Pillai pulls out
Ian Stewart/Yukon News
Whitehorse city councillor Ranj Pillai will not be running in next month’s municipal election.
It’s true - the man who brought Hockey Night in Canada to the capital will not be seeking re-election.
“Over the last couple of months I was just trying to look at a bunch of different options,” he said. “I really appreciate having the opportunity to do it and it’s a phenomenal experience.”
Pillai sat on the Whitehorse Elementary School Council before becoming a city councillor. Those combined commitments have meant time away from his two sons.
If he were successful in getting elected for a second term, his eldest would be 14 by the time that term was up. His youngest, meanwhile, turns six on Friday.
“For his whole life, I’ve been involved in something,” said Pillai. “I just want to spend some time with those guys and really focus on that before they’re teenagers.”
Opportunities are also coming up for Pillai’s career, both “academically” and for his consulting business, he said, although he wouldn’t offer any details.
Looking back, Pillai lauds big events like Hockey Night in Canada as great successes and a lot of fun but says his work in helping change the way the city runs is what he is most proud of.
The organizational review that the municipality’s administration recently held was a priority for Pillai.
“I always felt that there was a deficit when it came to morale,” he said. “And I felt that there was accountability issues. People seemed to, in certain situations, drop the ball and truly there was no accountability for it. You can’t run a public organization without an accountability model.
“You also had two directors that were in a situation where there was absolutely no way that they could be on top of all their responsibilities with the magnitude of departments that they had under them.”
Part of the changes from the review will mean two more senior managers.
“There’s always going to be issues that a number of people are for or against, and no matter what way you go, you’re going to leave people upset, but I truly believe that implementing this organizational change is going to lead to a healthier organization. I truly think this is something that is fundamentally going to change the course of the city.”
Pillai is also confident in Stan Westby, the city’s new top manager.
He points to the former Powell River, B.C., chief administrative officer’s ability to resolve the curling club’s rent issue in one meeting as testimony to his non-combative style and ability to consult “meaningfully and effectively” with different groups.
Pillai disagrees with the city’s policies that shove community concerns into strict evening time slots or emails.
“Some people work in the evening,” he said. “If you really want to have effective consultation, you really have to look at the people you’re consulting with ... and figure out what’s going to be the most effective form. And I think this new city manager really understands and he’s in line with the values I have.”
Pillai also points to the debate and eventual adoption of anti-racism and discrimination policy as a high mark in his council career.
And there were successes that didn’t get much media attention.
After being approached by a couple in Takhini, Pillai helped establish a Montessori school in the hilltop neighbourhood that he is proud to say he was a part of.
“When I started, a lot of people had said, ‘You can’t make change,’” Pillai said. “But I was lucky enough on probably at least four issues, or five issues, to actually table the motion, take it through, build support, build a case and then actually get it done. It takes a lot of time to do that and it takes a lot of conversations. But when you do, it feels great.”
Pillai hopes his replacement will have the same motivation.
“You’re going to have your own perspectives but do as much outreach as possible,” he said to future councillors. “Remember that you are sitting in a seat that belongs to the people of Whitehorse. It’s not your seat, you’re just getting to sit there for a while. Don’t ever forget that.”
Pillai is joined by Coun. Florence Roberts and Mayor Bev Buckway who have also announced that they will not be seeking re-election.
Councillors Kirk Cameron, Dave Stockdale and Betty Irwin have indicated they will run again, leaving Coun. Dave Austin who has not yet announced what he will do.
The election is on Oct. 18.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at