Monday was not a good day for Richard Mostyn, the Yukon’s minister of community services.
A meeting organized in Destruction Bay to discuss the closure of the Silver City waste transfer station ended in a petition calling for his resignation — which people were signing as he was walking out the door.
The day got off to a bad start, when Mostyn’s packed schedule matched with treacherous, snowy roads saw his arrival to that meeting half an hour late.
People were a little agitated by the time he walked in the room, and Currie Dixon, leader of the Yukon Party, conceded that “the tone right from the get-go wasn’t very positive.”
Four communities came together for the meeting — Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing with residents of the Kluane First Nation, Silver City and Mile 1118 all showed up. The approximately 35 people present were a combination of government workers, First Nations staff and residents as well as business owners (some year-round, some not) who currently use the two facilities. Dixon was present with the MLA for the region, Wade Istchenko.
Under the Yukon government’s regionalization plans, the transfer station in Silver City will be closed (along with three others: Braeburn, Keno City and Johnson’s Crossing), and the transfer station between Burwash and Destruction Bay will be expanded, electrified, attended, lit and controlled for access and fees.
Mostyn said in an interview on Sept. 28 that he is determined to avoid a situation where “people can do a dodge or run around the supervised tipping fee sites and go to someplace free and just dump their stuff there.”
He admitted that businesses will have to add in the cost of garbage fees and transportation into their business model. He said that “conscientious Yukoners who find garbage flowing down the street or into their yard may have to pick it up and put it in a bag and take it to the landfill.”
He also said he expects that municipalities will continue to pay for the garbage that tourists produce.
In opposition form during a later interview, Dixon countered with the voices he heard at the meeting.
“If it’s going to end up in the woods, if it’s going to end up in other sites, it’s just going add the cost on to the taxpayer in different ways. You’re trying to save what sounds about $29,000 a year, but you’re just going to increase costs everywhere else. So what’s the point in actually doing this?” he said, adding, “And that was not answered.”
Several people at the meeting reported that they just didn’t understand why things needed to change. The minister’s words about escalating operational costs and skyrocketing liabilities did not help.
Nor could anyone agree on past consultations that have or have not occurred. But one thing became very clear when a letter from the chief of the Kluane First Nation was read out: that consultations with the Kluane First Nation had not happened.
Chief Bob Dickson’s letter itemized concerns about unintended effects of illegal dumping, illegal burning and burying, and the risk of human wildlife conflicts. He called for the closure decision to be retracted; the introduction of tipping fees in Destruction Bay to be retracted; for his and other affected First Nation governments to participate on the implementation working group; and for formal consultation between the Yukon government and Kluane First Nation.
The minister said he is working on arranging a meeting with the Kluane First Nation.
The following day, he said that he heard good ideas to improve regional landfills — recycling, free stores, and the treatment of organics. But on the issue of the free transfer stations, he was adamant, “The transfer stations are closing.”
That certainty didn’t increase his popularity in Destruction Bay, Dixon said later.
“I think what really rubbed people the wrong way was the fact that the minister didn’t even pretend to care about what they thought, and he made it very clear that the decision was made, and they weren’t interested in any sort of public consultation or what citizens had to say,” Dixon said.
In May 2021, MLA Wade Istchenko had presented a petition, signed by almost every resident of the area, asking for thorough and meaningful consultation about the decommissioning of the transfer station and the imposition of fees at the other. Mostyn responded in June referring constituents with concerns or questions to the department’s director of operations and programs.
These were the same people who, seriously frustrated after Monday’s meeting, signed another petition calling for the minister’s resignation.
“If you cannot do the above, we must ask you to resign so that someone who is interested in fairly representing and working with rural Yukoners would be given the chance to do so,” the petition, dated Sept. 27, reads.
When asked about both petitions on Sept. 28, Mostyn said, “I haven’t seen a petition yet.”
Contact Lawrie Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org