Question re: Peel watershed land use plan - November 5, 2015

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, three court of appeal judges ruled that this Yukon Party’s government failed to honour the letter and the spirit in its treaty obligations in the Peel land use planning process. In legal circles, Mr. Speaker, I believe this is referred to as a “slap down”.

Yesterday, the Premier read his prepared statements into the record three different times when he was asked about this judgment — and we heard it again today on the floor of this Legislative Assembly — but he simply refused to answer a very simple question, Mr. Speaker. Does the Premier take any responsibility for the government’s failure to honour the letter and spirit of its treaty obligations in the Peel land use planning process?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, we filed our appeal to gain greater clarity around the processes and to protect the rights of all governments to make final decisions about their lands.

Mr. Speaker, as Premier, I have a duty to ensure that public government retains the ability to make decisions about public land. Now, with that matter resolved, we can sit down as governments and find a way forward that avoids further court action.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, the only shareholder who needs clarity in this process is the Yukon Party. If he wants to respect the final agreements, then he needs to apologize for his actions.

Yukoners are looking for leadership on First Nation relations and they’re not getting it from this government. The courts have ruled — not once, but twice — on the same issue. Both judgments confirm that the government failed to honour the letter and spirit of its treaty obligations in the Peel land use process, and now the government can’t even acknowledge that happened and won’t take any responsibility for how we got to this point. The government took the “my way or the highway” approach there, and they did it with Bill S-6 as well and provoked another lawsuit from the First Nations.

Does the government accept the ruling, and does it intend to move forward with reappointing a new Peel land use commission before the next election?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, I’ve consistently offered the opportunity to resolve these disputes outside of court. When it comes to this process, I offered the opportunity to try to find a path forward outside of the court prior to going to appeal. I made the same offer with Bill S-6, and I’m making that same offer again.

I respect the final and self-government agreements, and I believe that they give us a path forward on issues like this one. What we have to do is sit down and find a way to work cooperatively toward this goal, and our genuine hope is that we can work with First Nations on these and other issues.

I spent a sizable amount of time yesterday, Mr. Speaker — about two hours — in debate, talking about collaborations that occur every day between this government and First Nations, and we’re very proud of that.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is the only place in Canada that has had its economy shrink for three years in a row now. One of the main reasons is this government’s inability to work with First Nations. Potential investors looking at court cases take their money elsewhere. This government can’t even bring itself to acknowledge that it’s part of the problem — let alone change its ways.

It will take a new government to do that, and Yukoners will get their chance to elect a new government — one that generally wants to work with First Nations — in 12 months or less.

The court of appeal has been very clear. Yukon failed to honour the letter and the spirit of its treaty obligations and the Yukon Party government should publicly acknowledge its responsibility for this failure.

Mr. Speaker, has the government learned any lessons from this debacle, or does it intend to try to force its unilateral Peel plan through, now that it has been granted a do-over?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, we can look right across this country — in fact, across the continent — at jurisdictions that rely on commodities as a major part of their revenue to see, in fact, that they are exhibiting the same downturn that we are. The difference from us and the other two parties is that we have a plan on how to move forward toward prosperity for all Yukoners.

Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that this government respects and upholds the final and self-government agreements, and our record demonstrates that. On this matter, we have the clarity that we need, and it is time to move forward beyond court actions.

As I said yesterday, this is not just about today’s governments; this is about future governments as well. The courts have given today’s leaders an opportunity to work together, and my hope is that all leaders will take up that opportunity.