The Liberal Opposition is blasting Premier Darrell Pasloski for his waffling on development of the Peel Watershed.
For Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell, Pasloski’s evasions bring to mind the infamous words of another conservative politician: Kim Campbell.
“During the 1993 election campaign, Kim Campbell famously told Canadians, ‘An election is no time to discuss serious issues.’ Given the Yukon Party Leader’s recent comments on the Peel Watershed, Yukoners have to be wondering whether Mr. Pasloski is a big fan of the former prime minister,” said Mitchell.
There may be other similarities. Campbell never sat in the House of Commons as prime minister during her brief, 132-day reign.
Pasloski, having won the Yukon Party’s leadership this spring, doesn’t yet have a seat in the legislature. And he won’t after October 11, if David Sloan has his way.
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The former school superintendent is challenging Pasloski for the new Mountainview riding. And Sloan says, most voters he’s spoken to want the Peel protected.
“(Pasloski’s) clearly tone deaf to what the vast majority of Yukoners want,” said Sloan. “I’ve gone to many doors where the first question asked is, ‘What’s the position on the Peel?’ Either he’s not listening, or he doesn’t want to listen.
“Yukoners don’t want any more backroom deals. They want clear answers on the Peel, and they want them now.”
Sloan had a comparison of his own to make: Pasloski’s attitude towards the Peel is similar to that of his predecessor, Dennis Fentie, he said.
It was Fentie who prevented pro-conservation comments prepared by the Department of Environment from being submitted to Peel planners.
He stopped them by issuing an irate phone call to a senior government official, according to records obtained in the autumn of 2009 by the Yukon News. Fentie later refused to explain the move.
Pasloski’s latest evasions are no different, said Sloan. “It confirms that Yukoners can’t trust the Pasloski-Fentie government,” he said.
Pasloski insists it would be “irresponsible” to express any opinion on the final plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel Watershed, because a final round of community consultations has yet to be held.
Nonsense, said Mitchell.
“Is he accusing First Nations of being irresponsible?” he asked.
“They’ve all clearly stated what their position is. That doesn’t preclude having additional conversations with Yukoners. And it doesn’t preclude sitting down at the table, and perhaps a line moving a little way this way or that way.
“Those First Nations, who are parties to the same process, have been very clear in saying, ‘This is our desired outcome.’ What we’d like to know is, what is the Yukon Party’s desired outcome?”
Pasloski has said he’d like to see part of the Peel protected. But he won’t say how much.
To do so would make the issue “political,” he’s said.
But the fate of the Peel will ultimately be decided by politicians. So, naturally, the decision will be political, said Mitchell.
“Politics is coming together to talk about how we deal with the most important ideas we face as a society. Of course, it should be politicized. How else are we going to choose to move forward?”
The Liberals, NDP and Greens all support the Peel plan. If approved, it would protect 55 per cent of the watershed forever. Another quarter would be protected for at least the next decade.
If the plan is signed off, one tricky question to follow will be what to do with several thousand existing mineral claims in the area.
This is not an insurmountable problem, said Mitchell. When Tombstone Territorial Park was formed, the government met with individual claimholders to work out settlements.
“The bulk of it was done without compensation,” said Mitchell. “Many people agreed to just forgo their claims. Others were given credit to claims elsewhere, in terms of assessment work.”
The Liberals are proposing to handle the Peel in a similar way.
Even with a big swath of northeast Yukon off-limits to mining, the industry would still have ample opportunities to dig, said Mitchell.
“The mining industry is thriving, and nobody is working in the Peel.”
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