Peel staking ban is just more stalling: opposition

Neither leader of the territory's opposition parties is applauding the Yukon government's extension of the Peel watershed's staking ban by another eight months.

Neither leader of the territory’s opposition parties is applauding the Yukon government’s extension of the Peel watershed’s staking ban by another eight months.

Sandy Silver, interim leader of the Liberals, called Thursday’s announcement more foot-dragging, while Liz Hanson, leader of the NDP, called it a diversionary tactic.

“When the land-use planning process began, we called for a ban on exploration,” she said. “They refused until they created a mini rush and had over 8,000 claims staked. If they had acted, then this wouldn’t be an issue. And if they responded to the land-use plan when it was tabled over a year ago … this would be a moot point. But instead, they’ve created a diversionary dilemma to make it look like they’re doing something positive, again. It’s more show than substance.”

Last week’s announcement was the third extension of a staking ban originally put in place in February 2010. It is now set to expire on May 4, 2013.

“We anticipate that the final stages of the consultation in the land-use planning process for the Peel watershed region will begin this fall,” said Brad Cathers, minister of energy, mines and resources in Thursday’s release.

“Ideally we would like to see the land-use plan for the Peel watershed region completed before we would lift the interim withdrawal,” said Currie Dixon, minister of environment, in the same release. “However, we have been clear that this withdrawal has always been intended to be temporary, and we are most certainly not interested in an indefinite withdrawal.”

It’s clear the Yukon Party intends to reject the final recommended land-use plan for the region, which suggests 80 per cent of the Scotland-size watershed be protected from development, said Silver.

“It also makes a mockery of their contention that as a government they are not allowed to comment on the plan,” he said.

Silver called on Premier Darrell Pasloski to clearly state what position the government intends to present to First Nations and the public before the next phase of consultation begins.

The territory is legally required, under the First Nations’ final agreements, to bring the final recommended plan to the public, not a revised plan with unilaterally-made principles, said Hanson.

“The notion that the Yukon government is somehow doing these one-off conversations or back-room manoeuvrings with First Nation leaders to come up with a revised plan just does not jive with the requirements under the final agreements. I don’t buy it,” she said.

“They can’t try to change the rules and do a one-off deal. Either the treaty means something or it doesn’t.”

Hanson acknowledges that no matter what comes of the final round of public consultation, the Yukon government has the right, as the majority land owner in the Peel, to do whatever it wants and that no amount of consultation may be able to change its mind.

But by having the public’s response recorded through the final consultation, it will be on record that the government is acting against the public’s wishes and what was recommended by a process entrenched in the Canadian Constitution, she said.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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