Yellowknife election 2022: Cat McGurk interview
Cat McGurk is running for Yellowknife city council in the fall 2022 municipal election. Here’s a full transcript of our interview.
We asked every candidate roughly the same questions, to allow residents the chance to compare and contrast answers before placing their votes in the city’s mail-in ballot.
Questions include a little candidate background information and their thoughts on municipal taxes, housing and homelessness, climate change, reconciliation and the city’s economy.
We also ask each candidate how they would have handled three big issues that faced councillors during the past four years: a new swimming pool for Yellowknife, a proposed university campus on Tin Can Hill, and the question of requiring proof of vaccination at city facilities during the pandemic.
Polling day is October 17, though most votes are expected to have been cast by mail beforehand. Results should be available on the night of October 17.
Mayor Rebecca Alty has already been acclaimed to a second term as nobody ran against her.
Yellowknife’s school board elections also resulted in two sets of acclamations.
This interview was recorded on September 26, 2022. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ollie Williams: What’s your Yellowknife background?
Cat McGurk: I am a relatively young person under the age of 30. I was born and raised in Yellowknife. I am a red seal carpenter by trade. I currently am the acting executive director at Makerspace YK, which is a local skill-building, infrastructure and education workshop. I’ve been fairly active in my community in doing community organizing and volunteering engagement since I was in high school, and I really like gardening.
If you are elected, what philosophy would guide you as a councillor?
This is actually very easy because it’s literally what guides everything that I do: northern capacity-building and sustainability. I actually struggle a lot with the word sustainability, because it’s not really, truly achievable. But for this purpose, it’ll do. I think that we depend a lot on southern import. And when I was a kid, I remember the ferry – when it wasn’t operational that two weeks of the year, twice a year – we wouldn’t have milk, things like that. And I think that especially with the cost of living, that’s not going away, difficulties around supply chain issues are not going away. They’re just going to get worse, things are only going to get expensive. And there’s a lot that we can do as northerners to mitigate that and to build some capacity here.
What should be happening to our municipal taxes next year?
Well, we certainly can’t lower them. They are here to stay. And they should be, because we benefit greatly from them. And we wouldn’t want to live here if we didn’t have them. I hope that, generally speaking, we can find a way to increase taxes at a known rate rather than an unknown rate. Because I think that maybe beyond just having to pay a larger amount in taxes, it’s the shock of having to pay a number of taxes that you didn’t know that you were going to have to pay in the first place. But yes, to answer your question, I think that they should stay the same or possibly go up, if need be. But I hope that we will do a very thorough assessment. Obviously, that’s what our job is, as councillors.
What do you think the economic future of this city is? And how do you think a city council should be supporting that?
Great question. There are a few industries that have a lot of potential that, with a little bit of help, could really take off. Fishing is actually one that I think is really important. And I was thinking about the harbour strategy recently. We have some of the best fishing on Great Slave on this side of the lake, and we have the smallest amount of infrastructure. So the city has already done a lot of legwork to kind-of look at that and look at the infrastructure requirements for that, and maybe carrying out a little bit of that would be a great idea. Also, this is maybe more of a GNWT thing (but we can definitely lobby for it) – the remediation economy is a huge deal. We all know that Giant Mine is a multi-million-dollar project, but there are a lot more mines that need to be remediated out there. And maybe another aspect of that would be education and remediation. And we could look at the polytechnic, and that’s another industry driver.
To what extent should climate change be a factor in every decision that city council’s making over this next four years?
I think that it has to be at least considered in every decision. I’m a really design-oriented person, I think that you need to make decisions with full consideration of what the impact of those things will be. You need to create systems with consideration of what the future impacts will be and how the community will need to respond to them. If we are developing new strategies, or if we’re working on anything that has a larger impact or has the potential to affect future plans, I think that it’s very important that climate is a consideration.
What are the next steps in reconciliation for the City of Yellowknife?
We could stand to build better communication with YKDFN. I also think that there’s potentially some room to look at the commissioner’s land conversation and lots like the ski club, which are currently still under discussion, and maybe provide a little leeway there. I’m not sure. The last time that I was aware of what was going on with the conversations around commissioner’s land around Yellowknife was a while ago, and I don’t really know where they’re at now. I know that that can change month to month, sort of, so I can’t speak exactly to where they are. But I do know that there’s definitely the possibility for further cooperation on that.
What role do you think city council needs to play over the next four years on housing and on homelessness?
We definitely have had our fingers in the pot on that one, so to speak. We’ve administered funding through the Reaching Home stuff and we do have a responsibility, obviously, to all residents of the city. I have a lot of really strong feelings about buildings, I guess, obviously, as a carpenter. It’s hard for me to answer this one because there’s so much that I can speak to. There are so many thoughts that I have. But there are projects that people are willing to undertake, that people have written proposals for and submitted to the city, that we could revisit and try to help push along. And the city at the very least could do something such as provide access to land. I mean, I’m just thinking about a youth housing program that was proposed to the city at some point, and didn’t end up doing what it was originally supposed to be doing. But that plan is still out there. And all of the information that was on that plan is still good. And I know that it’s not the only proposal that’s landed on the city’s desk that could be revisited.
I’m going to ask you what you would have done regarding decisions council took in the past four years. Would you have voted for a new swimming pool?
Well, I was fostering a 13-year-old when the vote for the slide came in. And so I gave her my vote, because I knew that she was going to get a lot more use out of it than I ever would, as someone who is going to spend more of her life here in the long run. So I’m pro the swimming pool – in terms of even before the slide debate. I was born here. I know a lot of people who were lifeguards at this pool since they were kids, and are now adults, and they’ve attested that it’s always had problems. So I think it’s a really good recreational facility and our population is ageing, and it’s a very low-impact and safe place for people to be physically active. So definitely pro pool.
Would you have supported a university campus on Tin Can Hill?
This is a really interesting question because I feel like I’ve gone through the motions on this one, I actually grew up on School Draw. And so I spent my entire childhood running around on Tin Can Hill. It’s a very, very big soft spot in my heart. I also watched it slowly get eroded by development over time, and turn from a very quiet and beautiful place to a very bustling spot with a lot of dogs and more buildings than there ever were when I was a child. And I think when I first heard about the proposal, I was a little bit taken aback, but the more that I considered it… I weighed the fact that I’ve just seen this space become more and more full and I think, at this point, we have to consider the design aspect of this. If we choose to not put the school there, we have to make some really big decisions about what else to put there, because something’s gonna go there. I don’t think that we can stop that from happening unless we manage to find a way to protect it, somehow, but I think that would take a very, very dedicated group of residents to do that.
So in the interest of protecting the space, I think that a school is not a bad idea. But also, since coming to that sort of frame of mind, I’ve spoken with some folks that would be potential sort-of stakeholders in the school, and they have mixed feelings about the location of the school. And so now that’s kind-of affected my opinion on the matter, I suppose. And I’m back at square one, and I don’t really know how to feel.
And so how would you have voted?
If I was in the room when the vote was going down? I would have voted for the school.
This time last year, would you have voted to require proof of vaccination at city facilities?
Yes. I think that the safety of the community is paramount. And that just seems like the logical thing to do to protect that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think that the dump is very important. I’ll talk about this a lot, probably because it kind-of ties into my ideas around northern sustainability. But as a carpenter, I have thrown away a lot of usable material, construction waste. I know demolition waste is about 30 percent – according to the waste management plan – of waste, plus there’s also industrial waste, which includes construction waste, and that’s 30 percent. And then household is the other sort-of 30 percent. So we have a long ways to go, the construction industry has a long ways to go, to address our contribution to waste management. I don’t think we empower our waste management facility to make innovative choices around how they deliver programming. So I think, generally speaking, giving them better supports, more adequate supports, allowing them to actually execute the 2018 waste management strategy better, would be awesome. And good for everybody. It would build a bit more of a circular economy.
More: Cat McGurk’s candidate Facebook page.
Head back to the interview list here.