When public consultation is private

When public consultation is private In the legislature last week, Premier Darrell Pasloski excitedly waved a letter written jointly by the Yukon Conservation Society and Northern Cross. Pasloski said that he is looking forward to hearing what they are p

In the legislature last week, Premier Darrell Pasloski excitedly waved a letter written jointly by the Yukon Conservation Society and Northern Cross. Pasloski said that he is looking forward to hearing what they are proposing.

Hopefully, Pasloski isn’t going to use this partnership as an excuse to bypass public consultation on changes to oil and gas regulations.

Last winter, Yukoners were assured by Ron Sumanik, the territory’s director of oil and gas resources, that future consultation would occur before the introduction of amendments to oil and gas regulations. It was agreed that the government’s consulting in 2009 did not adequately provide for public input.

Most had never heard of the consultations and certainly no advisory councils in communities outside of Whitehorse were at any time notified of the process. Despite this assurance, the Yukon government recently stated that it intends to move ahead with changes to legislation without public consultation.

Yukoners now have no input on the potential impacts of proposed oil and gas development, the effects of hydraulic fracturing, the use of toxic chemicals, the withdrawal of millions of litres of fresh water, and the destruction of the environment when it becomes collateral damage.

Rarely in the legislature has it been mentioned that coal and oil are the largest contributors to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the main contributors to climate change and that moving to renewable energy is the only way to lessen increasingly devastating events throughout the world caused by our dependence on oil.

This is not opinion, as some might try to argue. It is accepted scientific fact, supported by an overwhelming burden of evidence gathered by the main climate science organizations around the world. It makes no sense to destroy our fresh water, our land and air so that we can continue in a self-defeating direction, consuming dwindling oil and gas resources for short-term gain.

We could, instead, be creating jobs and supporting a healthy environment for all Yukoners by putting our efforts and resources into developing sustainable, renewable energy sources. Many Yukoners, including some YTG employees, would be willing to contribute their skills and knowledge were the government to choose to move the Yukon towards renewable energy in a more meaningful way.

It would take prudent judgment by government leaders to make such a move; however, it would mean everything for the future of our environment, its preservation now and for future generations.

There is support for a government that decides to undertake such a direction. This was made evident by the hundreds of people who responded in meetings, emails and letters to the consultations relating to the proposed Whitehorse Trough oil and gas exploration last spring. Ultimately, the Yukon could become a model for the world in sustainable energy.

We have everything to lose now and for future generations by remaining addicted to fossil fuels. We have much to gain by placing our major efforts and money into renewable, sustainable energy sources.

Mary Ann Lewis

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