Question re: Legal actions against government - December 2, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Premier. This morning, the Yukon Supreme Court rejected the government’s unilateral approach to developing a land use plan in the Peel watershed. This follows on the heels of a 2012 court decision the Yukon government lost to the Ross River Dena Council. Now that is two major legal strikes against this government in just three years. The government is currently championing Bill S‑6, which makes major changes to YESAA. Yukon First Nations have said that they will go to court if this bill becomes law. At the same time, the president of Casino Mining Corporation says that S-6 is having a negative effect on the territorial mining industry because it has no support from the First Nations. This government is not doing well when it comes to the courts.

Will the Premier agree to ask the Government of Canada to pull Bill S‑6 so that Yukoners can avoid another lengthy and costly court battle?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     The member opposite — on his Facebook page, I believe it is — talks about the regressive changes to YESAA, but that’s what we expect out of the Liberal leader because when he talks to the mining industry he supports the mining industry and when he talks to the conservationists, he supports conservation. Really, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the Liberal government — when it comes to the NDP-Liberal coalition — it just depends who it is they’re speaking to.

These amendments are good for Yukon. They ensure that we have an assessment process that’s consistent with other jurisdictions. There was a total of almost seven years of consultation that occurred between the federal government, Yukon First Nations and Yukon government. We believe that consistency is important to attract investment to create jobs for Yukon families.

Mr. Silver:   The losses in the courts are piling up. This government lost a major decision at the end of 2012 and it lost an even bigger one today.

In December of 2012, a former chief of the Liard First Nation presented this Premier with a book. It was called Resource Rulers, and it was written by Canadian author, Bill Gallagher. The Premier obviously did not even open that book. The author points out in great detail the importance of working with, and not against, First Nation governments when making decisions about land and resources. He also detailed First Nation governments’ almost uninterrupted winning streak in the courts when it comes to battles over resources.

Yesterday, we learned that it was the Yukon Party government that had insisted on adding four contentious changes to Bill S‑6. It is these last-minute changes, slipped in with no consultation, that have Yukon First Nations preparing to go to court yet again. When is this government going to understand that its unilateral approach is creating economic uncertainty?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     The Leader of the Liberal Party is wrong. Once again, what we hear from the Liberal leader is rhetoric, and it changes depending upon who it is that he speaks to. These amendments are important to the Yukon — that we have environmental assessment processes that are consistent with other jurisdictions — and we will continue to work with First Nations. We can talk about all the projects, whether it’s in education or in tourism and culture, whether it’s in lot development or on major tourism projects — potentially like Millhaven Bay. There are a number of areas where this government continues to work with First Nations. That won’t change.

But I do believe that everybody — all leaders within this territory — need to put their boots together and make a better effort of trying to ensure that we all understand what the priorities are and ensure that we can continue to agree where we can — because we’re not always going to agree. That is how it works with relationships — but we are committed to continuing to move forward with First Nations, in partnership, to build an economy that is a benefit of all Yukoners.

Mr. Silver:   The only boots that aren’t in the boot room are the Premier’s.

Today, the court ruling was very critical about how this government treats Yukon First Nations, particularly in regard to consultation. The judge rejected the unilateral and polarizing plan brought forth by this government. Unfortunately, the same situation is playing with Bill S‑6. The Yukon Party and its federal colleagues are pushing unilateral changes that do not have the support of Yukon First Nations.

One of the largest mining companies in Yukon has also spoken out against this government’s approach, saying that it is having — and I quote: “…a negative impact…on the territory’s mineral industry.” Before we end up in court again, this government should back down.

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the federal minister revealed the most controversial changes to Bill S‑6 were, in fact, proposed by this Premier in a 2012 letter. Will the Premier table that letter and its attachments?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     The Government of Canada came out and requested comments and recommendations to meet their northern action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes that also fit into their northern strategy. Did Yukon government supply comments and recommendations? Yes, we did. Did the First Nations supply comments and recommendations? Yes, they did. Did the Yukon government share all of their comments and recommendations with First Nations? Yes, we did.

What did we ask for, Mr. Speaker? We asked for an assessment process that was consistent with other jurisdictions. Consistency will ensure a greater opportunity to attract business and investment that will create jobs for Yukoners to ensure that opportunities for our children to have jobs here, to raise their families and to continue to live in the most beautiful part of Canada that we have — and that is Yukon.