Don’t worry about the environment, be happy, says Fentie

‘Our environment is doing fine under our watch,” says Premier Dennis Fentie. But environment boards aren’t faring as well.

‘Our environment is doing fine under our watch,” says Premier Dennis Fentie.

But environment boards aren’t faring as well.

Under his watch, the Yukon’s Council of the Economy on the Environment is down to four members, from 12.

As minister of Environment, Fentie “has allowed this committee to wither on the vine,” said NDP Leader Todd Hardy on Wednesday.

With just four members the council doesn’t even have a quorum, he said.

“(Fentie) doesn’t want it to do its job.”

The Council of the Economy on the Environment is supposed to advise the minister and the government.

Its mandate is “to advise the Yukon government and encourage non-governmental organizations, individuals and businesses to adopt practices and approaches that will further the goal of sustainable development in the Yukon,” according to the council’s sparse website.

The council’s public board is made up of First Nations, business people, environmental and non-government groups, labour unions, municipal governments and women.

“So it’s quite cross-section,” said Hardy, who sat on the inaugural board.

 Created in November 1989, it was Canada’s first legislated roundtable on the economy and the environment.

Every year, the council is supposed to issue public reports on sustainable economic development and environmental issues in the Yukon.

But Hardy can’t remember the last time he saw a report from the council.

“It’s not just a failure that there’s not even a quorum left on the committee,” he said.

“There doesn’t seem to be any direction from the government to have them look at things.

“I would suspect there hasn’t been any request from the government to the council to do their work and obviously no attempt whatsoever to replace people as their times have come up.”

The council, together with only eight other groups, was selected as one of the boards that is overseen by the standing committee on appointments to major government boards and committees.

Chaired by Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor, the standing committee is supposed to review nominations and recommend appointments to boards, including, the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, the Yukon Lottery Commission, the Yukon Utilities Board and Yukon Human Rights Commission.

The Council of the Economy on the Environment was considered as important as these other major boards, said Hardy.

And it was put under the standing committee on appointments to ensure the board did not lose members.

“Replacements would keep the board active,” he said.

“But that hasn’t happened.

“And that’s a failure on minister Taylor for not having done her job.”

“We recognize the role the council plays and has played in the past,” said Fentie during question period last week.

“This government, however, took a much more active role in our economy and in our environment.”

And how many times did the Council of the Economy on the Environment meet in the past five years?

 “In the past five years, a tremendous amount of work has been done on the environment,” said Fentie, in response.

“In looking at it, the message that has come from the premier, who is also minister of Environment, is that he doesn’t want this board to be up and running,” said Hardy.

“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a report from them. I don’t know what their activities have been, or what their expenditures have been.

“I don’t know even what the government has asked them to take a look at.”

Fentie’s comment that the “environment is doing fine,” is very glib, added Hardy.

“Our environment isn’t doing fine, you can see that in health statistics, air and water quality and by looking at wildlife.”

The premier is “out of touch,” he said.

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