A Whitehorse city councillor is the latest person to question the territorial government’s handling of consultation on its proposed Public Airports Act.
Samson Hartland is wondering why Whitehorse’s mayor and council were not consulted before the Yukon government tabled the bill which has already faced criticism from industry organizations and airlines.
“The implications are significant enough that this is a piece of legislation that should … be consulted with (at) the political level of our government,” he said.
Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn has spent the last week and a half fielding questions in the Yukon legislative assembly about the airports act, which the government says the territory needs to modernize the rules that run airports.
On Oct. 17 he told the legislature his department consulted twice with city officials in August and “draft legislation was provided to the City of Whitehorse by my officials.”
That claim is not backed up by Whitehorse’s interim city manager Linda Rapp.
Rapp confirmed city staff met with the government to discuss details such as zoning.
“The city was not given a draft copy of the proposed act but we were told it would be similar to the N.W.T. legislation and we were sent a link to that,” she said in an email.
The was no formal request for consultation with mayor and council, she said.
Hartland said the Yukon government has conducted successful consultations on cannabis legislation, on financial advisory board recommendations and on the carbon tax.
He said he doesn’t understand “how this one had gone off the rails.”
Talking to the media after question period Oct. 17, Mostyn avoided questions about whether the department should have consulted the city’s mayor and council.
“We also consulted with the City of Whitehorse as it pertains to zoning and city bylaws and we got the necessary information out of the City of Whitehorse to actually draft the legislation,” he said.
Meanwhile the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) has said it didn’t have enough time to review the draft act and respond before the legislation was tabled.
According to COPA, it only got the nine-page draft act on Sept. 11, three weeks before it was tabled in the house. It wants the bill put on hold.
“We were surprised to see the legislation coming through the house so quickly, it doesn’t make any sense because there’s nothing pressing,” said president Rick Nielsen.
“Business is being conducted at the airport. I don’t know why you wouldn’t avail yourself of extra time to get feedback.”
Mostyn has pointed to a July 25 meeting he had with the Yukon Aviation Advisory Group as earlier consultation.
Minutes from that meeting show it was attended by various government officials and representatives from Alkan Air and COPA. Many other industry representatives were absent.
A draft copy of the Yukon act and N.W.T. Airports Act were distributed to members “for discussion purposes,” the minutes say.
After the meeting that draft was taken away.
Nielsen said that meeting, where the people present were not allowed to make copies to share with others, does not count as consultation.
Since seeing the act, the group has come up with some concerns. The section banning any commercial activity on an airport without a licence or permission from the minister is too broad, COPA says.
So is the section that provides for the appointment of “enforcement officers” since it puts no limit on that role.
The organization also wants the advisory committee promised as part of the legislation to have a clear mandate with some clout.
“It’s going to boil down to a handful of very simple concerns, all of which if incorporated into the legislation would be very helpful not only to stakeholders but to the government and all Yukoners,” Nielsen said.
Mostyn has said that the “meat of this legislation” will come during the drafting of regulations to go with the act. That will include more consultations.
Nielsen said changes should be made to the act now instead of waiting for the regulations.
“The question really is why not? It brings a level of comfort that will stand for time and you want that,” he said.
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org