Premier Darrell Pasloski must have a different copy of the Umbrella Final Agreement than we have.
After all, the premier and his sidekick, Resources Minister Brad Cathers, frequently say they’re merely obeying this cornerstone deal with Yukon’s First Nations in their handling of the plan to protect the Peel watershed – that vast swath of the Yukon’s northeast that’s been subject to so much debate.
Funny. Our edition of the UFA doesn’t include the following sections:
* The government shall let miners engage in a staking free-for-all in the region under review, then complain that protecting the area is impossible without upsetting miners;
* The government shall suppress pro-conservation documents prepared by its own Department of Environment, depriving planners of valuable information;
* The government shall refuse to provide any specific directions to planners until they’re out of the picture, then declare that the final plan is no good;
* After five years of extensive public consultations, the government shall ignore the final plan and come up with its own, radically different one, but say it’s merely making a “modification”;
* The government, rather than making a reasoned, rational case for allowing mining in the area, shall stoop to fearmongering about how protecting the region will bankrupt the territory, while only offering dubious evidence to support this claim;
* The government, in showing contempt for affected First Nations, will say this is being done out of respect for First Nations.
We’ll call this the Yukon Party Expanded Edition of the UFA.
In fairness to Pasloski, he inherited much of this mess from his predecessor, Dennis Fentie. When Pasloski ran for his party’s leadership, he promised, naively, to not allow the Peel to become an election issue.
Of course, it became one. Yet, despite the Yukon Party’s confusing, contradictory statements on the Peel during the campaign, they went on to form a third majority government.
The government’s boosters now gleefully say that the Yukon Party won a referendum on mining. A more plausible explanation is that the government stayed in power thanks to a booming economy, and because of fears that the NDP or Liberals might mess up the good thing we’ve got going.
The Yukon Party would have a stronger mandate to develop the Peel if they had the courage to say what everyone knows they think about the matter. But they didn’t during the election, and they still don’t.
It’s possible that plenty Yukoners want to see the Peel dug up in pursuit of shiny metal, rather than seeing nearly untouched wilderness protected for future generations to enjoy. That’s a perfectly legitimate position to hold, and it’s too bad Pasloski and Cathers don’t have the cojones to say it out loud.
Instead, they treat us to vacuous sloganeering that nobody believes. “It’s not about winners and losers!” and “It’s not about whether to protect the Peel, but how!”
Please. How about telling us how much of the Peel you would protect? And which parts?
Affected First Nations have driven a hard bargain, by calling for full protection and insisting they can barely support the plan’s bid to see four-fifths off-limits to development.
But at least they’ve been up front about what they want. The same, alas, cannot be said for the territory.
It’s worth noting that the NDP Opposition and other Peel protectors haven’t always been straight about the Peel, either. Bizarrely, NDP Leader Liz Hanson contends that the Yukon Party didn’t take a stand on the Peel during the election.
That’s a funny thing to hear from her, as she sat beside Pasloski during the environmental debate, during which time Pasloski warned Yukoners that protecting the Peel would bankrupt the territory. If that’s not a position, what is?
Did anyone actually believe that the Yukon Party would protect the Peel? If you did, you probably need your head checked.
But Pasloski and Cathers are equally misleading when they gloss over how they spent the first half of the campaign proclaiming that they wouldn’t take a position on the Peel, because that would be irresponsible.
The fact is, the Yukon Party flat-out contradicted itself during the election campaign, and they’re now trying to impose coherence on the improvised mess they’ve made.
Now comes the hard part. Pasloski has promised a plan to make everyone happy – something the planning commission also tried, and concluded was impossible. Good luck with that.
But the premier may be right about one thing. During the election he warned the Peel plan could result in costly lawsuits.
He was talking about miners with claims in the region. But, unless Pasloski manages to patch things up with the understandably-upset chiefs, we can expect to see the territory embroiled in a nasty court battle with them, instead.