Open response to draft Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan:
I am a Yukoner and a self-proclaimed industrial artist.
I have worked in a variety of mining environments ranging from base metals, coal and oilsand operations across the country.
I make no apologies for stating that my work is best seen from space. I am proud to be a miner, and proud to be a part of a new generation of mining and construction that acts responsibly, is environmentally and socially conscious, and ethically astute in the pursuit of value from these industrial activities.
Some artists create landscapes on cheesecloth. I choose to shape real landscapes in a way that releases value in support of the broader public interest.
Yes, it is messy work and often an eyesore during the process, but I assure you that best practices and engineered controls ensure all land-based pollutants are contained or mitigated for discharge and airborne pollutants are minimized, and the final result is always designed to achieve or surpass pre-existing environmental and socioeconomic conditions.
If mineral or energy resources are present in the Peel Watershed, then I would support the responsible delineation and viable exploitation of those resources.
That’s not to say I don’t want to protect Canada’s land and resources for future generations. I think society as a whole is environmentally conscious.
We want to replace depleting resources with sustainable alternatives. We want to maintain a productive and secure landscape for future generations. We want to act in the best interest of society and the environment.
However, replacing resource exploitation with renewable alternatives remains to be seen on a large scale, or a scale large enough to support the majority population. In any event, these alternatives will always require a multitude of material resources to develop. Many of these renewable resource and energy technologies are in their infancy, or have yet to be developed in the first place.
The bottom line is these initiatives require a constant supply of funding to continue. Where does this financing come from? The vast majority, I suspect, results from industrial taxes and royalties!
If industry is not in the picture, then please educate me. Where will scientists and government acquire the necessary funds to continue research and development initiatives?
Furthermore, existing processes are always being refined to work more cost effectively and in many cases with less environmental impact that surpasses regulatory expectations (in a good way).
When it comes to the environment, I consider Canada to be a responsible world leader.
Much of what we see today in the way of legislation has been built on the industrial experience of this country. Good, bad, or indifferent, we’ve come a long way over preceding generations.
You have to ask yourself if a developing Third World country or emerging economic power holds the same environmental values or the same scale of regulatory and enforcement maturity as employed in Canada.
Cutting off access for industry in Canada will only entice industry to operate in these other jurisdictions, often with less-developed environmental standards and controls, and precludes Canadians from maximizing the full socioeconomic rewards.
Keeping these industrial activities in our own backyard provides the vehicle to fuel knowledge and new technology, while allowing us as Canadians to directly govern responsible resource delineation and development for the benefit of all Canadians.
The “not in my backyard” attitude is a paradigm for the privileged few, but is not always in the best interest of Canadians as a whole and, in my opinion, should not necessarily have such a large weighting as perceived in the plan presented on April 27.
Second, a fair plan will address the questions, what are the values of protection or development, and what are the recommended deterrents to irresponsible development that don’t already exist?
The value of protection or development is best asked of the many stakeholders, which I think the committee has attempted to include, but has failed.
It is up to government, or this committee acting on behalf of government, to inform or poll opinion on the matter, which, based on what I heard in the question and comment period on April 27, was not geographically far reaching enough.
How do you establish the extent of public interest?
When considering whether a proponent should be allowed to subdivide a residential property, I think the public interest would encompass all the residents of the local subdivision.
In contrast, when considering the Peel Watershed, the area of the landmass and its perceived role in the eco-landscape, or the potential economic importance of the underlying resource we should host a larger court of public opinion – in my opinion, since the potential environmental or economic benefits are farther reaching than Yukon borders, and we are talking about national-level public interest.
I don’t think the committee has adequately embodied public input to the recommendations set forth, but instead has heavily weighted local stakeholder interests and undervalued the opinions of those not directly or presently impacted.
What are the deterrents to irresponsible development?
This is really controlled by governing bodies through legislation, project approval processes, monitoring and enforcement, bonding, etc. I do not condone poor industrial practices of the past that have left less productive landscapes and degraded ecosystems in their wake. However, I believe these industry legacies were a result of less-evolved legislation, enforcement, and development practices, and therefore is a shared accountability.
Modern Canadian regulation is far more robust in the governance of responsible resource development.
From resource inception to resource exploitation is a whole host of checks and balances that must be rigorously understood and obtained in order to move forward with a project.
Aside from the obvious economic drivers, a company is charged with producing environmental impact assessments, actively engaging in public and stakeholder consultation meetings, formation of principal stakeholder agreements, federal and territorial permitting requirements, etc. This entire exercise takes several years to accomplish. These are not fly-by-night decisions, as may have been conveyed and perceived by some on April 27.
These activities will occur for any project, irrespective of location.
I think the committee has worked hard and has locally done well to capture stakeholder views.
However, I do not think the committee has adequately captured national views, as this is a national conundrum that must be resolved in the best interest of the majority.
The region may not currently demonstrate industrial viability based on existing technologies and current economic conditions. But that’s not to say these premises will not change for future generations. Cutting off and restricting the prospects for industrial development will be damaging to the well-being of future generations in this country.
The immediate effects will be demonstrated by industry moving elsewhere, possibly to less stringent jurisdictions, creating both a loss of human and financial capital in this country.
In effect, we are setting the stage to export the dirty work and place the accountability on someone else’s hands.
We, as end users, must share in the accountability for ensuring responsible development of our natural resources.
To that end, we must be considerate of our industrial development obligations to sustaining our society economically while ensuring risk to our environment is minimized.
I do not think the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan is acceptable for current and future generations. It does not serve the best interest of the public, and it contradicts the very foundations of how this country is sustained through natural resource development.
Dan Russell, P.Eng.