Question re: Act to Amend the Placer Mining Act and the Quartz Mining Act consultation - December 3, 2013

Hansard December 3, 2013

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Premier on Bill No. 66. The Premier has received an earful from both the mining industry and the First Nations of the Yukon over this legislation. One of the common concerns from both sides is a lack of consultation. The Teslin Tlingit Council has described the consultation process as vague, confusing and contradictory. The mining industry said back in June simply that the consultation period for amendments is too short.

For example, the government sent draft plain-language regulations to stakeholders on November 13 and gave them 14 business days to respond.

Why does the Premier think that 14 days is adequate to review these important regulations?


Hon. Mr. Kent:    It’s important to spell out the consultation process with respect to these court-ordered amendments that are before the House right now, as well as the regulatory package. As I mentioned in March, when the Yukon government decided not to appeal the one declaration with respect to class 1 activities and notification in the Ross River area, we informed the First Nation of that by letter. We launched a 60-day consultation period throughout June and July on the amendments to the legislation. Then, as early as August, we began work with First Nations and industry on not only the development of the enabling amendments to the legislation, but also the regulatory package, culminating yesterday with the deadline for comments on the regulatory package that we’re also looking at.

We want to ensure we meet the December 27 court-ordered deadline by the Yukon Court of Appeal. We’re confident that we can do that with respect to the class 1 activities. We’re working very hard and officials in the department are working very closely with industry and First Nations to accomplish just that. As I mentioned, we feel we can meet that court-ordered deadline of December 27.

Mr. Silver:   The Premier’s mailbox has been filling up yesterday and today with letters from First Nations that have a host of concerns about this government’s approach to Bill No. 66. They don’t believe that 14 days is sufficient to review regulations, for example.

There is a mechanism the government could have used to meet with First Nations to discuss common issues with respect to Bill No. 66. It’s called the Yukon Forum. The forum has met once in two years since this government was elected. It’s supposed to meet four times a year. It’s legislated to meet four times a year. Meeting to address questions regarding Bill No. 66 is exactly the type of situation the forum was created for.

Mr. Speaker, why didn’t the Premier convene a meeting of the Yukon Forum to address concerns over Bill No. 66 instead of just ignoring First Nations’ concerns?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    As I mentioned earlier in Question Period today, the Yukon government works together in partnership with First Nations on many fronts. I personally, in my former role as Minister of Education and my current role as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, have been to the leadership several times, as I’m sure others of my colleagues have, to discuss issues of importance. The most recent one for me, of course, was with respect to our clean power initiative and our desire to see the development of a hydroelectric dam here in the territory.

We’re very proud on this side of the House of all that we’re able to accomplish together. On some fronts, there are differences of opinion. Essentially, we agree to disagree and this is one of those cases. We feel that through the consultation efforts of the last year — as we move toward this court-ordered deadline of December 27 to have these amendments in place — we’ve conducted sufficient consultation given the level of amendments that we’re proposing, as well as the regulatory amendments that we’re proposing.

We feel that the question again that needs to be answered is whether or not governments, including First Nation governments, do support responsible mining in the Yukon or not. We’ve seen examples recently through First Nations supporting CNIM training as well as the royalties that are paid to Selkirk First Nation from Capstone Mining that they do support responsible mining, and they join us in that support and we need a competitive regime.

Mr. Silver:   The question needs to be asked and a great place to ask this question would be in the Yukon Forum.

One option available to address the question of consultation and a host of other issues was to ask this court for an extension to implement the decision. Unfortunately, that was never considered by this government and now we find ourselves up against a deadline.

Concerns are being raised by both miners and the First Nations that the bill is being rushed and that there has been inadequate consultation. The Government of Yukon bears full responsibility for this situation. They created this problem and concerns that have been raised for months by stakeholders have been ignored.

How does the government plan to address concerns raised by Yukon First Nations regarding Bill No. 66?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     What we are hearing today from the Liberal Leader is what we hear almost on a daily basis, and that is a continual flip-flop on basically every issue that comes forward, whether it is on digital staking — which the Liberal Party said they supported but then this Liberal leader said that, no, they changed their mind on that — or on F.H. Collins — he will come out and say that we’re taking too long and we need to move this forward faster, but then he also comes out with an article that says to take the time to do it right.

What about the Peel, where the Liberal leader is in support of no economic development and going forward with a recommended plan that will see, essentially, cultural and traditional uses for that land and no opportunities for other economies to go forward? Then he turns around and talks about how he supports mining in Ross River.

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal leader talks to miners, he tells them that they support mining. When the Liberal leader talks to conservationists, he says that he’s opposed to mining. This is the Liberals. This is how they have worked in the past. This is how they continue to exhibit they would govern today.