The Peel Watershed Planning Commission has had many public meetings to provide information on its activities and its draft plans to date.
The meetings for the scenario tour began in Mayo on February 2, 2009 and moved to Dawson on February 3, Fort McPherson on February 5 and Inuvik on February 6.
The scenario tour started with two options.
Sometime between Mayo and the meeting on February 10 in Whitehorse, a third scenario was added.
Which communities were presented with all three scenarios?
Obviously not Mayo. Maybe not Dawson either. How, then, could people in those communities make a truly informed decision about the scenarios?
The obvious answer is that they couldn’t.
After the scenario tour, many comments were received by the commission. Most of them favored scenario two. This featured the strongest protection for the region.
What a surprise it was for those attending the first meeting of the draft plan tour to see that the draft plan did not take into account the strong support for protection of most of the Peel region.
Many speakers at the meeting on April 27 in Whitehorse pointed to the support for scenario two. There was concern that the comments weren’t being taken into account by the commission.
“This is not a plebiscite,” said commission member Dave Loeks.
The public has been led to believe that its opinion is being sought and will be valued. Does this mean that this process is a plebiscite?
Webster’s definition of plebiscite is “a vote or decree by the people to some measure submitted to them by Ã‰ a body having the initiative or authority.”
It has looked like a plebiscite process in that the commission (a body having initiative or authority) seems to be asking the people for its opinion. But if this is not a plebiscite, what is the consultation process? Or more accurately, why is there a consultation process?
In the end, the commission can only recommend a plan – the final decision is made by the Yukon and affected First Nation governments for the lands under their jurisdiction.
This means that, in the end, the Yukon government could steamroller its pro-development position into the final plan.
But in the meantime, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission can demonstrate its independence and recommend a plan that accurately represents the desires of the majority of Yukon people.
After all the meetings, discussions, and letter writing will the plan recommended by the commission reflect the desire of Yukon people to see the Peel region remain largely protected from development?
Or will the commission itself facilitate industrial development by recommending a plan that benefits only the mining and oil and gas industries, likely the desired outcome of the Yukon government?