Let’s be precise on the Peel

Readers may be left scratching their heads over conflicting accounts of Premier Darrell Pasloski's position, or lack thereof, on the Peel Watershed. That's only understandable.

Readers may be left scratching their heads over conflicting accounts of Premier Darrell Pasloski’s position, or lack thereof, on the Peel Watershed.

That’s only understandable. Because Pasloski has two positions on the Peel, and the two contradict one another.

The first is that he has no position. It would be “inappropriate” to do so, because there’s a final round of community talks to be held.

The second position is that the proposed plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel would bankrupt the territory, by provoking expensive lawsuits by miners with claims in the area.

To prevent this, Pasloski wants to sit down with First Nation chiefs, who staunchly support protecting the entire area, and cut a deal to allow more mining.

Newsflash: this is a position. And it’s a pretty clear one. Pasloski rejects the recommended plan.

True, Pasloski has never said, “I reject the plan.” But he doesn’t need to, because you cannot both strike a new deal and endorse the current plan. One cancels the other out.

Yet many news reports continue to say that Pasloski refuses to take a position. That’s plainly false. But it’s reported as true, simply because Pasloski says it’s so.

This is bizarre.

Reporters routinely deal with sources who speak in jargon and bafflegab. It’s our job to boil this down into intelligible English and explain, as best we can, the truth.

So why, when Yukon politicians try to snow the public with obfuscation, do my peers respond with gutless stenography? Especially when doing so sends a misleading message to their audience?

Plainly, sticking with what the premier says is seen as the safe route. But, in this case, I’d contend it does the public a disservice.

The premier has many powers. But he cannot suspend logic’s law of noncontradiction.

Now Pasloski’s given himself a tall order to fulfill, by promising to succeed where five years of planning talks failed, and make everyone happy.

It’s clear this isn’t possible in the Peel, where conservationists and First Nation people want to keep the wilderness intact, while miners want to dig holes in the ground in search of shiny metal.

Again, the two positions contradict one another. A mine and its accompanying access roads chew up the wilderness, developing the region.

But Pasloski has never acknowledged such tradeoffs are involved. If he wants to make headway, that will need to change.

Pasloski’s assertion protecting the Peel would bankrupt the territory also stands on wobbly foundations.

To support this, he points to British Columbia’s Windy Craggy saga, which saw the provincial government pay out upwards of $100 million in compensation for encircling a potential mine with a big new park in northeastern BC in the early 1990s.

But there’s a big problem with this comparison. Windy Craggy was far more advanced than any mining project in the Peel. So there’s no reason to believe companies in the area would be eligible for anywhere near as much compensation.

That leaves the Yukon Party without a rational explanation for their rejection of the plan. And it would be hard to present one now, because it would simply involve Pasloski contracting himself even more than he already has.

Instead, expect Pasloski to plough ahead and hold a final round of public meetings. Then he’ll try to haggle with the chiefs, but it seems highly unlikely a deal will be struck.

If talks fall apart, most of the Peel remains Crown land, and so it’s up to the territory to regulate industry there as it sees fit. So, in a way, the territory may win by losing.

But First Nations have warned they’ll sue the Yukon government if they suspect they’ve been dealt with in bad faith, in violation of commitments made during land claim talks.

So the matter may languish in the courts. Or Pasloski may take up the suggestion a “cool off” period be introduced.

Either way, it seems entirely possible that, five years from now when Pasloski seeks another term in office, the Peel may remain an election issue.

Contact John Thompson at


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

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read