Letter to the Editor

Yukon Party haste is suspicious Open Letter to Premier Dennis Fentie and Energy Minister Archie Lang: On May 28, the Utilities Consumers’…

Yukon Party haste is suspicious

Open Letter to Premier Dennis Fentie and Energy Minister Archie Lang:

On May 28, the Utilities Consumers’ Group submitted a 2,500-name petition to the Yukon legislative assembly calling for the Yukon Party government to reverse its decision to phase out the Rate Stabilization Fund, which has helped residential electrical consumers with the high costs of electricity.

It is signed by 2,350 citizens from the greater Whitehorse area, 150 from the Mayo district and…

The petition circulated in most Yukon communities are just starting to trickle in and will be tabled at a later date.

Doesn’t this response send a message to your Yukon Party that the public is strongly in favor of leaving the Rate Stabilization Fund alone?

Besides, is it absolutely necessary to scrap the fund as this government is proposing, supposedly, to initiate conservation?

You simply have to let this fund do the job it was originally implemented to do!

According to Energy Minister Archie Lang and Yukon Development Corp. chairman Willard Phelps, the proposed addition of Minto mine to the electricity grid, with the extension from Carmacks to Pelly, will result in lower electrical rates due to increased revenues to Yukon Energy. This is supposed to reduce the revenue shortfall caused by the loss of the Faro mine as a major customer nearly a decade ago.

If the revenues continue from Minto throughout the proposed life of the mine, rates should continue to drop, which will result in the eventual decline of the need for the Rate Stabilization Fund.

Simply put, if more money flows into Yukon Energy from sales of power, these revenues would eliminate the YEC revenue shortfall that Yukon Energy has been collecting through a 14.93 per cent rider on everyone’s electrical bill.

Once this revenue shortfall is eliminated, any additional revenues will be used to eliminate the need for other rate riders, such as the fuel-adjustment rider.

If income from greater sales of power for Yukon Energy increases by approximately 30 per cent, then the Rate Stabilization Fund is rendered zero on each bill and it is not needed again until there is no industrial customer online.

What ratepayers have strongly proclaimed is that the Rate Stabilization Fund does not have to be discarded.

Do you truly believe that the money you are investing, on our behalf, to the grid extension will reduce electricity rates?

Then let us see that this happens before changing the status quo.

If all these proposed benefits don’t come to fruition, then the Rate Stabilization Fund is there to keep Yukoners’ electricity bills stable and affordable.

Will your party reflect the wishes of your constituents?

In 2002 your party was elected and your cabinet immediately filed an order-in-council to continue with rate stabilization but discarded the energy conservation “clawback” and placed the full burden of the costs of implementing this program directly on the Yukon Development Corporation.

Why did you do away with this “clawback” mechanism?

Doing away with it, the revenue shortfall caused by the permanent closure of the Faro mine, and increased costs of diesel fuel to supply the diesel-generated communities soon led to an escalated cost of operating this program and placed a heavier burden on the profits of the crown-owned corporations.

Your Yukon Party government announced last week that you are proposing to cut the Rate Stabilization Fund by 50 per cent this July and then completely terminate it next July of 2008.

With a reduction of half of the RSF payment, consumers will be paying, with a usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours, an extra $18.50 per monthly bill.

With the liquidation of the RSF next year, each bill will be increased by $37 per month for this same usage.

The Minto mine is proposed to hook on to the power grid at the end of September in 2008.

Why is your government proposing to scrap the stabilization fund before the Minto mine will even be hooked up, so at this time there will be no extra revenues to lower rates as Lang and Phelps have promised?

In the meantime how do you gents justify a rate-shock of an additional $37 per month on your fellow Yukon citizens’ electrical bills, especially those with low and set incomes?

What’s your hurry? Is there a hidden agenda?

Premier Fentie suggests that provision of the fund acts as a subsidy to ratepayers and is not sending a proper message to consumers to have them conserve electrical consumption.

The Yukon Conservation Society has been singing this mantra to the media for a thousand years.

Is it not indeed strange bedfellows when you see your conservative party adopting policies put forward by an environmental group?

If you wanted to be environmentally conscious, why did your government do away with the Rate Stabilization Fund clawback mechanism that was originally initiated with this program to promote conservation?

This clawback hit consumers directly in the pocketbook … those who did not conserve energy saw progressively increasing costs for electrical usage over the 1,000-kilowatt-hours bracket until the discount reached zero at 1,500.

 Not only would claw-back encourage conservation of electricity usage by the consumer, but it would greatly lessen the burden on the amount of money to be paid out by the Yukon Development Corporation into the RSF.

Do you agree?

As a short-term alternative measure, why not simply put the “clawback” back in place and let the Rate Stabilization Fund keep stable rates for conservation-minded ratepayers until Minto mine gives Yukon Energy the proposed increase in revenue income to provide affordable electricity for all Yukon ratepayers?

Roger Rondeau, Utilities Consumers’ Group, Whitehorse

Mauling victim leaves

loving memory

On the 28th of April 2006, our son and brother, Jean-François, was killed by a bear while working in the forest for Aurora Geosciences Ltd.

His death was a shock for the whole family and for his numerous friends, in Quebec as well as in the Yukon.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Whitehorse community and the company for the sincere expressions of sympathy conveyed to us in this time of hardship.

For more than a year now, we have been trying to live with this sorrow.

The legal proceedings taken against the company as well as the tensions that resulted from this action on all sides has brought back painful memories, as you may well imagine.

At present, we do not have the official report of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board nor are we aware of the safety rules that the company was subjected to.

In no case do we wish to discredit the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board and the action it took.

Nor do we want to discredit Aurora Geosciences Ltd.

Our role, as the family of Jean-François, is to wait for the conclusion of the proceedings and, in memory of our son and brother, to call upon all intervening parties to act with dignity and respect.

However, our main concern is to ensure such an accident never repeats itself — as far as possible.

The loss of a member of our family encourages us to reflect on the ways things are done in a situation such as the one Jean-François was faced with.

Whether or not there was a violation of safety rules, we strongly believe that it is up to all the players in the forest industries, as well as government representatives, to ask questions about the environment and the risks involved with working in the forest.

The forest is a very special workplace, and the laws that oversee it are still too evasive.

We know that such a review was held in the construction industry, and the rules that govern this work environment have made it a safer place than ever before.

We are totally aware that the risks inherent to working in the forest will never be completely eliminated, but we think they could be reduced even more.

Furthermore, we deem it important that a review be done of the emergency measures put in place after Jean-François’ distress call.

Everything suggests that Jean-François died instantly, but what would have happened if he had been left wounded?

Could he have survived the wait time between his call and the arrival of the rescue team?

All these questions we ask are not supposed to be an accusation against the company or the RCMP, but rather as a request put to all stakeholders — including the department of Labour, the companies, the police and the wildlife conservation officers — to undertake a review of the ways of working and living in the forest.

As Jean-François’ family, we hope, for the sake of all the workers who will be heading for the forest these days, that his death will not have been in vain.

We know that Jean-François had followed a course on bears and on the safety measures specific to working in the forest.

The radio message he sent to his co-worker suggests that he stayed calm and that he tried to pacify the bear, as his handout notes recommended.

Our son and brother was heroic in the circumstances.

Jean-François’ memory invites us to wait peacefully.

Ginette Chamberland, Raymond Pagé, Justine Benoit, Louis-Frédéric Pagé, via e-mail