What was said
I don’t normally comment on discussions that take place inside NDP caucus meetings.
However, it is important to correct some misinformation that has been reported recently.
Gary McRobb has tried to leave the impression that our caucus initially supported the sudden and unilateral move by the Liberal minister of Fisheries and Oceans to change the Yukon’s placer mining regulations without any consultation.
McRobb claims that we changed our minds in the face of “vehement opposition” from him and Eric Fairclough.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The federal minister made his announcement December 11, 2002. In a release the very next day, I criticized Ottawa’s “colonial attitude” and said, “that form of government-to-government relations simply has to end.”
The NDP position — then and now — is that placer mining is a legitimate activity. The NDP position — then and now — is that we must protect the environment for those who come after us.
On March 11, 2003, MLAs debated a motion calling on the federal minister to keep the Yukon Placer Authorization in place “until proper consultation has taken place on a replacement authorization that achieves the objectives of protecting fish habitat without jeopardizing responsible placer mining.”
The wording of that motion had input from all three parties. It passed unanimously.
As final speaker for the Official Opposition, I summed up our position on the motion:
“We believe it has some reflection of the values of society that recognizes the Yukon placer miners and their history, but also does recognize the importance of protecting the fish habitat.
“For those very reasons, I stand here today and support this motion.”
Interestingly, during that debate, McRobb said this:
“The New Democrats have a proven track record of recognizing and supporting responsible mining activity in the territory.”
He was right, of course.
In the 30 years I’ve been a New Democrat, our party has always recognized the important contribution of mining to the Yukon’s economy. In fact, four of our past five leaders have all had mining experience.
What seems to be bothering McRobb is that our party is not afraid to acknowledge our social obligation to ensure that future generations have clean air, clean water and healthy, productive soil to sustain them.
New Democrats do not believe we must choose between jobs on one hand and a healthy environment on the other. As Ken Georgetti of the Canadian Labour Congress is fond of saying, “there are no jobs on a dead planet.”
In attempting to re-write history to justify changing political stripes, McRobb overlooks one fact: anyone who knows me recognizes that the positions I take publicly are the same ones I hold privately.
I have said, privately and publicly, that the federal government should have included the environmental community in discussions about amending or replacing the Yukon Placer Authorization.
I still believe that, and so do my caucus colleagues, Lorraine Peter and Steve Cardiff.
Yukon people must work together to resolve difficult issues such as those surrounding land use and resource development.
The proper role of government is to provide the forum for that to occur.
That is what past NDP governments have done, and that is what future NDP governments will do.
If that concept is too “far left” for McRobb, then I’m happy he has found a more comfortable political home.
Leader of the Official Opposition
in the dark
Open letter to Premier Dennis Fentie,
Your government has earmarked the harvest of 165,000 m3 of timber and issued timber-cutting permits for a total of 100,000 m3 in the Haines Junction Planning Area 2, located along the Haines Road adjacent to Kluane National Park.
I have strong concerns that local residents were not adequately informed about your government’s plans to cut a large volume of timber in this ecologically sensitive area.
The last time residents were informed about plans to log in Planning Area 2 was in winter 2000.
The Final Resource Report for this area was released in July 2001. The report recognized the need for continued public consultation and education.
At that time, the Alsek Renewable Resources Council also committed to provide full and timely information to the general public.
Regrettably, the public was left in the dark about the next phase of the planning process as well as the hastily issued timber permits in 2005.
Instead of keeping Haines Junction residents informed by means of the community newsletter, information flyers or open houses about plans to log this area, your government limited its public consultation to only a very few residents, including myself.
It appears to me that your government deliberately kept its plans from the public by avoiding an environmental assessment under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.
Instead, your government opted to self-assess its own development plan and prepared an in-house environmental assessment screening report.
Both the screening report and the subsequent timber-cutting permits were issued on Sunday, November 27, 2005, just one day before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act came into effect on November 28, 2005.
Furthermore, I find it bizarre that your government issued timber-cutting permits before the area’s forest development plan was finalized.
To date, this plan is still not available to the public.
Under YESAA, your government would not have been allowed to self-assess its own forestry plans.
YESAA is providing a neutral assessment process done at arm’s length from government departments.
Furthermore, YESAA has provisions for public participation at all stages of assessments as well as a high level of transparency (decisions and actions will include written reasons and will be made available in the public registry).
I believe that one of the reasons your government attempted to push this forestry plan below the general public’s radar is the fact that your government approved — for this area — an unprecedented timber harvest volume before the ongoing regional forest planning and implementation process was completed.
Your government severely undermined the forest planning process for the Champagne/ and Aishihik traditional territory by prematurely earmarking 22 per cent (165,000 m3) of the total estimated timber volume available in that whole traditional territory and by subsequently starting to issue timber-cutting permits for 100,000 m3.
The intent for Planning Area 2 was to provide an interim wood supply while the regional forest planning was still ongoing.
Historically, the annual harvest volume for roundwood in the Haines Junction area is below 10,000 m3 per year.
An interim timber supply for this region of 25,000 m3 (3.3 per cent of the total estimated timber volume for the traditional territory) for a two-year period would have been more than adequate to satisfy the needs of local timber operators until the regional forest planning process is completed and implemented.
I am extremely disappointed your government has negated its own promises to facilitate forest development projects in an open and transparent manner allowing for a meaningful and effective engagement of all sectors of the general public.
It is my hope that your government will significantly improve its communications with local residents in respect to the ongoing forest planning and implementation process for the Champagne/Aishihik traditional territory.
Of the 165,000 m3 of timber earmarked for harvest, cutting permits for 100,000 m3 have already being issued to timber operators.
Your government would still be able to issue the remaining 65,000 m3 of earmarked timber in further permits.
I am requesting that no further timber-cutting permits be issued for Planning Area 2 (Quill Creek Bench Harvest Planning Area in the Haines Junction Area) until the ongoing regional forest planning and implementation process for the Champagne/Aishihik traditional territory is completed.
On behalf of the Whitehorse Cross-Country Ski Club and the Northwestel Western Canadian Championships organizers, I’d like to thank Whitehorse for its support during the past few weeks.
City parks staff were extremely helpful in preparing the waxing building in time for the event and the snow-clearing crew delivered 10 truckloads of clean snow from the Takhini Arena just in time to fill in some thin spots on the heavily used Show Loop.
The city also loaned us 10 radios for race officials to use throughout the event.
And thanks for allowing unlimited use of the banquet room at Mount McIntyre, which became the athletes’ lounge and awards venue.
One more special thanks should go to city council member Jan Stick who spent many hours helping with food services for the athletes.
Our visitors from Alaska, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, NWT, and national team guests from as far away as Nova Scotia were all impressed with our facilities.
The ski club couldn’t have done such a great job without the city of Whitehorse pitching in with their support.
Mike Gladish, ski club manager, Whitehorse
Dawson sewer system revisited
Open letter to Premier Dennis Fentie,
Residents and businesses of Dawson City are concerned by the Yukon government’s strategy, in the matter of secondary sewage treatment for the municipality.
My constituents and I share two concerns.
Technology: The government appears to have closed its mind on the subject of technology and has chosen aerated lagoons.
Such systems are a cost-effective sewage treatment method, so long as there is a location in close proximity to the municipality served by the lagoons.
The proposal for such a treatment facility located in the Klondike Valley upstream of the municipality potable water supply is ludicrous, and from both a financial and public-health perspective, irresponsible.
Such a design will incur further costs for a second forced main with a second river crossing and lift station to move the treated effluent back down the valley to the Yukon River and add substantial amounts to the capital cost of the project.
This design will also increase the future operating costs of the system.
The municipality will incur significant power costs to pump the sewage in both directions.
There will also be added energy cost to heat the effluent to prevent freezing.
We are already experiencing significant costs to heat the potable water in the municipal distribution system.
To incur additional costs-to heat sewage in the forced mains would raise the cost of water and sewer in Dawson to unsustainable levels.
The environmental risk represented by the possibility of leakage from the system should not be underestimated.
We have sufficient experience with water and sewer lines in our region to know that, beyond any projected risks, line failures will occur, and they may occur at the most inopportune times and locations.
There are alternate technologies, environmentally highly effective, that have been tested in harsh climates such as ours.
It makes imminent sense to carefully explore such alternatives without dismissing any of them out of hand.
The capital costs for some treatment processes may appear to be high in comparison to the Yukon government’s preferred option when considered in isolation.
However, the associated capital costs for right-of-way acquisitions, river crossings, lift stations, and pipelines are likely to exceed the capital costs of alternate treatment facilities.
Process: It is an absurdity that this matter is before the courts. Environmental regulations are established and enforced by the same federal government that will be required to provide capital funding for the project.
It is absurd for the Yukon government to be locked in legal dispute with the government of Canada, with the federal taxpayer funding both sides in an argument over a sewage treatment plant the federal taxpayer will end up funding.
Unless common sense prevails, and other more viable options for sewage treatment are given serious and detailed consideration, the court will be left with no choice but to reject this unacceptable lagoon system and order the construction of the only other option that has been put before it.
That option is the sequencing batch reactor sewage treatment system that was originally favoured by the previous municipal administration.
I am asking you to resolve the matter by putting an end to the litigation, and resolving the dispute with a solid proposal to construct a viable and proven sewage treatment plant designed for maximum efficiency at minimum operating cost.
The very last thing the Yukon can afford, much less the taxpayers of Dawson City, is to pay for expensive litigation in addition to what will undoubtedly by a very costly sewage treatment facility.
Peter Jenkins, MLA for Klondike, Dawson City
Psychiatric drug debate
Thank you for printing the item on psychiatric drugs in the March 22 issue.
More people need to be warned that psychiatric medication may be worse than useless.
The doctors are only very slowly learning what many of their patients have been telling them for many years. The treatments may even be worse than the alleged illness.
I know this for sure.
The drug companies don’t care what’s good for you. All they care about is money. I’m afraid the shrinks are about the same.