Question re: Bill S-6 - October 27, 2015

Mr. Silver: I have more questions for the Premier on Bill S-6.

When the Legislature began sitting last week the Premier was asked about the fate of the four amendments to the bill that he has spent two years championing. Last Thursday he continued to back them here on the floor of the House, and he said that he wanted to meet with the First Nation chiefs to discuss implementing them. Over the weekend, the Premier changed his mind on the four amendments and said here yesterday that his government would not be a barrier to the federal government repealing the amendments.

After two years of backing the federal government against the wishes of Yukon First Nations, the Premier finally went back and admitted that the best thing to do for his government at this point was to simply stay out of the way.

Does the Premier accept any responsibility for the negative impacts that this entire episode has had on our economy and with relationships with Yukon’s First Nations?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: I certainly will admit to this House that Bill S-6 and the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act is federal legislation.

As I mentioned yesterday, because it is federal legislation, it is their prerogative as to whether to amend the legislation or leave it as it is. What I have stated is that, as it is federal legislation, this government will not be a barrier to decisions that the federal government makes regarding federal legislation.

Mr. Silver: Yesterday the Premier admitted and says again that the best thing that his government can do at this point for Bill S-6 is to not be a barrier and to stay out of the way, and after the mess that this government has made of the entire process, perhaps that is best.

When I spoke to the Prime Minister-elect yesterday, he reconfirmed the incoming government’s commitment to consult with First Nations and to appeal the four clauses that were pushed by this Premier. In the meantime, the bill passed by the Conservatives in Ottawa is now law. It’s now enforced and this is important. There is a window where the new rules will apply before the bill can be fixed by the incoming government.

The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has already written to the Yukon government asking how it intends to proceed with the projects that will come through this very narrow window.

How does the government intend to consult with First Nations when the Conservatives’ new law says that they do not have to?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: I did write to the Yukon First Nations prior to Bill S-6 being completed. I spoke during the House of Commons hearings here in Yukon regarding Bill S-6 — that there is another path — that, as leaders in this territory and as we have done so in the past, there is also an opportunity to be able to talk about these amendments.

The First Nations have agreed to have that discussion and they would like to see a discussion held — a trilateral discussion — and I’m more than willing to sign a joint letter. I too in my conversation with the Prime Minister assured him — or, the Prime Minister-elect — that this is federal legislation and this government will not be a barrier if the federal government decides to make changes to it.

I will also state that, Mr. Speaker, I believe that any time that we can have a process that’s consistent with other jurisdictions, it allows Yukon to remain competitive for those investment dollars and for creating good jobs here in Yukon for Yukoners.

Mr. Silver: I think it’s time for the Premier to get off of his briefing notes and listen to the question. There is a very specific window here that we need to address.

There has been a lot of uncertainty caused by the government working hand-in-hand with the Conservative government in Ottawa to make changes to our environmental assessment process with Bill S-6. The bill is now law, but sections of it will be repealed by the new government in Ottawa. The changes in place now authorize Yukon — Yukon — to decide unilaterally to exempt a project from reassessment if Yukon was the decision body on an earlier assessment. In their letter, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in wants to know how the Government of Yukon plans to address this gap in consultation that it has created by its last-minute amendments.

How does the government plan to address this uncertainty — uncertainty that was created by his four backroom amendments?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: It certainly is disappointing that the Leader of the Liberal Party to this point, after four years, still doesn’t understand the legislative process. This government had no last-minute amendments because we didn’t table any legislation; this was federal legislation. We’ve been clear about that from the beginning. It’s a disappointment that the Leader of the Liberal Party still doesn’t understand the process.

Mr. Speaker, we have assured the Prime Minister directly — the Prime Minister-elect — that this government will not be a barrier to changes to the legislation if it is the will of the federal government to do so. We also discussed the opportunity and the agreement and willingness of First Nations to sit down and discuss this. That is my commitment to Yukoners. As I’ve said, when it comes to creating investment opportunities, allowing work to happen here at any time that we can have any process that allows us to be consistent with other jurisdictions — that is a benefit to Yukon.