v. 1. have deliberations; seek information or advice from
2. take into consideration
That’s according to the Oxford Dictionary, our word bible and general guiding light.
The oft-used verb is being put to the test as the Yukon government ponders oil and gas development in the Whitehorse Trough.
The 60-day public consultation period for 12 parcels of land between Carcross and Carmacks just wrapped up.
Plenty of Yukoners put in their two cents’ worth.
Just how many, the government isn’t exactly sure, but a quick scan through public meeting notes and rafts of written comments produces few supporters of forging full-steam ahead with exploration.
Letters from oil and gas opponents have also poured into the newspapers and more than 1,500 people signed an anti-oil-and-gas petition.
Concerns vary from fear of fracking to fear of the Yukon becoming the next Alberta.
Only the government knows who has put in the land request and it’s not telling. That simply fuels more fear.
Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers says the government was as surprised as everyone else when the 12 requests landed in its lap in mid-January.
It’s been scrambling to get ahead of the wave of opposition ever since.
It’s separated deep fracking from shallow fracking. It’s played the need-for-local-energy card. And it’s pitched the all-impact-can-be-mitigated approach to development.
All to no apparent avail.
It just takes a sobering comment from a 25-year industry veteran, who says oil and gas companies routinely ignore licence conditions and other regulations, to cast doubt.
Or the realization the end product could be exported, or that the promoters are also the regulators.
But that’s consultation.
The government asks; the public answers.
And, at least in theory, the government then rejigs things accordingly.
But letting people have their say is one thing.
Listening to what they say seems to be quite another and the track record isn’t great.
With these oil and gas land requests, it’ll be a few more weeks before Cathers receives a report on the consultation from his officials.
Then it’ll be up to him whether to accept or reject, some or all, of the parcels.
This is a great opportunity for the government to restore public confidence in the consultation process.
Will it take it or let it pass by?
The message seems pretty clear – breathe deep, step back and then proceed with caution, if at all.
Oil and gas development in southern Yukon may not be a bad idea – in some areas, if done properly – but this request is too much, too soon.
Yukoners want and need to know a whole lot more about this industry before this goes any farther.