The message from the March 27 debate on the environment seemed to be that all three parties care about the environment and know how important the outdoors is to Yukoners.
“People don’t move to the Yukon for shopping malls and movie theatres,” quipped NDP leader Kate White.
White was the only leader to attend the debate. Instead, the two other parties put forward their subject matter experts: Mount Lorne candidate Eric Schroff represented the Yukon Party, while John Streicker represented the Liberal Party.
The closed format of the debate gave each candidate two minutes to respond to pre-set questions that they were provided ahead of time. Moderator Kalin Pallett posed the questions.
There was no shouting and no interruptions. Inevitably, there were some remarks about the Yukon Party’s track record on the Peel Watershed. There were also a number of questions on the land planning process and the decision not to prevent staking during the process.
White said she would introduce a moratorium on staking on or before the land planning process begins.
Streicker said portions of land can be set aside during the nation-to-nation negotiation, but said completely removing all lands from the beginning can prevent any type of development, even green energy projects.
“I don’t think we should have nothing, but I don’t think we should swing to everything either,” Streicker said. “We think of it as an interactive process, working respectfully with First Nations.”
The Liberal government withdrew some lands from staking in the Dawson planning region prior to the election on March 11.
Schroff said the Yukon Party would work on “balancing the competing needs” but said introducing a complete moratorium would be akin to making a land-use decision before the planning process is completed.
He also said the Yukon Party would continue the work of the Liberal Party with the Our Clean Future Report.
On renewable energy projects, Schroff said the Yukon Party has a 10-year strategy for Yukon Energy that is still in development. He said they are focusing on energy retrofits to reduce energy needs.
“That will help us reduce the needs and help us move forward with the ability to produce more green energy,” Schroff said. He added that renting diesel generators was “not a long-term viable strategy.”
Streicker fired back that while diesel rentals are not ideal, the government does not want to own outdated fossil-fuel infrastructure.
He pointed to the current Yukon Energy plan for building out renewables, which includes battery projects, Moon Lake Pumped Storage, the planned expansion of the Atlin hydro plant and an agreement with Skagway.
“We need to get renewables to get rid of that diesel,” he said.
“All those projects that were just listed are still in the planning process despite that we’re four years into a term,” responded White.
She said her party would dedicate more government funds to green energy infrastructure in order to reduce the direct cost to Yukoners’ energy bills.
Other questions included a wetland policy, zero waste projects, composting in communities, how parties will evaluate and manage animal populations and securing cleanup funds for mining projects. The complete 90-minute discussion is available to watch online.
The #VoteWild event was co-hosted by CPAWS and the Yukon Conservation Society.
Contact Haley Ritchie at email@example.com