Question re: Act to Amend the Placer Mining Act and Quartz Mining Act - December 18, 2013

Hansard, December 18, 2013

Mr. Silver:  Earlier in this sitting, I asked the minister why Bill No. 66 goes beyond implementing the Ross River court decision. The minister responded at that time — and I quote: “The amendments to each of the acts that are before the House right now are designed to meet the declarations of the Yukon Court of Appeal.”

The Premier has said the same thing and has insisted that the changes only address the court case. Yet yesterday the minister admitted that — and I quote: “The special operating areas that are contemplated, as well as the special operating conditions, again aren’t in response to the court of appeal decision, but they do give us that added tool when we are looking at managing the land.”

Why has the government insisted that the changes only address the Ross River court decision when, in fact, they go well beyond that into addressing land use planning issues?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    Again, I was pleased that we did spend a couple of hours yesterday in Committee of the Whole on Bill No. 66 and had an opportunity for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, as well as the Member for Klondike, to ask some questions of me. I felt it was a very productive and robust debate that occurred on a number of issues that are important to the mining industry, as well as First Nations, when it comes to working toward that December 27 deadline with respect to Bill No. 66.

The main reasons that we brought forward these amendments and the subsequent regulations that will be introduced are to work toward the December 27 deadline that the Yukon Court of Appeal instituted.

Yesterday during the questions raised by the Member for Klondike with respect to the special operating areas and the special operating conditions, I mentioned that there was a policy decision made that would give us an extra tool to assist us with managing the land throughout the territory. That is what this does, and the main thrust of the amendments is to address the court-ordered issues. This is one issue that is outside of that, but it was an opportunity for us to put a tool in place to help us manage the land.

Mr. Silver:   I do appreciate the answer, but the introduction of these special operating areas seems to be coming out of the blue. The minister and Premier have maintained that the amendments are minor and only address the Ross River decision. Yesterday the minister admitted that some of the amendments have nothing to do with this court case and this court decision.

Mr. Speaker, the discussion paper released in June said that these new regulations were being created to address areas identified and approved through land use planning. It looks like the government is using this act to set up rules for land use planning, perhaps for the Peel planning area, for example.

It is an entirely new set of rules that are being inserted into the act and they don’t result in security of tender when you stake a claim. It opens the door for discretion that nobody wants, Mr. Speaker.

Why are these included in the bill that the minister originally said were only to address the Ross River court decision?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    I thank the member opposite for the question and in mentioning in that question that this was included in the discussion paper that went out for consultation for 60 days. Of course, we received feedback from a number of industry NGOs, as well as 10 of 14 First Nations.

Again, that consultation with respect to the amendments and the subsequent regulations continued beyond the end of July into October and November, with the final deadline for submission on the regulations being December 2. What these special operating areas and special operating conditions do provide us with is an opportunity to introduce another tool to assist us with managing the land. That’s exactly what that amendment speaks to, when it comes to Bill No. 66. The main thrust of the bill and the amendments we’re proposing — and the subsequent regulations — was to address the Ross River versus Yukon, Yukon Court of Appeal decision with respect to the Ross River and Yukon case.

Mr. Silver:   I do appreciate the answers and I do appreciate that this is near and dear to the minister’s heart. Let’s talk about those regulations for a second here. Those regulations do come into force — they will be law — as of December 27 of this year and that’s only nine days away.

Yesterday, the minister admitted that drafts of those regulations have not been shared with either the First Nations or industry. Does the government think that passing regulations without anyone having seen them is a good way of doing business?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    With respect to the regulations, of course we put out a discussion paper on those regulations in November and had the consultation period that closed December 2. The development of the regulations was based on the feedback that we received during that consultation period. These regulations need to be enacted by December 27 so we can meet the Yukon Court of Appeal deadline with respect to the notification on class 1 activities in the Ross River area. That’s what we plan on doing.

The amendments to the act are enabling amendments. They need the regulations to be put in place so that we can meet that December 27 deadline that the Yukon Court of Appeal has made for us.