Deputy minister admired chamber’s spin

The senior government official overseeing the Peel Watershed land-use planning process lauded the mining lobby's media strategy, according to internal e-mails obtained through access to information.

The senior government official overseeing the Peel Watershed land-use planning process lauded the mining lobby’s media strategy, according to internal e-mails obtained through access to information.

“A thoughtful and quite strategic response from the chamber,” said Angus Robertson, deputy minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, in an e-mail dated February 5.

He was referring to an unusual news release issued by the Yukon Chamber of Mines the day before.

Titled, “Chamber pleased Peel Watershed plan not accepted,” the release said the chamber is happy the plan would receive “more scrutiny” and was being “revisited.”

In fact, the government said nothing of the kind.

It had issued a routine announcement of a letter of understanding with First Nation governments that enabled discussions on the land-use plan. This had been part of the planning process established years before.

Robertson forwarded the chamber’s e-mail to his colleagues.

Efforts to speak to Robertson for clarification were rebuffed.

A call to his office resulted in an e-mailed response forwarded by department spokesperson Mark Roberts.

“In my e-mail of Feb. 5th, 2010, I simply meant that the chamber of mines news release was a clear articulation of the organization’s position and its willingness to accept the interim staking withdrawal,” wrote Robertson.

His department is responsible for co-ordinating the government’s handling of the land-use plan.

The plan, which recommends 80 per cent of the Peel be protected from mineral development, has been criticized by the chamber for being too pro-conservation. Environmentalists and First Nations have argued the watershed is pristine and of immense ecological, scientific and cultural value.

The commission responsible for drafting the plan took five years to reach its conclusion. It is now being reviewed by the Yukon and First Nation governments until December, when a decision to amend, accept or reject the plan will be made.

The governments are requesting comment on the plan online at peelconsultation.ca until then. Townhalls are also being held in Yukon and the Northwest Territories over the next few months.

The public consultation will be visiting Inuvik on September 8, Aklavik on September 9 and Whitehorse on September 15.

The access to information request for all correspondence between the chamber and the Energy, Mines and Resources Department initially turned up nothing. After a formal complaint by the News, the government handed over dozens of e-mails.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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