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This week’s mailbox: the Atlin power project and advice to YG

Corporations versus the people

Corporations versus the people

It’s been my experience that people are essentially good. They have good hearts. As a result, they may “go along to get along” more often than they should. Corporations often take advantage of that fact. We have a situation like that in Atlin, B.C., right now.

THELP (Tlingit Homeland Energy), is attempting to drive a penstock and high tension powerline through the residential, recreational and environmentally sensitive areas of Lower Pine Creek in Atlin B.C. — a powerline that terminates in a hydro plant metres from residential dwellings; and a tailrace that empties warmed water into Atlin Lake, immediately adjacent to our community beach. It is a purely for-profit venture designed to sell power to the Yukon.

Despite statements to the contrary, the project is, to the best of my knowledge, opposed by the majority of the town of Atlin as well as a sizable portion of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN). One of the first questions I am asked when the subject comes up is, “How can this be possible?”

With the recent settlement of land claims, reparations, and the drive towards reconciliation, corporations see the possibility of profit in an alliance with First Nations. With their attendant government funding and current political clout, these corporations simply see this as good business. In this light, it is easy to see why Yukon Energy and SNC Lavalin have recently entered agreements with THELP, a corporation that is 100 per cent owned by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

The sole purpose of THELP’s project on Upper and Lower Pine Creek, is to sell power to the Yukon. Atlin’s future power needs appear to play no part in this proposal. This is a project purely for profit. For various reasons, it is projected to be extremely expensive and the burden will, no doubt, be passed on to the taxpayers. Along with millions of dollars of public money already spent by THELP, another $2.5 million of our taxdollars was recently given to the corporation.

The development incurrs the massive expense of building a transmission line 90 km to the Alaska Highway. The final cost, I am told, will be over $200 million dollars. The entire project is only capable of generating a total of 8.5 megawatts, And current projections indicate it will run for only HALF THE YEAR. The cost to benefit ratio here would defeat the imagination of the average five year old.

Just to put this in perspective, Dawson Creek just spent $200 million dollars on the Bear Creek wind generation project. Its output is 102 megawatts. This is a cost to benefit ratio that works. THELP’s is not. THELP, in this case, more resembles a non-profit corporation funded willy-nilly with public money than anything else. One thing is for certain: Yukon Energy is rubbing its hands together. Whoever made the deal that THELP would roll over and offer energy on demand with no risk or real investment on their part is a good businessman indeed.

Problem is, we the residents and taxpayers are going to end up with the burden as well as the sacrifices. As I said earlier, “People tend to ‘go along to get along’ more often than they should.

Corporations often take advantage of that fact.” I believe this corporation will continue to do so, unless it is stopped.

Paul Lucas

Atlin, B.C.

New Year’s Resolutions: Advice to the Yukon government

(Ed. note: This letter was submitted on Jan. 5.)

Most people around the world are focused on the latest iteration of COVID-19 known as Omicron. Yukon has another problem that I’ll refer to as the Mushroom Syndrome. Everyone knows about Mushroom Syndrome - Keep them in the dark and feed them - well, you know what. This issue lies squarely at the feet of the Yukon government.

They have performed so poorly in so many areas - Communication and Public Education, Strategic Planning, Interpretation of Data and Decision-making - that all I could do is hand out Fs. Quite dismal.

No, much better to look towards the future and provide direction for more effective responses.

The only bright spot has been the administration of vaccines. The vaccine program has been, and continues to be, superb. But let’s not forget, the vaccine was procured by the federal government and operationalized by public health. I didn’t see any politicians giving a helping hand; they were too busy scoring points in the Legislative Assembly.

On Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at the weekly briefing, Premier Silver was asked by a reporter what he intended to do about the lack of trust Yukoners had for the government. His reply was that there wasn’t a lack of trust, people only had questions.

Not trust but questions, Premier Silver? Where have you been?

It took four letters written between July 8, 2021 and Aug 4, 2021 in which I asked several questions. I got a response on August 30 which didn’t address any of the issues raised. Nothing but bog-standard political chicanery from Minister Tracey McPhee’s office.

So, I wrote a series of emails to all MLAs (eight in November and six in December) in which I asked more questions than I can possibly go back and count. Some of these emails were published in the local press so I won’t recount all the questions I asked but they were substantial policy issues.

I got one email in response - to a question asking if they could clarify who actually was the CMOH when it seemed like we had two.

Politicians clearly need to be reminded that elected officials are duty bound to respond to serious issues raised by the general public. This is what builds trust — reliability, truthfulness and constancy. Answering questions, Premier Silver, is the royal road to building and sustaining trust.

It’s not just me who wants answers to questions. The reporters at Wednesday’s briefing asked lots of important questions and were largely brushed off. The attempt at responses only reinforced my view that this government has little regard for accountability.

In response to another reporter’s question about enforcement of CEMA rules, Premier Silver replied that ‘our approach has always been education as opposed to restrictions’.

Slogans such as get vaccinated, and more recently, get boosted, do not constitute public education.

Just to remind everyone, a public education program was planned according to the March 2021 document - A Path Forward: Next Steps - but has yet to be realized. Funnily enough, that document seems to have ‘disappeared’ from the Internet but I have my copy.

How can governments be held accountable if what they said they would do is no longer in circulation?

Premier Silver, it is time to explain to Yukoners what is the ‘education’ you referenced today. And while you are at it, to give an assessment of how successful your government has been at educating the public.

It doesn’t look successful to me. Communication is poor. The flagship weekly briefings in December 2021, even with Omicron looming, attracted 42, 61, 62 and 122 watchers on You Tube with only 33 by 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening for the first show of the new year. The highest number of watchers was at the beginning of the pandemic — with 551 views for March 22, 2020.

Were numbers any better for the live events? If this was traditional media where ratings are considered important data, someone would be cancelling the show and looking for other ways to communicate.

So, Number 1 on the list of resolutions has to be around Communications. Sure, this pandemic will end but practice engaging with the public (and not just at election time) is needed for next time. If you need ideas, consult my email of Nov. 19 — Communication 101: Getting the message across.

Number 2 concerns Strategic Planning and Decision-making. This is not the government’s strong suit. Where did the government lay out a comprehensive plan for dealing with Covid-19 and how did they go about making decisions?

On December 2 (a month ago) when the rest of the world was planning for Omicron, the Yukon Government was loosening restrictions. There is a history of no reasons being given for decisions that go against the grain and counter common sense.

The third resolution has to do with transparency. On Wednesday January 5, 2022, the CMOH, in response to a reporter’s question about positivity data claimed they had been transparent about numbers and their meaning. She gave the example of positivity rates.

Oh really? I wrote about positivity rates on December 9 asking why the Yukon government was not publishing these data. Here’s the response from the Covid Team:

“With respect to publishing test positivity rate data, the Government of Yukon has chosen not to do that at this time.”

Is this the CMOH’s definition of transparency? Yukon positivity rates were a deep dark secret until about two weeks ago when it got mentioned in passing in the briefing. I have asked for positivity rates to be posted on the website along with new cases and active cases. Wonder how long it will take to get an answer!

So, Premier Silver, perhaps these few examples might help you realize why I say the Mushroom Syndrome is alive and well in our corner of the frozen north.

Janet Webster