Contributions convolute Peel process

The Yukon Party has received more than $47,000 from various mining and exploration companies since 2007. The Liberals got about $1,400 from three mining-related companies over that period, and the NDP got nothing.

The Yukon Party has received more than $47,000 from various mining and exploration companies since 2007.

The Liberals got about $1,400 from three mining-related companies over that period, and the NDP got nothing.

In the 2006 election, the Yukon Party spent $166,132.39 on its campaign – nearly a quarter of which came from mining- and exploration-related companies.

But Premier Darrell Pasloski says he’s “absolutely not” beholden to the mining industry.

Mining companies don’t contribute the majority of his party’s donations, he said.

He’s not sure who does.

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“As the leader, I have absolutely zero to do with money,” he said.

But Gordon Ruby doesn’t doubt contributions have a hand in Yukon Party decisions.

Ruby grew up in the Yukon, until he went to the University of Victoria and completed an undergraduate degree and masters in political science.

Every summer, he would come back to work for mineral exploration companies across the territory, he said.

And when the time came to write his thesis, Ruby figured it’d be best to write about what he knew.

“And that was my home,” he said.

Out at the summers’ various mining camps, Ruby heard a lot about the Peel.

“Just a lot of different usage taking place,” he said mentioning stories about animals, paddling and staking.

He began his research by looking specifically at the Peel’s land-use planning process.

“From the beginning, you see people who recognized, right off the bat, ‘We are going to have to make our voices heard, if we don’t want to see the Peel planning process dominated by one particular interest – who has much more capacity to dominate this sort of process,” he said.

Characteristic of this capacity are the annual forums and conferences known throughout the mining, oil and gas industries, said Ruby.

“There’s one in Vancouver, called ‘Round Up,’” he said. “You’re really raising awareness about the possibility for development, for people who are all pretty much there to take part in that.

“And you don’t necessarily see that well-financed, well-organized, annual conference for things like eco-tourism.

“Those kinds of industries like eco-tourism are much more small-scale. I don’t think people have $500 to spend to go to a conference like that, compared to something like Round Up.”

Another indicator of the mining industry’s strength in the planning process is the Yukon’s Mineral Advisory Board and chamber of mines, said Ruby.

“These again, are physical areas where it is very easy to share information and to organize,” he said. “And as far as the Mineral Advisory Board, you’ve got people that are CEOs, people that have been working in the Yukon for quite some time, who are advising the government on what to do. And they’re making suggestions directly related to the Peel planning process.”

And finally, political party contributions should not be ignored, he said.

“If you look at Yukon Party contributions, NDP and Liberal, you consistently see mining companies, especially, giving the vast percentage of funding over $200 to the Yukon Party,” he said. “So when the majority of money is coming from different companies, most of which are from Vancouver, BC, that again leads me to conclude that they have much more capacity to influence government decisions.”

The important thing to remember is that the territory doesn’t own the land, said Ruby.

Through devolution, the government has been given the authority to make decisions about that land, but those decisions are supposed to be guided by the people who elect the government – not by the Outside companies that fund the party, said Ruby.

“We need to start thinking about democracy,” he said. “Do we want to ignore the fact that Yukoners want protection there? The fact that First Nations want protection there? Because if we want to ignore that, how far are we going to go to ignore things like the Umbrella Final Agreement that are significant pieces of legislation. As a premier, as a party, anybody, if you’re not recognizing that, you’re not really recognizing what democracy means in the Yukon.”

Ruby defended his thesis, Machines vs. Industries? The political economy of development in the Peel Watershed, in April. It is available to read online.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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