Bob Zimmer, shadow minister for Northern Affairs and Northern Economic Development Agency, poses for a photo after talking to media at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce in Whitehorse on Feb. 13. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Conservative Northern Affairs shadow minister visits Whitehorse

Bob Zimmer was in the Yukon to speak to local business groups about the economy and challenges

The Conservative Party’s shadow minister for Northern Affairs and the Northern Economic Development Agency was in Whitehorse Feb. 13 on what he described as a “listening tour.”

Speaking to media following a meeting at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Bob Zimmer, MP for for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, said he was in town to meet with business groups to hear about the local economy and what could be improved on Ottawa’s end.

“(I was) really listening today, wasn’t coming with any of my own answers,” Zimmer said. “It was you know, blank sheets of paper, just asking again, ‘What are the issues? What are the impediments? What are the good things that we can bring to improve the situation for Yukoners?’”

Among the things Zimmer said he heard about was making the mining process smoother, concerns about the Dempster Highway, renewable energy, geothermal and wind farm possibilities, and the possibility of creating a shipping port on the north coast.

Zimmer’s conversation with media also turned to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, of which he’s been a vocal supporter of and would run through his riding if built.

Canada has been rocked nation-wide with protests in support of Wet’suwet’en who oppose the portion of the pipeline that would run through their traditional territory in the interior of British Columbia.

The protests have increased in frequency and intensity after the British Columbia RCMP began enforcing an injunction last week to allow Coastal GasLink workers access to the land.

The action saw the arrest of dozens of land defenders and the dismantling of blockades, including at the Unist’ot’en healing camp. It led to an outcry across Canada, triggering demonstrations including the occupation of the British Columbia legislature and the Tyendinaga Mohawk blockading rail lines on their traditional territory in Ontario.

On Twitter, Zimmer had described protestors as a “bunch of thugs,” a description he stood by when asked about it on Feb. 13.

“I use the example of the B.C. legislature where I see elected … members of the legislature trying to get into their jobs being stopped and I think that’s when I see it as thuggery,” he said.

“And the sad part of that is, is that person, the MLA trying to get to their job regardless of party … isn’t just themselves going through those doors. We’re the representatives, I’m the representative of 111,000 people, so I walk in with all those people pushing me up those stairs into that chair that’s in the house. And so when they’re being prevented from doing that, that to me, it shouldn’t happen.”

Zimmer also claimed that the “vast majority” of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Wet’suwet’en in general — 85 per cent, he said he’d heard from leaders — support the pipeline.

“I think if those same protestors understood that … they would understand that if we’re really on the side of the Wet’suwet’en, we’d be supportive of that project,” he said. “And I think with that understanding, I think it would change the conversation substantially.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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