Rouble unfit to be planning council chair

Imagine if a pilot who had crashed a plane in a spectacular, preventable fashion were later appointed to a body governing the aviation industry.

Imagine if a pilot who had crashed a plane in a spectacular, preventable fashion were later appointed to a body governing the aviation industry. The territory has just seen a comparable absurdity, with Patrick Rouble’s recent appointment as chair of the Yukon Land Use Planning Council.

The council, created by the Umbrella Final Agreement, is charged with making recommendations to governments on land-use planning. It’s expected to offer impartial advice, with its chair serving as spokesperson for the council.

Who in their right mind would think Rouble is suitable for that role? After all, he’s the one who helped run the plan for the Peel watershed into the ground during his stint as Yukon’s resources minister.

Certainly, he will have the ear of the Yukon government. But what First Nation chief would consider Rouble an expert, unbiased source of information?

As we’ve said before, perhaps the government followed the letter of the Umbrella Final Agreement, but they’ve clearly violated the agreement’s spirit. Although Rouble wasn’t in office at the time, he was part of a Yukon Party government that after he left would go on to re-write the Peel’s land use plan at the last minute.

Chiefs who signed away their unextinguished aboriginal rights in exchange for land-claim deals surely never intended to have their people engage in six years of planning talks for the Peel, only to then have the Yukon government discard all this work and do as it sees fit. That would only make sense to someone like, well, Rouble.

Ian Robertson, the planning commission’s outgoing chair, was an honest and clear communicator, and he didn’t mince his words about the damage done by the Yukon government. It’s hard to imagine Rouble living up to his example.

By releasing its guiding principles at the end of the process, rather than at the start, the Yukon government “jeopardizes any work done prior to their release,” Robertson warned in a letter to affected governments this spring.

He added that these principles “were not based on consultation outcomes but cobbled together with little ‘supporting evidence as to their validity.’”

The Yukon government similarly struck and then abandoned a timeline it pledged to follow, under a letter of understanding it struck with affected First Nations. These actions will make it that much harder to negotiate with First Nations, and will likely result in more lawyering that could further bog down the process, Robertson warned.

The government’s proposed concepts for the Peel, meanwhile, are simply “misleading” in their labelling of one designation as “wilderness” which could still see some development.

And while the government said some parts of the Peel deserve “the highest level of protection available,” Robertson found that “none of the plan concepts” proposed by the territory “really meets this standard.”

In Robertson’s view, the damage done by the government’s handling of the Peel plan also threaten to undermine future land-use planning efforts, and “there is already a spillover effect on the Dawson commission’s work.”

Whereas one of Robertson’s chief strengths was seeing through bureaucratic bafflegab, Rouble has always seemed enchanted by it.

He served as MLA for Southern Lakes from 2002 until 2011, but he only picked up the Energy, Mines and Resources portfolio in the autumn of 2009, after Brad Cathers quit the Yukon Party cabinet during his spat with then-premier Dennis Fentie.

Rouble’s chief role while in office was as Yukon’s education minister. On the job, he made a fetish of hiring consultants to produce reports long on abstract gobbledegook and short on concrete goals.

One of his characteristic accomplishments was the Education Reform Project, which resulted in many public meetings and hundreds of recommendations. Those ideas were then sliced and diced into another plan, with an even more grandiose name of New Horizons. But after all this work, the department struggles to explain how the schooling of students has actually improved.

Of course, it was under Rouble’s watch that we saw the genesis of one of the Yukon Party’s big boondoggles: the plans to build a replacement for F.H. Collins Secondary School. Rouble was the guy who approved ostentatious plans that later soared far over budget.

Rouble has no shortage of book smarts – he has a Masters in Business Administration and after leaving office pursued a doctorate in education – but he’s made too many poor decisions while in office and served as a government mouthpiece for too long to be a credible chair of the planning commission.

If the federal government truly cared about respecting the agreements it signed with First Nations it would recognize the error of appointing Rouble and rescind the decision. But when was the last time that Stephen Harper’s government admitted it made a mistake?

Similarly, it would be in the public interest for Rouble to correct the error himself and step down. But if he were capable of understanding his obvious unsuitability for the job, he would have never applied in the first place.

This imperceptiveness is precisely of what makes him such a bad pick. 

RETRACTION

An earlier version of this editorial indicated that Mr. Rouble’s appointment as chair would not be viewed favourably by First Nations chiefs because he “blatantly spouted mistruths” about the land use planning process during his time as minister of resources in the Yukon government.

In support of this statement the editorial referred to the fact that the Yukon government created its own land use plan that largely ignored six years of consultation with stakeholders, abandoned an agreed upon timeline for the Peel land use plan process and designated a portion of the Peel as “wilderness” even though the area could see some development.

The Yukon News would like to remind readers that Mr. Rouble was not part of the Yukon government when the government took these steps.

While the Yukon News is of the view that Mr. Rouble’s appointment was misguided because of his previous association with the Yukon government, it retracts its statement that Mr. Rouble “blatantly spouted mistruths” and apologizes to Mr. Rouble.

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