The Yukon needs a clearer understanding of what comes after Bill C-17

The reassessment process needs to be formalized before C-17 becomes law

By Jonas Smith & Amanda Leslie

There has been a lot of discussion and resulting consternation surrounding Yukon’s permitting regime over the last few years.

Sadly, much of it has been misdirected to focus on politics versus the practical reality of Yukoners’ need to navigate our development assessment process with clarity to achieve certainty and in essence, to uphold our very livelihoods.

As many Yukoners know, the former federal Conservative government introduced Bill S-6 in 2014, which, among other items, contained four highly controversial amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act (YESAA).

These amendments were introduced outside the previously agreed upon tripartite process between Canada, Yukon and Yukon First Nations.

Yukon First Nations have worked for generations to achieve their self-governing and final agreements and justifiably objected to the introduction of these amendments and subsequently took the federal government to task.

These amendments, from the moment Bill S-6 was introduced, divided us.

It is now time to find a path forward together so that Yukoners are not negatively impacted by political decisions in Ottawa.

We can all be proud that Yukoners understand and agree First Nations must be full and meaningful partners in shaping the course of Yukon’s social and economic future.

Yukoners should also understand that the proposed changes to YESAA were not intended to reduce environmental stewardship. Rather, they were intended to clarify the process for proponents, regulators, governments and citizens so that projects demonstrating benefit – no matter if generated by industry, by municipalities, or by governments – can proceed responsibly.

Facing us now however, is the federal Liberal government’s Bill C-17, currently in its second reading in Parliament, which intends to rescind these amendments without having a replacement ready to implement.

And while these four amendments have stirred debate among academics and on the Yukon cocktail reception circuit, one in particular has dire practical versus political consequences: reassessment.

Bill S-6 formalized a process wherein the decision body – in most cases Yukon government – could determine whether or not an amendment to a project would trigger reassessment.

Project applications from placer and quartz mining to municipal infrastructure improvements to First Nation projects on their settlement lands – and their subsequent assessments and authorizations – are multi-year. As with many things in life, projects can and should inevitably change over time between their initial planning and execution.

To be crystal clear, reassessment applies to all types of projects, but we will use mining as one example.

Neighbouring claims may be acquired, commodity prices fluctuate, new deposits may be discovered and environmental mitigation solutions are created.

If the decision body deemed that a project’s activities were adequately assessed the first time around and no new substantial project effects would arise, Bill S-6 currently gives the decision body the formal authority to exempt the project from reassessment.

This saves considerable time, money and effort, not only on behalf of the project proponent, but for the taxpayer as well. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), as well as territorial and First Nations governments are all publicly funded. Exemption from reassessment is practical and common in other jurisdictions with whom Yukon is competing for investment.

Since the passage of Bill S-6, approximately 100 existing projects have applied for exemption from reassessment, and the majority has not required one.

That means for those successful proponents, they did not spend their resources on complicated submissions and instead, could reinvest in their businesses, in their employees and in Yukon community charities and initiatives.

A hundred projects in two years might not seem like many in larger jurisdictions. In Yukon it is considerable.

C-17 is expected to pass this fall which would end these types of exemptions for now.

In its defence, Canada has committed to revisiting the reassessment issue and this time with full Yukon First Nation participation, but not until after C-17 passes.

Meaningful First Nation participation is essential. Industry and municipalities cannot bear yet another botched intergovernmental consultation debacle and its far-reaching adverse effects on relationships and investment in the territory.

Changes to tripartite agreements do not, and should not, happen overnight. However the concern is once the reassessment clause is revoked; it will take months or perhaps years to develop its replacement, leaving Yukon behind other jurisdictions well into the future.

Given the multitude of industry and government projects that have benefitted from this reassessment provision, removing it at this point is like ripping the roof off your house before you have decided what to replace it with – meanwhile leaving Yukon’s development assessment process out in the rain.

Thankfully, a made-in-Yukon solution is within reach.

In April 2016, Yukon First Nations, Canada, and the Yukon government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that included outlining how the need for a reassessment is judged. That MOU expires when C-17 becomes the law.

Instead of allowing it to expire, there needs to be a firm commitment – by all three levels of government – to formalize the process officially before Bill C-17 passes.

The majority of those aforementioned 100 projects – and consequently Yukoners – have benefitted from the MOU through its certainty, through jobs, through education and training, and through health, social and wellness programming.

All that remains is for governments to embrace the practical and leave the politics for the next election. By then, they could have 100 more success stories to campaign on.

Jonas Smith and Amanda Leslie are project managers with Prosperity Yukon, a resource industry advocacy group launched earlier this year.

miningYukon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Eric Schroff, executive director with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, poses for a portrait on Feb. 20. Schroff says he is puzzled as to why the Yukon government is cutting back on funding for the association. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
YG cuts Yukon Fish and Game Association funding, tried to vet outgoing communications

Yukon Fish and Game Association says 25 per cent government funding cut will impact operations

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 27, 2020

Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Total Yukon COVID case count increased to 42 cases

Premier urges patience after national meeting on vaccine roll-out

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Most Read