The most recent round of protests and letters to the editor for protection of the Peel watershed has persuaded me to raise two important issues regarding much of the language used.
The first is the question of “balance.” The Yukon government is being constantly derided for its “unbalanced” approach to land use planning, with suggestions that the government is favouring greedy Outside interests at the expense of Yukoners.
Proponents of the final recommended land use plan constantly state the plan represents a balance of interests held by Yukon stakeholders. It doesn’t.
Rather, the recommended plan represents a weak compromise between outspoken, if not militant, proponents for full protection, and stakeholders wishing to see responsible resource extraction.
That’s not a balance of interests based on science or economic considerations; it’s a political move to please the pro-preservation lobby under the guise of land use planning.
By no means is this a true reflection of a balance of stakeholder interests; it is an aberration of land use processes used elsewhere.
The other is the issue of just what a “democracy” is and how it works in Canada and elsewhere. In Yukon and most of Canada we have a parliamentary democracy whereby we elect our representatives per riding, and the party with the largest number of members sitting in a legislature forms the government.
We elect them to govern; if we don’t like how they do so, we can elect a different set of representatives into office next time around.
Worldwide, there are variations on this theme, but in all cases elected representatives govern the state for the general population. We are free to lobby (at least in Canada) but it is the governing party that will decide whether to adopt the lobbyists’ interests.
The term “democracy” in the Yukon has been perverted to mean the views of a majority of people responding to a poll, or worse, the number that show up for a community hearing. Polls are far from conclusive – just ask Danielle Smith of Alberta’s Wild Rose Party about that.
In the Yukon, we have gone one step further; we have interpreted the relative numbers of pro-preservation versus pro-development attendees at recent community hearings on the planning process as an accurate representation of Yukoners’ views on land use in the Peel.
One recent writer went so far as to state that the popular vote for the Yukon Party in last year’s territorial election, which stood at 40.5 per cent, actually represented a smaller number of Yukoners because of the 76.2 per cent voter turnout, resulting in a “true” popular vote of 30.9 per cent (my calculation).
This would mean that every Yukon Party supporter did his or her duty by casting a ballot, and that a disproportionate number of supporters for all other parties didn’t cast a ballot either out of protest, because they couldn’t be bothered, or were unaware an election was taking place. If so, too bad for them.
If you are strongly in favour of protecting the Peel, that’s fine. If you have a “Protect The Peel” sticker on your vehicle, that’s fine, too; in fact, I respect your courage to make a public statement. It’s your right.
But please don’t lobby or protest the Yukon Party’s attempts to achieve a balanced plan by distorting the definition of democracy, which is so fundamental to our society in the Yukon and Canada.