The Yukon Party government has a laser-like focus on development.
Mines, farms, big game outfits, gravel pits, land, geological exploration, oil and gas, railroads, logging — it talks about them all, promises deals and spends federal transfers faster than a sailor on shore leave.
But how does it plan for the future?
Apparently, not very well.
Three years into devolution, the evaluations are coming in.
And they’re not good.
In fact, the emerging picture depicts a government that talks a good game, but doesn’t know how to make stuff happen.
The result is a profound lack of certainty in the Yukon.
Make no mistake, this has cost the territory. Dearly.
Big business sees the Yukon as a poor bet — not a good place to park its money.
One reason: the Yukon Party has bungled the post-devolution file.
Last week, the Yukon Minerals Advisery Board released its annual report.
It was damning.
The new Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act could have streamlined the permitting process, it said.
But, “inefficient co-ordination” between the board and the government permitting agencies led to overlapping regulation and a doubling of wait times for mining companies.
“This situation is unacceptable and is in stark contrast with clear and unequivocal promises made by government” during YESSA consultations, said the board report.
And it gets worse.
“The effect has been to burden the industry with permitting timelines and complexities which effectively double the time periods previously required to obtain simple authorizations.
“The interim uncertainty and delay is unacceptable to industry.”
And worse still, “the failure to present a regime that provides for regulatory certainty and timely project permitting will almost certainly lead to a diminished ability for Yukon to participate in the current prosperity of the worldwide mining industry.”
And, it must be noted, mining booms are usually fleeting.
“YESAA has not, in effect, replaced any of the previous total-process timeline; it has merely added more time (in many, if not most cases, doubling the time that was previously required during the effective period of CEAA).”
Since passing the legislation, Archie Lang’s Energy, Mines and Resources department has taken almost the same amount of time to issue permits as board has taken to do environmental assessments, it said.
And the problems extend beyond the handling of the mining file.
Look at what the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has posted on its website.
“Yukon contains eight sedimentary basins with potential oil and gas deposits. Most exploratory wells have been drilled in southeast Yukon.
“However, industry is looking for a more effective regulatory and fiscal environment before increasing oil and gas development.”
Once again, the Fentie government’s failure to draft effective regulations and lay down royalty expectations is giving industry the jitters.
The failure has cost the territory investment.
The fact the Yukon has any activity going on has everything to do with global metal and energy prices, and nothing to do with the government’s glad-handing efforts with industrialists.
The current crew in cabinet are not big supporters of government.
Generally, the ministers and assembled advisers are contemptuous of government red tape and rules.
So they have ignored them.
Clearly, that’s not conducive to investment.
In fact, because the Fentie government has been clueless in managing government permitting, regulation and the Yukon’s fiscal environment, investment has been hobbled.
It has totally failed to plan for development, and, amid the uncertainty, First Nations and citizens are reluctant to embrace it — time and again we’ve seen that the rules are shadowy and unevenly applied, and nobody trusts them.
That has undermined business confidence, and ramped up opposition among aboriginal leaders and the territory’s other residents.
The uneven regulations have stymied development.
The Yukon currently has a tiny “niche” of only about four per cent of the country’s mineral investment during a huge international boom.
There is little, if any oil and gas development.
The Fentie government has survived on generous transfer payments from Ottawa. This year, those exceeded $750 million.
That federal largesse has kept the economy hopping, in spite of cabinet’s inept handling of the regulatory regime.
It makes one wonder what could have been, had the government managed the rules better. (RM)