by Dan Davidson

As Eldo Enns and Helen Winton demonstrate, this horseshoe shaped room makes an awkward classroom. Photo by Dan Davidson

While one purpose of last week's open house at the Dawson Campus of Yukon College (Tr'odek Hatr'unohtan Zho) was to show off some of the new toys, like the video-conferencing unit and the computer lab, instructors there also wanted to get across the notion that they are in need of a better, larger space in which to work.

While they have two instructional classrooms at present, one of these is a computer lab which is too hot and bursting at the seams by the time the Arts for Employment students (a program jointly offered the college and the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture) sit down to work there.

The other is a ‘U" shaped space in which it is impossible for the instructor to see the entire class at any given time.

"There's a bathroom sticking into the middle of it," said Eldo Enns, "so the instructor can't stand anywhere and be seen by everyone."

One of the plans under discussion, according to Helen Winton, is a sort of joint facility. If, as promised by the Yukon Party, KIAC ends up in a renovated Old Liquor Store on Third Avenue, then the College might join them there in a second building attached to the older one.

It would almost be coming home, since the College used to occupy most of the second floor of that building, before it was condemned and went on to have a half-life as a substitute headquarters for the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the City of Dawson while their building projects were under way.

Presently the College uses about half of the second floor of the Old Territorial Court Building, which was formerly the headquarters for much of Parks Canada's Dawson operations before that agency began downsizing. These days it is rented by YTG and houses a number of government offices. It is a large building, but its layout was created to accommodate offices rather than classrooms, and since it is a heritage building, interior renovations are very hard to achieve.

Presently there are three full time programs going on - Development Studies (10 students), Office Administration (11-14) and Arts for Employment (11) - so there can be up to three dozen people in a fairly small space on any given day.


The Power's On, but the Party's Postponed

by Dan Davidson

It's much quieter in the south end of Dawson now that the diesel generators at the YEC plant are no longer running full time. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Yukon Energy Corporation was to have had big Open House meetings in Dawson and Mayo on October 27 to celebrate the commissioning of the Mayo to Dawson transmission line. The event was announced some weeks ago and promoted by a flier delivered to every post office box holder in both communities.

Then, suddenly, last week, a new poster went up with the word "POSTPONED" slapped across it in big letters. "Postponed to when?" folks wondered, remembering that the actual operation of the line was also postponed - by about a year.

According to Donna Mercier, a communications consultant with YEC, there was no crisis. It was simply that everyone the company wanted to have at the ceremony - many of the people who had worked on the job - couldn't make it on that date.

David Morrison, the chair of YEC and the Yukon Development Corporation, asked her to pass on the news that it was just a scheduling change.

"It was unfortunate," Mercier said, "but we just felt it was better. You don't want to have a party with half the people there."

They haven't picked a date for the new celebration yet, but Mercier promises residents in both communities will be kept "in the loop".


Volleyballers Celebrate a Dawson Tradition

by Dan Davidson

Vanier and Porter Creek play off in the senior girls' final. Photo by Dan Davidson

The weekend of October 24-26 was full of the sound of bouncing balls, enthusiastic cheering, stomping feet and much heckling as the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament marked its 25th season at the Robert Service School.

Most of the ribbons went to teams from Whitehorse this year, with Vanier Catholic School taking top spot in the 9/10 Boys, 9/10 Girls, and 11/12 Boys divisions, as well as silver placement for the 8 Girls.

Porter Creek Secondary School cleaned up in the 8 Boys and 11/12 Girls, while Watson Lake Secondary School captured gold in the 8 Girls division and silver in the 8 Boys.

The home teams from Robert Service School put up some good fights, but only managed one silver, taking that in the 9/10 Girls category.

Schools from Dawson, Mayo, Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Watson Lake took place in the tournament.

While the games may have been the occasion for the gathering, there was a lot of tradition behind this event as well. RSS teacher Bob Sutherland started the whole thing in 1979, a fact acknowledged on the shirts sported by a number of the Whitehorse based coaches, who arrived wearing RSS emerald green colours with the legend "Thanks Bob" on the backs.

This year's anniversary event was organized by Cyndi O'Rourke, a former student here and currently on the RSS staff. She had the help of teacher Shelly Rowe and the many other RSS staff who put in countless extracurricular hours coaching the local teams, as well as a lot of alumni, who have always been willing to turn out for this weekend.

Games began at 3:15 on Friday, shortly after the first out of town teams arrived, and ran for five hours that night. The next two days however, were crowded, beginning at 7 each morning, with events continuing throughout the day, not wrapping up until past 11 p.m.

Alumni long out of practice squared off in contests against the most valuable players from all the youth teams when the competition ended on Sunday. The women managed to put the girls in their place, but the men were outshot and outplayed.

The big social events of the weekend took place at the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Community Hall. Friday night had a very successful dance, while Sunday night concluded with a banquet, awards ceremony and historic retrospective slide show.

This was an event which almost didn't take place. It was to have begun Thursday evening, but that day's weather closed the Klondike Highway to school buses between Fox Lake and Carmacks and rendered the rest of it dicey driving. RSS students waited for the Friday morning forecast on pins and needles, but the weather cleared and all the events were simply moved back one day, with the visiting teams, some 350 students altogether, heading off home on Monday morning. Of the registered schools only Faro was unable to make it due to the road conditions.


Dawson Vanishes in the Mist

by Dan Davidson

From hillside to hillside, the valley disappeared. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dawson City joined the ranks of Brigadoon and Shangri-La on Monday afternoon by disappearing into the mists. Anyone looking down from the Dome or flying over the town would have seen nothing but fluffy white tinged with sunshine by 5 o'clock that afternoon.

Indeed, the channel 12 cable camera perched halfway up the Dome Road showed nothing at all as it panned along the Klondike and Yukon River Valleys. It looked much as if the valley had been filled in with cotton balls.


Review: Nakai Theatre Blooms at the Oddfellows' Hall

by Dan Davidson

Martin Happer, Moira Sauer and Xavier MacDonald brought "Blooms" to the Oddfellows' Hall in mid-October. Photo by Dan Davidson

Could there be a more perfect place to stage a play about people who get caught by a place and can't, or won't, leave? Looking around the Oddfellows Hall on the night that "Blooms" is staged in Dawson City, I can't help but be struck by the number of people who probably didn't set out to be here in the first place - but who have stayed and bloomed where their lives have planted them.

But enough about Dawsonites new and old. This piece is about Dean Eyre's intense little homage to the place where he entered the Yukon. It would be a mistake to think that only the Shipyards could contain such a tale, but the fragility inherent in such surroundings does lend it a certain poignancy that it might not have elsewhere.

"Blooms" begins with two lovers, Laurel and Kevin, in the last stages of what must have been a tempestuous relationship. Oddly, and Kevin notes this, it is spring when Laurel decides to pack it in and set off on her pilgrimage to Montreal. They have discussed this often. Some of her dreams spill out of his mouth later on with easy familiarity - but then Kevin is familiar with a lot of words that would be better left unsaid.

Scene two takes us stage right to a cafe where the obvious Cheechako, Matthew, is clearly waiting for someone, and would clearly rather it not be Kevin, who is looking for anybody to share his loneliness with. Kevin, both ingratiating and annoying, manages to tease out of Matthew the reason why he has fled Ontario, just as he earlier learned most of Laurel's secrets. All of this will lead to some explosive moments later in the play, but for now the easily anticipated and telegraphed surprise at the end of this scene is that Laurel is back in town, having collected Matthew on her short jaunt Outside.

Summer passes, Once again Laurel wants to leave. This time it's Matthew who won't. He's fitting in. He's a go-getter, unlike Kevin, and has landed a summer job as a tour guide as well as winter prospects substitute teaching. After one final argument they part, and Matthew moves into Kevin's Shipyards' shack, where it seems he does most of the work and brings in most of the money.

Events will bring all of them into contact with each other again, and there are actually some surprises in the revelations about Laurel's past, as well as some tricky business with an unregistered gun, and an ending that isn't quite the love story conclusion that one might expect.

The adaptation of the Yukon Arts Centre staging that was developed for the Oddfellows Hall was an effective design, allowing the two sides of the stage to present several different spaces - a shack, an apartment, a bar and a coffee shop, as well as a street scene - with only a minimum of rearrangement.

Kim Barlow's original tunes added a lot of atmosphere to the play, as did the rest of the music.

The actors were excellent.

Moira Sauer's Laurel was a compelling mixture of fear and desire, haunted by her past and trying to make something of her future, but always feeling the need to run away.

Xavier MacDonald's Kevin is a likable scoundrel, an archetypal sluggard who craves company but will always exploit it. You want him not to mess up, but you know he will, and the anticipation of his next disaster is delicious. His obsession with Laurel is believable and pathetic. He can't even tell the truth to himself.

Martin Happer's Matthew is so nice you almost want something bad to happen to him, just so he'll wake up and smell the coffee - or that mess in Kevin's shack. In spite of his brush with big city anomie, he's a survivor, someone who tries to find the good in every situation and strives to be agreeable. No surprise then that he gets his heart broken and gets shot before the play ends.

The central metaphor in Eyre's play is one that we have to hope can't quite be true. Summerdoughs may blossom into Sourdoughs if they stay long enough, but that's a yeastier transformation than a flower's seasonal bloom. There has to be more than that to a relationship, and this seems to be a lesson that Matthew has begun to learn as he exits Kevin's cabin for the last time.


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