Government hid Peel numbers from public

The Yukon government deleted numbers from its report on the most recent public consultation on the Peel watershed land use plan. According to documents obtained by the News under an access to information request...

The Yukon government deleted numbers from its report on the most recent public consultation on the Peel watershed land use plan.

According to documents obtained by the News under an access to information request, drafts of the “What We Heard” report included an appendix showing how many responses mentioned each of the themes discussed in the document.

These numbers were omitted from the final report released to the public.

In the first draft of the report delivered by the consultant to Energy Mines and Resources, 9,196 responses told the government to accept the final recommended plan, versus 187 that told the government to reject it. These responses came from both inside and outside of the Yukon.

Few responses indicated support for the new concepts and plans proposed by the government, compared with many expressing dismay at the government’s attempts to steer away from the recommendations of the planning commission.


“Numbers don’t matter”


Neither Premier Darrell Pasloski nor Energy Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent responded to interview requests by press time, but Environment Minister Currie Dixon answered questions in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

He would not give a direct answer as to why the appendix was removed from the report before it was released to the public.

Instead, he said that the consultation was never intended to be a statistical analysis or referendum.

“I would reiterate that the numbers don’t matter,” said Dixon. “The relevancy of the numbers isn’t strong. What is important is the thoughtful and constructive input that we received.”

Also, the government posted all of the responses received during the consultation online at  , he said.

“We have been nothing but forthcoming and open with this information.”


Little support for government plans


The numbers in first draft prepared by the consultant show little support for the government’s position, which is that the final recommended plan must be modified to allow more access for mining and oil and gas development.

Thousands of respondents mentioned support for the final recommended plan as a fair, balanced and reasonable compromise. Thousands also urged the government to respect treaties with First Nations and the consultation process.

On the other hand, 187 urged the government to reject the final recommended plan. That plan is neither balanced, nor fair, according to 323 of the responses. And 97 expressed support for the new concepts proposed by the government.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson said she was not surprised that the government deleted these numbers from the report released to the public.

“It certainly does reinforce that whole impression that this government has manipulated the process so badly.”

She worries that the government will allow itself to be guided by a small minority rather than the vast majority, she said.

“There’s so much at risk here, not just this particular plan, but it’s the viability of the land use planning process that governments have signed on to.”


Shifting numbers


Strangely, these numbers did not all stay the same as further drafts of the report were produced.

The News obtained, in addition the first draft, the final draft of the report previous to the version released to the public.

Here, while most of the themes have not changed, the numbers associated with the majority of them have. Some changed only slightly while others changed dramatically. Some went up while others went down.

While the count of responses urging the government to accept the final recommended plan did not change, the number associated with rejecting that plan more than doubled from 187 to 489.

The count for submissions calling for 100 per cent protection of the watershed also doubled, from 196 to 377.

The frequency of responses indicating that future land use planning has been undermined decreased from 363 to 129.

EMR official Manon Moreau said the changes resulted from refinements made to the definitions of the themes, which resulted in some submissions being added or subtracted to the count.

“It was a work in progress, so as he was refining the document, some of the categories collapsed, some were deleted and then those comments would have been moved into categories that were better suited, or better reflect what they were trying to get at.”

The changes to the document were made in consultation with EMR officials, she said.

The author was “trying to develop this document in the best way that he thought would work,” said Moreau.

“We as staff provided comments on whether or not a category could be better defined, those types of refinements.”


SEE THE FIRST DRAFT NUMBERS HERE: http://dev.yukon-news.aas/media/documents/firstdraft.pdf

SEE THE FINAL DRAFT NUMBERS HERE: http://dev.yukon-news.aas/media/documents/finaldraft.pdf


Proceed with caution


Because the consultation was not systematic and took in data from a variety of sources, all of the numbers should be interpreted with caution.

A single respondent could have provided input to the government through a variety of means, by visiting an open house, filling out the government’s feedback form and submitting an email response, for example.

Also, a great number of the responses came as form letters from interest groups, and these submissions likely had great effect on which themes appeared to be most prominent.

The draft report included a disclaimer to this effect.

“It is very important to remember that the consultation process was not structured as a survey or referendum and therefore the number of responses, regardless of their relative strength, cannot be inferred to mean that a majority of Yukoners or Canadians or some other group felt a certain way.”

While this is true, the numbers help to illustrate the substance of the consultation in a way that the themes listed alone could not.

In fact, the consultant spoke to the importance of carefully coding and counting the data in his proposal to the Yukon government for the work.

“This is a relatively slow and time consuming process, but it is one of the few effective ways of distilling tens of thousands of words into a few pages of meaningful data,” he wrote.

Curiously, while the numbers themselves were omitted from the final report, many of the disclaimer statements urging caution in interpreting the numbers were included.

“It is not a statistical analysis and the numbers associated with the various thematic summaries found throughout this document serve only descriptive purposes,” wrote the consultant in the final document released to the public.


Land use planning on hold


The process of approving a land use plan for the Peel watershed has hit more roadblocks and has taken longer than anyone anticipated.

The Peel Watershed Planning Commission was formed in October 2004, and delivered its final recommended plan in July 2011.

In February 2011 the government and First Nations agreed to an ambitious timeline that would have seen the plan approved by November 2011.

Last fall, the government set a deadline of March 25, 2013 to complete the final round of consultation with the four effected First Nation governments.

That consultation remains incomplete, with no word on when it may be wrapped up.

The First Nations, which originally asked for 100 per cent protection, say they are unwilling to compromise more than what has already been achieved by the final recommended plan. And the Yukon government insists that the plan must support more access for development.

When asked if the final recommended plan was still an option on the table, Minister Dixon said, “We have been pretty clear that we think the final recommended plan should be modified.”

He would not say when the First Nation consultations might wrap up, or when we might see an approved plan for the Peel watershed.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson said the government should accept that the public and First Nations have spoken and approve the final recommended plan so that they can get on with land use planning elsewhere in the territory.

“It would be nice to think that the government actually said, ‘OK fine, we need to get on with life in the Yukon, and one of the ways of doing that for all of us would be to fulfill our commitments and accept this plan, and then let’s get on with the rest of them.’ I kind of like to live in a Pollyanna world some days, you know?”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

A cyclist rides along the Millenium Trail in downtown Whitehorse on a frigid Feb. 9. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of an e-bike bylaw that would designate how e-bike riders can use city trails. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
First two readings passed on Whitehorse e-bike bylaw

Delegate calls on city to consider age restrictions and further regulations

Whitehorse City Hall at its Steele Street entrance. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Change of plans approved for city hall

Project would see 1966 city hall demolished

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Joel Krahn/ Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Rural dump closures and tipping fees raise concern from small communities

The government has said the measures are a cost-cutting necessity

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: Hands of Hope, the quilt of poppies

Toilets are important Ed. note: Hands of Hope is a Whitehorse-based non-profit… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

Most Read