The justification of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission on its decisions within its recently released final plan is both shocking and has only revealed it clearly failed to do its job.
Quoting David Loeks, “Going the way we did, with the high degree of protection, in our view is a conservative approach because those options still remain for society to choose if we want to Ã‰ when you got really deep into those responses, it was clear nobody wanted to compromise.”
To me this points to the failure of the commission to actually facilitate a process that resulted in meaningful discussions between all interest groups on the topic and to thoroughly examine how we could work together to mitigate potential permanent and/or long-term impacts arising from potential industrial developments.
To my knowledge, the 11th-hour flurry of the commission to host a couple of meetings after more than three years of showing a lack of willingness or ability to properly engage all of the parties demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how to engage different stakeholders during land-use planning processes.
From day one, it was evident to all parties this commission and its planning staff showed a great resistance to engage stakeholders and, only when they realized that the plan could actually fail (bets are in most parties it ultimately will as it violates the laws of the land), they decided to let others discuss issues.
As a result, it only served to pit parties against each other, which will make it even more difficult for parties to properly engage in meaningful and fact-based discussions in future land-use planning processes.
The discussions hosted by the commission between stakeholders were preliminary, at best, and very poorly executed.
They demonstrated a total lack of professionalism and thought on how to engage groups with diverse and divisive opinions.
In other land-use-planning exercises around the formation of national parks, provincial parks, ecological protection areas and other protected-management areas that I have been involved in within other jurisdictions, there was extensive discussion between all stakeholders throughout the planning process.
Often these discussions would result in positive interaction and compromises, and they served to help direct the planning exercise to answer questions that the stakeholders needed answered in order to try and reach compromise.
Not only were these processes more constructive, but more importantly they facilitated a very high level of information sharing, facts and scientific data, which may be in the filing cabinets of the Peel commission but never really came to light in a meaningful way in the final plan.
We may not have agreed upon the end result, but in all of these discussions we at least gained a better understanding of each other and compromise by all parties was typically part of the end result.
So from my viewpoint all this commission has done is place the government in a very difficult position.
The government obviously cannot accept the plan as is; if it stands compensation demands from industry will stress and possibly go beyond the financial ability of the territory.
We have already seen the “compensation issue” raised and Yukoners should be very concerned about this as the plan, as it stands, will cause companies to seek compensation and claims will be significant.
The plan obviously ignored one of the key principles Ã to recognize legal rights and the laws of our territory.
So back to the government being placed in an awkward position Ã if government rejects the plan, not only will millions of dollars have been wasted, but they will also split the electorate, which in Yukon has a strong environmental faction that, in itself, can probably defeat a government in an election.
Furthermore if the plan is outright rejected it will also likely upset the First Nations parties involved.
So where does that likely place us all? Back at the table where we should have been three years ago, trying to find compromise and where groups like Yukon Conservation Society and CPAWS will be even less willing to engage in a meaningful way as the current position of the plan has fulfilled their dreams of a giant big stop sign on the Peel region.
Most do not want to talk about these issues, but as Yukoners we should not shy away from controversy. Instead, we should be willing to deal with it in a meaningful way, something this commission clearly could not wrap their heads around.
Furthermore, I am not convinced that most of the electorate understand how much of the Yukon is now closed off to industrial development. I encourage all to examine it on a land basis and proportional to our total landscape. It is starting to get significant after the work of both commissions to date and all of the Special Management Areas, parks and other protected areas that have arisen from a variety of land agreements and other decisions by governments.
I expect our future generations will have to revisit the work of our generation as, ultimately, the decisions being reached in many instances are quickly closing opportunities for sustainable industrial development in our territory.
As a part of Canada, we must also recognize we should facilitate our fair share of development and access to resources needed by future generations. We cannot close the door to any and all development as desired by some prominent groups in Whitehorse that do not realize that everything in their homes, their cars, their offices and even in their food comes from a mine.
Wake up folks, we need mines! You appear to acknowledge that, but in reality you never accept it and that has been demonstrated by your actions to fight every proposal that is tabled for mineral development in Yukon.
Future commissions obviously need to solicit a more engaging process, where stakeholders can discuss meaningful information, limit the rhetoric, and deal with facts and science.
The Peel commission and its plan has been an unfortunate failure.