NDP: Breaking a new tourism trail

There is more to the Yukon than just the Klondike, says NDP Leader Liz Hanson. “What we need to do is help diversify the focus of tourism in this territory.”

There is more to the Yukon than just the Klondike, says NDP Leader Liz Hanson.

“What we need to do is help diversify the focus of tourism in this territory,” she said after the party released its tourism platform on Friday.

“I love the Klondike and I love the history of that, but I look at the Southern Lakes region, I look at the whole southeast – which has an amazing geography and history, I look at the Kluane National Park.

“The tourism potential is untapped. We need to take a more regional focus in terms of how we develop the tourism opportunities that are out there.

“We need more partners and we need to enhance the local partners.”

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The approach is not meant to be a replacement or a competitor with Holland-America’s hold on the industry in the territory, she said.

“They’ve invested a significant amount of money over the years,” said Hanson. “I really don’t see them as being a negative force.”

But for many, including the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation in Dawson City, Holland America’s Yukon Queen II is a problem.

The tour boat, which docks at Dawson City and passes by the traditional village of Moosehide, was first launched in 1999. Since then, there’s been an ongoing battle between the tour company, the First

Nation and other parties, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The boat’s size and wake is affecting the environment, most notably causing faster and more severe erosion of the riverbank and killing thousands of young salmon every year, according to the First Nation and federal Fisheries officials.

But the boat is integral to selling Dawson City tours. Without it, Yukon would be a much harder to sell to visitors, counters the company.

The fight eventually wound up before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board in 2008.

After an eight-month review, the environmental assessment board decided a more comprehensive review must be done.

In 2010, Holland-America submitted a project proposal to the board.

It is still being reviewed and processed by the board’s executive council.

All the while, the boat is still running.

It is unprecedented for the environmental board to receive and review a project that is already running. There has been no decision to stop the boat from running while the review is underway.

“I’d have to review it,” Hanson said about the Yukon Queen II issue. “I haven’t actually seen the YESAB submission. Like any other industry, environmental concerns and habitat protection needs to be taken seriously. It’s not something we will ignore.

“Any industry does not trump our protection and stewardship of our environment.”

Among other things, the New Democrats’ tourism platform includes making sure transportation and communication infrastructure meets the needs of the industry, giving specific support to small businesses and increase training to help with labour shortages.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com

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