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Today’s mailbox: Election concerns

Letters to the editor published March 31
Letters to the editor

To the Editor:

Sandy Silver claims the Liberal government needs another four years to complete their mandate.

Another four years of the Liberal government will put the final nails in Keno’s coffin. We have lost so much — our drinking water well, our firetruck, next they are closing the transfer station in Keno. For some reason the municipal landfill in Mayo can not accept the waste from the Keno transfer station but they have room for Keno residents to each drive 40 miles to Mayo to dispose of their waste. The government’s report “Integrated Community Sustainability Plan for Unincorporated Yukon” states on page 14 “The transportation sector remains the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Yukon.”

YTG has been trucking the waste from the transfer station to the Whitehorse landfill for eight years. A 600 mile round trip. Why couldn’t arrangements have been made to truck it to Dawson City, who were accepting waste from outside their municipal boundaries. Why couldn’t arrangements have been made with the Mayo landfill, 40 miles away? How much has hauling the waste come to over the years?

In July 2014 our drinking water well at the firehall in downtown Keno was ruined when the government commissioned a drilling company to “clean” the well. The drilling company damaged the casing that goes into the aquifer. They were not held accountable. The government just shrugged and said bad luck.

Could we not have the well casing replaced? Was the real problem the effects of the monitoring wells dug to “protect” Keno’s drinking water well? The monitoring wells that were dug as part of closure planning paid for by the federal government? Monitoring wells that were dug in close proximity to Keno’s drinking water well. Wells that were drilled not just to the water level, but drilled past the water level to bedrock? Because the mining company wanted to know how far it was to bedrock. The last of the monitoring wells was dug beside the drinking water well for Keno in November 2013. They first sampled it February 2014. By coincidence, the last sample taken from the Keno drinking water well coincided with the February 2014 sample for the monitoring well. No more sampling of Keno’s well. Then the drilling company came along in July 2014 to “clean” the casing that goes into the aquifer. And ruined it.

The company overlooking the “cleaning” stated in their report: “Following well rehabilitation, the groundwater quality produced by the Firehall well appears to have deteriorated. The groundwater is now more mineralized and contains higher concentrations of health-related parameters above the Government of Canada Drinking Water Quality. This ‘new’ groundwater quality appears to be more consistent with the groundwater quality from monitoring wells located across the vicinity of Keno City. In general, it could be stated that the firehall groundwater quality now appears to be consistent with the regional bedrock aquifer groundwater chemistry.”

Did I mention the monitoring wells were dug to protect Keno’s drinking water well from the Onek mine, located in Keno. One of the most toxic mines in the Yukon. If our aquifer has been damaged by the monitoring wells the Federal government should pay to have a new well drilled away from the present aquifer.

No more drinking water in Keno. Instead they have been spending, according to their figures, $290,000 per year to truck water from Mayo. Not only are they wasting a vast amount of money, but they are endangering our lives. No water for putting out fires. What a ridiculous situation. Keno turns 99 this year. An old town with many wooden structures.

We have seen first hand what a fire in Keno looks like this past winter when we lost two structures. Very nice of the Mayo fire department to come to our aid. But they are 40 miles away. And most importantly there is no water here to put out any fires. What will happen if we have a hot dry summer, with wildfires raging. Just a few embers could be the death of the town.

The reason we don’t have a volunteer fire department is not because we don’t have trained volunteers.

We don’t have an active fire department because we haven’t had any water for the past seven years to practice with. The fire marshall and government insists they took the fire truck away because we don’t have trained volunteers. The real reason they took it away was because we don’t have any water for the volunteers to practice with, nor do we have any water for putting our fires. YTG is endangering our lives.

Yvonne Bessette

Keno, Yukon

Business owner concerns

As a private business owner and taxpayer, I am very concerned about the lack of consultation surrounding the Yukon Government’s First Nation procurement policy.

Like the majority of Yukon businesses, I learned of the policy through local media after the Liberal government announced it on a Friday afternoon shortly before Christmas, indicating they hoped to begin implementation mid-February.

Not once have I or many of my fellow business owners felt welcome to discuss this policy that affects our livelihoods. The lack of consultation during its development and the Liberals’ refusal to consider changes since, is a clear signal that our input is not wanted, notwithstanding its obvious flaws.

Firstly, it will increase costs to taxpayers. If a Yukon First Nation-owned and a non-First Nation-owned company both bid on the same multimillion-dollar project, the YFN bidder can win the tender despite bidding up to 15 per cent more, which means taxpayers would be paying many hundreds of thousands of dollars extra. Extend this across all government procurement and it becomes millions.

What benefit does this additional cost provide for YFN’s versus what could have been saved for the general tax paying population? What measures this success and who defines it? How does this lead to more YFN employment that Yukon businesses don’t already strive to provide?

Secondly, the policy disadvantages local non-YFN owned businesses. There are many successful YFN-owned businesses already operating in the Yukon in a competitive environment, yet now they will have a 15 per cent advantage. For example, any YFN business can now go directly to the same southern suppliers and charge the taxpayer up to 15 per cent more than their non-YFN competitor for the same product.

This also applies to the sub-contractors on projects, allowing general contractors to gain the benefit from hiring and procuring goods from YFN businesses. This will have the effect of pushing out non-YFN sub-contractors and suppliers, as generals will no longer want to do business with them in order to maximize their benefit. Rather than employing more First Nations citizens, this will ultimately change the ownership structure of all contractors in the territory so that they are only YFN-owned.

The policy is also rife for abuse, as there appears to be no ability to prevent the creation of shell companies and other creative structures to exploit the 15 per cent advantage, which raises the question about how this will be policed and monitored, and at what cost.

This policy doesn’t only impact government and First Nations, it impacts every Yukon taxpayer and business associated with government procurement. It is aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of YFN in the economy, but there are better ways. Ways where YFN businesses are empowered to be on even ground and don’t cost the taxpayer extra or push out existing contractors and pit Yukoners against each other. Existing funding and programs could be retooled to foster mentorship between businesses or provide training for project management and MBAs and a path to ownership.

All Yukoners have a role to play in empowering First Nations’ participation in the economy, but pushing out one group of Yukoners in favour of another is exactly why we are in this predicament to begin with.

Alan Lebedoff

Wind Power – A Missed Opportunity for Yukoners

As a ratepayer and taxpayer, I am outraged that while refusing to consider a major wind project, Yukon Energy is proposing an expanded hydro project (Moon Lake), which could cost us 30 cents/kWh. A wind project, on the other hand, would reduce the ratepayers’ cost for energy to 10 cents/kWh, but is not being considered.

Costs of the Atlin and Moon Lake Hydro Projects:

1. The Atlin Hydro and Moon Lake pumped storage projects will cost $500M for 41 MW of power and just under 100 GWh of electricity annually.

2. In comparison, the 102 MW wind park in Dawson Creek cost $200M and generates at least 200 GWh annually.

3. The 10-year projected completion date puts climate change targets in jeopardy.

Risks Involved in the Proposed Moon Lake Hydro Project:

1. The ACTUAL cost of the build-out of a pumped storage facility in the mountains of BC is unknown.

2. Existing hydro projects are already overdrawing on water levels, killing fish and bird habitat, for example in the Southern Lakes.

3. The project would NOT be owned by Yukoners.

4. The cost of this project to tax and rate payers could be 30 cents/kWh.

Advantages of a Major Wind Project:

1. Wind blows in the Yukon during the summer and more so during the winter.

2. With the back-ups of hydro, battery storage, and electric thermal storage in homes and businesses (which intermittent renewables like wind and solar require), wind is highly feasible and much less expensive, as a power source for the Yukon.

3. Yukon Energy’s 10-Year Renewable Electricity Plan from 2020 states that a 20 MW wind project would cost $73.4M to build and would generate 57.3 GWh of electricity annually at a cost of 10 cents per kWh. On this basis, a 40 MW wind project could be built for under $150M and would generate 114 GWh annually (many times less costly than the proposed Atlin and Moon Lake Hydro projects, while producing more electricity).

4. Operational in 5 years.

5. Owned by Yukoners.

6. Provides diversity in the suite of renewable energy sources.

7. Cost to taxpayers reduced to 10 cents per kWh.

Why does Yukon Energy continue to drive our energy costs up, and why is it proposing an investment of $500M in total, for the Atlin and Moon Lake projects, while ignoring a large scale wind project which would reduce taxpayers’ energy costs?

Please ask your candidates about the increase in costs to taxpayers of further developing hydro, while ignoring the potential of a major wind generation project which would reduce our costs. Yukoners, it is time to TAKE BACK YOUR POWER!!

Corliss Burke (Yukoners Concerned)