Currie Dixon, the Yukon’s minister of the Mining Environment, finds it “laughable” for Robert Kennedy Jr. to suggest that the Yukon Party government’s approach to the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan has been undemocratic. This is a good thing. Laughter is, so they say, the best medicine, and Mr. Dixon must be in the pink, for surely he has been laughing his head off for months.
Immediately after the last election, having campaigned on the claim that it would be “irresponsible” to take a position on the Peel Watershed Planning Commission’s report, the Yukon Party government took that position. And it turned out that they had campaigned truthfully, because the position they took could hardly have been more irresponsible. Good thing they waited till the voting was over to break it to us.
Dixon probably got his first medicinal chuckle from Dave Loeks, the chair of the Peel Planning Commission, who described the government’s counter-plan as “either a misunderstanding in the planning process or it’s an attempt to circumvent it,” which, when you break it down is a pretty clear description of undemocratic behaviour.
Let’s hope the minister had a good healthy guffaw when Tourism Industry Association chair Neil Hartling accused him and his party of the highly undemocratic practice of “changing the principles after seven years of public consultation and planning where the public participated.”
Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn must have done Dixon’s health a world of good when he announced that his legal team had “guns loaded and ready to go” to challenge the government’s rejection of the Peel plan. The press release from Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun stating that “Yukon’s introduction of sweeping new proposals at this point in the plan approval process is not consistent with the process set out in our final agreements,” must have been a real side-splitter.
Kennedy came to the Yukon to campaign against hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping millions of gallons of water contaminated with toxic chemicals deep into the earth to extract petroleum products. Before he spoke at the Yukon Arts Centre on Monday evening, he had already suffered a blow from Dixon’s cruel wit. We hope the New York lawyer, activist, radio host and law professor wasn’t too bruised when that famously sharp tongue brushed him off with the following:
“We’re always happy to have rich tourists come to the territory and spend their money. But I have to say, I think it’s a little bit hilarious and embarrassing that a rich, elitist, celebrity, activist lawyer from the lower 48 would come up here and spew such ill-informed nonsense about an issue and a process about which he clearly has no understanding.”
Ouch! That had to hurt. But Kennedy should take comfort in knowing that when Dixon calls him elitist for opposing the Yukon Party’s rejection of the Peel Planning Commission’s final report, the minister is casting him among an elite that includes the vast majority of Yukoners, all of the First Nations whose territory intersects with the Peel Watershed, all of the members of the Peel commission, the Tourism Industry Association, both opposition parties, and pretty much any honest observer who actually knows what the term “democracy” implies.
Kennedy may be a high-priced out-of-town lawyer, but when he decided to tackle Currie Dixon, he clearly didn’t know who he was dealing with. According to the Whitehorse Star, “Dixon went on to say that Kennedy was factually incorrect on a number of his statements. However, he refused to list which ones, saying he hadn’t seen a transcript of the lawyer’s comments.” See, that’s the kind of tough operator we have in the Yukon, who can dismiss your facts without even knowing what they are. Rich tourist activists beware.
And all of you rich, celebrity, elitist, ill-informed Yukoners who still believe the Yukon Party behaved undemocratically when it g-filed a five-year, $1.6-million compromise on the Peel and replaced it with a road map for mining companies, don’t make Minister Dixon laugh, OK? His sides hurt already.
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.