Those radical environmentalists are at it again. Taking time out from scheming against the prime minister’s pipelines, foreign-funded ecoterrorists have set their sights on the Yukon, and according to the premier, when they get done with their preservationist agenda you won’t recognize the place.
This time the radicals aren’t just plotting to stall development by making presentations at environmental reviews: they’re out to destroy the territory by preserving it, and make no mistake, they have the bumper-stickers to do it.
Premier Darrell Pasloski dedicated a bit over two pages of his recent budget address to warning Yukoners of the threat posed by environmentalists in general, and in particular by the more than four members of the Yukon board of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In a shocking revelation, the premier uncovered CPAWS’ secret agenda: they’re out to create parks and protect wilderness.
Fantastic as this allegation might appear, Pasloski based his case on cold, hard facts. Consider for instance that “protection of additional lands in the Peel watershed region will likely make Yukon the leading jurisdiction in Canada in terms of environmental protection of its land area.” With only his political staff and the Yukon civil service to draw on, the premier hadn’t the resources to establish that this is indeed the case before using it in his budget speech, but he knows it’s likely. He also seems to know that it’s a bad thing.
Reaching back into his bag of hard evidence, Pasloski reported that “whatever the amount of land that the Yukon government protects in the Peel watershed region, it will never be enough to satisfy the demands of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.”
Never mind that CPAWS endorsed the Peel planning commission’s recommendation for permanent protection of 55 per cent of the Peel, and interim protection of 25 per cent more. You can’t take radical environmentalists at their word. As the premier pointed out, CPAWS’“next targets for protection include the Wolf Lake Ecosystem in south-central Yukon, including Teslin and the entire Upper Liard Basin.”
This is the kind of unrestrained extremism you can expect from radical environmentalists. You protect habitat in the northern Yukon, but are they satisfied? Oh no. Now they want habitat protection in the south, even “including Watson Lake.” Does it get any more subversive?
Let the fanatics get away with protecting wildlife corridors around Watson Lake and, as Pasloski so eloquently puts it, “Yukon as we know it today would cease to exist.” And, the premier tells us, the campaign to destroy southeast Yukon is set to begin in earnest, or in his own words, “You can bet the bumper stickers are already prepared.”
This is how the radicals operate. Fueled by massive influxes of foreign money, they print bumper stickers which – and this is the devious part – enable Yukoners to make a clear public statement on a matter of deep general concern. And there’s no measuring the extent to which these tactics skew the debate.
If you were to believe the profusion of bumper stickers, the great bulk of letters to the local papers, the results of an opinion poll, the protests, the First Nation position statements, or the conclusion of the Peel planning commission, you could be misled into believing that the vast majority of Yukoners oppose widespread mining activity in the Peel watershed.
The premier knows better. What the Yukoners who matter care about is the economic potential of an iron ore mine in the middle of nowhere. As he points out, the Crest deposit, some 350 kilometres northeast of Keno City, contains 1.68 billion tonnes of ore, valued at $83 a tonne, and if the government would just build a multi-billion dollar railroad 1,000 kilometres to tidewater, Chevron could sell the works on the open market for $139.7 billion.
This is the kind of clear-eyed economic leadership the Yukon has come to expect from its eponymous governing party: if you can’t give it away, pay someone to take it. That’s how you keep the economy rolling.
None of this should be taken to imply that the Yukon Party is unconcerned about the environment. Indeed, says Pasloski, “we do support environmental protection and are committed to preserving Yukon’s wilderness beauty.” So much so, he tells us, that regulations currently place 12.68 per cent of the territory under some kind of environmental protection. This leaves only 87.32 per cent of the Yukon open to free-entry mining, threatening the very existence of the territorial economy, or at least of the 23 per cent of it that relies on resource extraction.
The Yukon government has tabulated the results of its Peel consultation process, and revealed that 80 per cent of the 10,000 responses originated outside the Yukon. No word yet on what the responses were: we can only conclude from the silence that they favoured CPAWS’ vision more than the premier’s.
To keep us informed the government has commissioned a pamphlet, about which only the name was known as of this writing. Shakespeare aside, the name tells us quite a lot. It will be called not “What You Said,” but “What We Heard.” I think we can already guess the answer to that.
Al Pope won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best columnist in 2013. He also won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.