Question re: Mining Legislation consultation

Hansard November 19, 2013

Mr. Silver:  I am going to return to questions I asked yesterday about this government’s approach to addressing the Ross River court decision. First off, the minister said that he was surprised to hear that I’m opposing the amendments that have been drafted and urged me to go to a briefing to make up my mind.

Well, I have read the bill and I understand what’s in it and I can’t support it. I’ve also talked to many in the mining industry who don’t support it either. They are holding their breath. One of the main concerns they have — and I share it — is the lack of consultation done on this bill.

I won’t condone how this government treats stakeholders. Before it even talked to anyone, the government decided it needed to change the legislation and it drafted a decision paper.

Why did the minister decide amendments were needed before even discussing how to implement the court decisions with First Nations and with miners?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    With respect to these changes to the Quartz Mining Act and Placer Mining Act, I mentioned yesterday the amendments to each act are designed to meet one of the declarations of the Yukon Court of Appeal, the declaration with respect to low-level class 1 exploration activities.

The amendments in this bill provide for the requirement for notice by an operator, which then provides government with the opportunity to undertake consultation as appropriate. That’s why we are making these enabling amendments to the act so that the government can fulfill its consultation requirements that were set out in the court of appeal declarations.

I too attended an event last night put on by the Yukon Chamber of Mines. I talked to a number of individuals I know within the Chamber of Mines and the Yukon Prospectors Association about their engagement on these class 1 declarations with First Nations, and they informed me there was no substantive engagement by them. I did talk to the Member for Klondike earlier today about whether or not he would provide me with the names of the individuals or the First Nations that were conducting these consultations and working on these solutions, because certainly it isn’t anyone I know who serves in these capacities within the two industry organizations that work on behalf of mining advocacy in the territory.

Mr. Silver:   I think the bigger issue here is whether or not the minister and his department were consulting with First Nations.

After a court decision was released in December 2012, the industry did begin discussions with Ross River about how to proceed. The government on the other side was silent.

Months later, after a great deal of work between industry and First Nations had already been done, the government arrived on the scene and announced that legislative changes were required and that it had already made up its mind on what these changes might look like. No consultation, no discussions — changes were simply written in a silo and presented in a discussion paper in June. As the clock ticked down to the fall session, both First Nations and industry waited to see a draft of the actual legislation the government was coming forth with. It never happened. The first time that many individuals saw the bill was when I sent it to them.

Why did the government not share the draft legislation with First Nations and with miners before it hit the floor of this Legislature?

Hon. Mr. Kent:            Of course the government sought input from First Nations and industry, along with other interested parties, on proposed changes to the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act. Regulations are currently under review. There are a number of meetings between officials and industry organizations. I met with both the Chamber of Mines and the Yukon Prospectors Association in October to discuss this. There have been conversations about arranging a technical briefing with the industry associations on this legislation, similar to the one that the Member for Klondike, the Leader of the Third Party, won’t be attending that is scheduled for opposition parties next week.

There has been an awful lot of work done on this. As I mentioned, the amendments provide for the requirement for notice by an operator and which then provide government with the opportunity to undertake consultation, as appropriate. The regulations are currently being developed on this important bill, and I would encourage the Member for Klondike to reconsider his position from yesterday and attend the briefing with officials so that he can become fully informed on how this bill will work and what the impacts for industry and First Nations will be from it.

Mr. Silver:   It’s good to know my schedule for next week. That’s the first we’ve heard of this briefing, the first time we’ve heard there’s actually a date. I would like to know what the time is of that briefing, and of course I am going to attend that briefing.

It’s very disappointing to hear that, once again, the Yukon Party chose to consult with industry and with First Nations only after they made up their minds on how to move forward. The minister met in October. Without talking to either side, the government came up with a raft of amendments to the territory’s mining legislation.

They go well beyond the implementation of the Ross River court decision and the minister knows this. He heard it from industry directly. They are creating more regulatory uncertainty, which is pretty much the thing that scares the industry the most. Decisions like this are speeding up the exodus of capital investments in the Yukon. Many pieces of legislation are shared widely with stakeholders before they are tabled in this House, but not this one.

Why did the government keep this under wraps until the very last minute?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    Where to start on this — it’s very interesting to hear the Member for Klondike profess to stand up for the mining industry and the interests of the mining industry when he also advocates for the removal of 10 percent of the Yukon for responsible mining development with his support for the recommended Peel watershed plan.

We have heard that the Liberals were very much in support of digitized claim staking, which would have put a lot of Yukoners out of work. They did that during the last election campaign —

Some Hon. Member:         (inaudible)

Point of order

Speaker:       Leader of the Third Party, on a point of order.

Mr. Silver:   The member opposite is imputing false motives. I tabled in the Legislature today a document that clearly indicates that my party and I, personally, did not support digitized staking.

I would ask that the member opposite strike that from the record.       

Speaker’s ruling

Speaker:       There is no point of order. It is a dispute between members.

The minister has 60 seconds to respond.


Hon. Mr. Kent:    I was, of course, reflecting the fact that the Liberal Party did, at the start of the election campaign, support digitized claim staking, and it later flip-flopped and removed that support. I’m not sure why that happened.

Again, with respect to this particular issue on class 1, we are undertaking consultation on the regulations. I do encourage the member opposite to attend the briefing that we are arranging for opposition members. We are working with industry and we’re working with First Nations. We’re trying to meet a court-ordered declaration with a deadline of December 27 of this year.