Peel watershed ads square off with government

Marlon Davis was flipping through Friday's Yukon News when a full-page ad caught her eye. At the top of the page, above some perfectly balanced river rocks, were the words, "Finding a balance to protect the Peel Region.

Marlon Davis was flipping through Friday’s Yukon News when a full-page ad caught her eye.

At the top of the page, above some perfectly balanced river rocks, were the words, “Finding a balance to protect the Peel Region.”

“I thought, isn’t this lovely,” said Davis. “It had a nice, earthy look and appealed to me.”

But after reading the ad, Davis changed her tune.

“As I started reading, I was surprised and shocked the Yukon government had taken this position on the Peel,” she said.

The ad talks about managing use, respecting the Umbrella Final Agreements and protecting key areas, but it also stresses the importance of respecting all sectors of the economy and respecting private interests.

“At first it appealed to me, because these are concepts I value,” said Davis.

But after reading the fine print it became obvious the ad “didn’t match my values at all,” she said.

Davis is not a graphic designer and she’s not all that political “but I had to do something,” she said.

“I wanted to come up with an ad that would capture the same emotions they were trying to capture in their ad about the Peel.”

Using a word processing program and a painting program, Davis created her own version of the government’s ad and posted it on Facebook.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d get sued,” she said. “And I wasn’t sure if it would reach many people because I wasn’t sure how many people had seen the ad in the paper.”

After getting a flood of feedback from her Facebook posting, Davis decided to take the next step and put her ad in the newspaper.

Davis wasn’t the only Yukoner taken aback by the government’s Peel advertisement.

“When I saw it, I was just fuming,” said a spokesman for the newly formed, tongue-in-cheek Yukon Tea Party. He asked to remain anonymous because he doesn’t want to cause unnecessary friction in his community.

After reading the government’s ad, he lay awake half the night and came up with his own plan.

“I decided I was going to put an ad in too,” he said.

The government ad begins with: “The debate has shifted from whether to protect the Peel, to how to protect the Peel.”

The Yukon Tea Party’s ad plays off this: “We believe the debate has shifted from whether we should protect the Peel to how we should exploit it.”

It continues, “We agree there are little tiny bits of the Peel watershed that need the highest level of environmental protection, but screw that.

“It’s time to ignore the land use planning process and put the public good into private hands.

“The following lack of principles will guide the Yukon Tea Party’s dismissal of the land use planning process.”

It then goes on to spoof every section of the original ad.

Under the heading “Active Management,” the Tea Party ad says, “Let’er rip and leave damage control to future generations.” While under “Respect the Umbrella Final Agreement,” it says, “Yes, but only if it’s raining.”

Under “Special Protection Areas,” it follows the government ad’s wording exactly, until the end: “We recognize that specific areas in the Peel watershed region contain significant ecological, biological and cultural values that deserve the highest level of protection – but we’ll ignore that.”

The Tea Party pooled money between members and is running its ad in Friday’s paper.

“We were sick of the government’s untruths and half-truths,” said the spokesman.

“And we’re tired of feeling powerless and pissed off.

“We’re not going to lie down and let them walk all over us anymore.”

Davis decided to take a slightly different approach.

Although people wanted her “to join up with special interest groups to help get the ad published,” she refused.

“As much as I appreciate the work of many of the interest groups, I feel they can quiet the individual voice,” she said.

“People say the government is only going to listen to you if you’re part of a society or part of an organization and your individual voice is not as valid.”

Davis wants to change this.

“I started asking myself how I can participate in democracy,” she said.

When people think about democratic participation, they usually think about the ballot box, she said.

But democracy is about more than just voting once every four or five years.

“We should be participating throughout a government’s term to help determine their actions, policy and direction,” she said.

This is what her ad is about.

“It’s how to get beyond the ballot box and beyond Facebook,” she said.

After reading the Yukon government’s ad on the Peel, she realized Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski hadn’t “heard me,” she said.

But this could soon change.

After learning that Davis planned to pay for her own ad in local newspapers, other Yukoners started chipping in.

Now, there’s even a website, yukondemocracy.com, set up for Paypal donations.

In just one day, the site generated more than $1,000 from Yukoners who support her ad.

“We want to keep running ads until we run out of money,” she said.

Davis’ ad also has smooth river rocks striking a balance at the top of the page. But it carries a different heading, “Tipping the Balance to Undermine Democracy.”

Citizens put their time and energy into land use planning over several years, says the ad. “Where does that leave us now?”

It also says citizens should be “determining the laws and actions of their territory throughout the government’s term. This is what democracy is – it’s more than jobs, growth and a balanced budget.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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