Identifying the Challenge/Opportunity


The most critical component of the Smart Cities Challenge was to identify a challenge that would significantly improve the quality of life for Whitehorse and/or Yukon residents.  By bringing together different perspectives and diverse backgrounds it became easy to look at problems from a different angle – and when those talented people came together in pursuit of a common goal, they came up with inspired solutions that will have a real and tangible impact. The biggest impact. But first we needed to come up with a common goal. To this end, we proposed the following steps:

  1. Identifying our Challenges/Opportunities
  2. Identifying Themes and Challenge Champions
  3. Prioritizing our Challenge

Identifying our Challenges/Opportunities

In this stage, we utilized our online engagement platform to provide a resource for voting, submitting and discussing potential challenges the City may use to apply to the Smart Cities Challenge. We then used digital and print marketing and traditional communication tactics in order to provide the community with the opportunity to engage with this tool. We proceeded to reach out to community organizations, associations, schools, etc.. asking for them to provide challenges which spoke to their needs as well as the community as a whole.

Identifying Themes and Challenge Champions

Using the challenges/opportunities identified through the public submission process, our team worked to identify themes and Draft Challenge Statements. 

The themes and Draft Challenge Statements were then brought to the Technical Advisory Team for a facilitated session.  The Technical Advisory Team consists of organizations whose involvement might benefit or be necessary for tackling the challenges that have been identified.  The purpose of the facilitated session was to help the Technical Advisory Team shortlist the Draft Challenge Statements and ensure that there is agreement that the challenge/opportunity is worth addressing. 

Prioritizing our Challenge

After the shortlist has been developed, the Draft Challenge Statements will be put to the public for voting.  The voting will go through a series of rounds until a final Challenge Statement has been identified.

The Following are the submitted challenges which were voted down in the follwoing brackets:

40.15% Votes

Climate Change Adaptation

According to a Yukon College climate report, the Yukon is warming twice as fast as southern Canada. Our changing climate is affecting our wilderness, our ways of life, living conditions, economy, and our infrastructure.  How should we, in Whitehorse, face the challenge of a changing climate?

59.85% Votes

Disaster Preparedness (Wildfire hazard abatement)

According to a Yukon College climate report, the Yukon is warming twice as fast as southern Canada. Whitehorse is surrounded by aging pine and spruce forests and the frequency and severity of catastrophic fires is predicted to rise with climate change. These fires pose a risk to public safety, property, and natural resources. How can we, in Whitehorse, mitigate this risk while also creating economic opportunities.

52.55% Votes

Efficient, low-impact transportation (public transportation)

Good public transportation has many benefits, including: providing access to employment for those without vehicles; extending the lifespan of road infrastructure; reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas production; and lowering the cost of some public services. There are barriers to improving public transportation, however.  How can Whitehorse reinvent its public transportation system to amplify the use of and benefits of public transportation?

47.45% Votes

Safe and Healthy Community (pedestrian and cyclist safety)

Pedestrian and cyclist safety is an ongoing concern in Whitehorse,  and reports of pedestrians being stuck by vehicles is, sadly, regular news. We want to encourage walking and cycling, but many feel unsafe on Whitehorse’s streets. How can we encourage safe transportation and make our city more accessible for all types of commuting?

54.74% Votes

Landfill Diversion (through system redesign, better sorting, 
upcycling, reuse, etc.)

Whitehorse’s Solid Waste Action Plan has a goal of Zero Waste by 2040.  How can we accelerate this target date through upcycling, better sorting, system redesign, and/or other innovations?

45.26% Votes

Sustainability (economic) – Managing growth (infrastructure)

In a period of five years, (between the 2011 and 2016 Census), Whitehorse’s population increased by 7.8 % – outpacing the national population growth rate. This rapid population growth is placing strains on existing municipal infrastructure and creating demand for new municipal infrastructure. How can Whitehorse best manage this growth?

42.34% Votes


The City of Whitehorse is located within the traditional territories of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation. Both are self-governing First Nations. Although greatly improved in recent years, there is still work to be done on improving the relationship between the City and these First Nations. How can the City of Whitehorse, the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation best work together for the mutual benefit of all citizens?

57.66% Votes

Safe and Healthy Community (mental health)

An estimated 65% of Yukoners reported very good or excellent mental health in 2013/14. This number represents a decrease from 73% across Yukon that was reported in for 2009/10, and reflects an ongoing downward trend in the percentage of the population reporting very good or excellent mental health. How can we ensure the excellent mental health of Yukoners?

28.47% Votes

Social Equity (protecting and assisting vulnerable population) 

Homelessness, addictions, and sex trafficking are long-standing issues in Whitehorse.  While we have many individuals and organizations working on these challenges, we can do better.  How can we best protect and assist vulnerable peoples in Whitehorse?

71.53% Votes

Social Equity (housing availability and affordability)

In a period of five years, (between the 2011 and 2016 Census), Whitehorse’s population increased by 7.8 % – outpacing the national population growth rate. This rapid population growth, combined with issues related to land access, the costs of construction, and other factors, are placing strains on housing availability and affordability. How can Whitehorse best address the need for affordable and available housing?

63.50% Votes

Social Equity (employment/income inequality)

The Yukon has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and Whitehorse has one of the highest household incomes in the country, yet in 2016, 14.8% of our population reported they had incomes of less than $15,000. As the city’s population grows and access to affordable housing becomes more difficult, and as cost of living increases disproportionately affect those with lower incomes, how can we best address the issue of income inequality in Whitehorse and unlock this human potential, connecting the unemployed and underemployed with opportunities that matter to them?

36.50% Votes

Social Equity (developing human capital)

Whitehorse has one of the most educated populations in the country, yet an important part of our population faces multiple barriers to employment. How can we best develop this human capital in Whitehorse?

40.15% Votes

Sustainability (economic and environmental) – Fossil fuel imports

The Yukon spends an estimated $200 million on fossil fuel imports every year. This not only has significant, adverse impacts on our economic sustainability, it affects the sustainability of our environment. How can Whitehorse reduce its reliance on fossil fuel  imports using locally-generated solutions?

59.85% Votes

Energy (cost, availability, reliability)

The majority of the Yukon’s electricity is generated using hydroelectric systems, but a rapidly growing population and a growing economy are exceeding our hydroelectric capacity when we need it most. What can we do, in Whitehorse, to improve the availability, reliability, and affordability of our electricity?

38.69% Votes

Sustainability (economic) – Economic Diversification

Whitehorse is largely dependent on government transfer payments, mining, and tourism. To protect ourselves from instability in any of these sectors, we know we need to diversify our economy – but as a
comparatively remote community with high transportation costs and more difficulty accessing markets, how can we leverage our strengths for economic diversification?

61.31% Votes

Sustainability (economic and environmental) – Resilient, accessible food systems

According to a 2015 report on the state of the Yukon Food System, only 2% of the food consumed in the Yukon is produced in the Yukon. Aside from the economic leakage, this reliance on imported food places Whitehorse at significant risk every time our access to outside is compromised (which happens every time the Alaska Highway closes). How can we improve Whitehorse’s food security and reduce our economic leakage through food imports?

Generating Solutions/Ideas

After the Challenge Statement had been identified, we convened a public Hackathon to:

  1. Understand the challenge at a deeper level,
  2. Identify ideas and potential solutions, and
  3. Ways to bring these ideas and plans to life to achieve real and positive outcomes.

Participants included were pioneering businesses, academia, and civic organizations which designed innovative solutions using data and connected technologies.  

The event was facilitated using a social innovation approach, which looked at the challenge from a systems-thinking perspective.  As part of the process, we identified principles and selection criteria to help screen and select ideas to address the Challenge Statement.

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