Yukon’s premier has been thrown under the bus so many times over the Bill S-6 schmozzle, he runs the risk of earning a suitably flattened nickname. Call him Darrell “the Pancake” Pasloski.
The latest person to steamroll him is none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is supposed to be one of the premier’s allies, what with Pasloski being a past Conservative candidate for the territory, and having not once dared to utter a statement at odds with Harper, and all.
Our premier has long tried to distance himself from the controversial changes to Yukon’s regulatory regime by noting that it is, after all, federal legislation. The takeaway: it was Ottawa’s job to consult, so don’t blame us for this mess.
Not so fast, Harper essentially said during his visit to Whitehorse last Friday. Those controversial bits of S-6 that now look sure to trigger another nasty legal battle by First Nations, which could give mining investors a big reason to stay away from the territory? You can thank the Yukon government for proposing those bright ideas.
Harper also made it sound as if federal officials, if anything, made the dangerous assumption that the Yukon government made a habit of consulting and communicating with, y’know, Yukoners, before it pitched bold policy proposals at Ottawa. This is, after all, a government that supposedly “speaks on behalf of the vast majority of Yukoners,” as Harper put it.
But, of course, those talks never happened. First Nations only learned about the changes very late in the game, and the broader public ended up being kept in the dark up until the moment the bill was tabled in the Senate.
Pasloski says that Yukoners should be able to be leaders in their own house, and amicably resolve this dispute without appealing to the courts. It’s a nice idea. But the only reason we find ourselves in this mess today is because of his own repeated screw-ups.
If the controversial amendments are so important, the Yukon government should have proposed them at the appropriate time, during the long-running public review of Yukon’s regulatory regime. It didn’t. Instead, it chose to wait until the last minute, after the public review had ended, to call for the changes.
It also should have kept First Nation chiefs, who expected to be treated as equal partners during the review, in the loop. It didn’t. The controversial changes, conveniently enough, serve to put more power in the hands of the federal and territorial governments, so it’s no wonder chiefs are miffed.
Faced with a credible threat that First Nations would launch another big legal battle over this dispute, and after hearing warnings from the operators of Yukon’s sole remaining hard-rock mine that the consequences for the industry could be disastrous, the premier should have realized it was time to cut his losses and urge the federal government to drop the controversial amendments. He didn’t. Instead, he doubled down and urged Ottawa to make the bill law. Parliamentarians duly complied.
In his defence, the premier notes that he has offered to sit down and discuss the disagreement with chiefs. What he leaves out is that this offer was only made on the eve of the bill becoming law. And that seems to sum up the Yukon Party’s attitude towards public consultation: first make a decision, then ask the public how it feels about it.
Does this perhaps bring to mind another legal battle, involving a certain watershed? Or how about plans to build a fancy soccer complex in Whitehorse? How about a new containment, err, continuing care facility for the elderly in Whistle Bend?
Pasloski recently huffed that there has been too much finger pointing during this affair. That’s exactly what you’d expect somebody to say, when all the fingers are, for good reason, pointing at him.