To mark the end of 2016, we compiled the top five stories that made news this year. Here they are, in no particular order.
Liberals win territorial election
After months of pre-election posturing and all-but-in-name campaigning by the three major political parties, Premier Darrell Pasloski finally called the territorial election for Nov. 7.
Fracking, carbon pricing, the relationship with First Nations and economic development all emerged as major issues during the campaign. In the end, and despite Pasloski’s insistence that the election was “not about the last five years,” Yukoners voted for change.
Sandy Silver led his Liberal Party from a single seat in the legislative assembly to a majority government.
The Yukon Party’s 14-year run in power came to an end as the party was reduced to Official Opposition status with six seats. Pasloski lost his own riding of Mountainview and stepped down as leader on election night.
The NDP had a tough night too, losing all but two seats.
Will and Kate visit Yukon, are photographed looking at things
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sure can draw a crowd. The royal couple came to Yukon for a quick, 24-hour visit in late September that saw them take in the sights in Whitehorse and Carcross.
They saw local musicians, dignitaries and cultural performances. They stayed at the High Country Inn, the Trip Advisor reviews for which drew a great deal of concern from the pearl-clutching British press.
But Will and Kate themselves were by all accounts friendly and charming, shaking hands and posing for photos, much to the delight of local royal watchers.
As a bonus, Yukon jeweller Shelley MacDonald got a boost when Kate was spotted wearing a pair of MacDonald’s earrings. MacDonald was immediately swamped with orders.
Supreme Court agrees to hear Peel case
Odds are the Peel case will be in this space a year from now. In June, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the contentious legal battle over the Peel watershed land use planning process. The hearing is scheduled for March.
The dispute springs from the then-Yukon Party government’s decision to open 71 per cent of the Peel watershed up to mineral staking, despite an earlier planning commission proposal to put all but 20 per cent of the Peel off limits to new staking.
Earlier, the Yukon Supreme Court and the Yukon Court of Appeal both ruled the Yukon government failed to honour its treaty obligations when it released its plan that was so dramatically different from anything that had been discussed before.
The Yukon Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the Yukon government couldn’t make changes to the recommended plan that it hadn’t already talked about in detail. The court of appeal took things back a step, saying the government could make more changes as long as it consulted about them first.
First Nations and environmental groups think it’s wrong for the government to be given this “do-over” after not meeting its obligations. A ban on mineral staking and petroleum development is in place until 2018.
Placer miners want to mine under Tr’ondek Hwech’in subdivision
A pair of placer miners with claims in the Klondike turned heads this fall when they asked the Yukon Surface Rights Board to order the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation to remove all buildings, sewer, water and power lines from the land in the Tr’ondek subdivision in Dawson.
Michel Vincent and Michael Heydorf had been locked in a dispute with TH over the claims — some of which date back to the mid-1970s — since 2002. At the time, the miners and the First Nation had tried to reach an agreement on compensation for the claims but negotiations fell through.
The Yukon Surface Rights Board later threw out the miners’ application, ruling that they had failed to adequately negotiate with TH. But the incident renewed calls for the Yukon government to update its mining legislation to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
The Whistle Bend continuing care saga
In January, the Yukon government unveiled its design for the facility, which will have room for at least 150 residents — and twice that, if a planned-for extension is ever built.
But the facility’s location in far-flung Whistle Bend drew immediate and heated criticism from politicians and citizens alike. Documents obtained by Tamara Goeppel (later a Liberal candidate in the territorial election) revealed that senior staff overruled early technical reports that recommended the facility be built in either Porter Creek, Riverdale or Copper Ridge and judged Whistle Bend to be the least desirable location.
The groundbreaking ceremony in May was heckled by protesters and questions about the project dogged Pasloski all summer and through the election campaign.
Another headache arose in August when contractors discovered the facility would not be allowed to drain groundwater into the city’s sewer system and that a proposed two-level underground parking garage would lie beneath the 4.5-metre water table. Crews will have to scale the underground garage back to one level and build more parking above ground.
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