Question re: Peel watershed land use plan – March 21, 2013

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, February 25 was the deadline for submissions on the revised Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan. Yesterday the government released information on how many people had participated in the public consultation process. Unfortunately, it kept the most important information to itself — what people think of the new plan. Were they for it, or were they against it? What did people think of the old plan? Were they for it, or were they against it?

Of course, the minister has this information and has chosen not to release it. According to the government — and I quote: “All feedback received during the consultation will be posted” on the website.

Will the minister be open and accountable and release this information that people want to hear about? What plan did the public support?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all those people who did take the time to provide their comments. There were many individuals and many groups as well.

During this time now, we are reviewing those comments, because that is part of the responsibility — you ask for a consultation and people provide comments, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are also compiling those comments, because they have come in many forms, from Post-it notes to voice-mails, to letters, to e-mails and comments on the website. We are putting that all together. That will come out shortly, Mr. Speaker.

We will also have a What We Heard document, which will summarize the comments that we heard.

We continue to consult with the four affected First Nations as we speak, and we will continue to do that. We will continue to live up to, as we have, all our obligations described under the Umbrella Final Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, as we have said in this House, we are seeking a balanced plan — a plan that both ensures we have our pristine wilderness, but we also respect all sectors of our economy. We are looking forward to moving this through the final stages and for closure to this land use plan.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, while all the input on the government’s redesigned Peel plan has not yet been released publicly, the minister, of course, does have that information readily accessible. He could, if he was willing, tell Yukoners how many thought the government should stick with the original plan, written by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission after much public review and scrutiny, and how many thought the government should go with the new plan that was written by the Yukon Party behind closed doors before public consultation even began. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the results are. The first round of consultations — the government seems to be ignoring those results anyway. If they don’t like what they hear this time, will they be doing the same thing? According to the government’s website, it — and I quote: “continues to meet and work with affected First Nations during the ongoing First Nation consultation process, which will end on March 25, 2013.”

Will the minister confirm that the government will not be meeting this target date for concluding consultations with First Nations on the Peel plan?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: As the member opposite knows, the period of public consultation concluded on the 25th. He mentioned that earlier. In that public consultation we have been very, very clear about what we wanted. We asked Yukoners to provide thoughtful, well-considered information and input, and many Yukoners did just that.

We heard from a range of folks from around the world — those on one side wanted to see a significant degree of protection and others wanted to see the area opened for opportunity for economic development. We heard from stakeholders, like wilderness tourism operators and outfitters who are interested in seeing no new activity in the region, and, of course, we heard from individuals and companies who have interests in the mineral claims in the regions, who value those claims and don’t want to see them expropriated.

We’re going to take all of that valuable input into consideration and do exactly what the Premier said in his last response — develop a plan that is fair and balanced and respects the wishes of Yukoners.

Mr. Silver: Despite the fact that the largest tourism organization in the Yukon has endorsed the original Peel plan, the Minister of Tourism and Culture has been silent. Instead of advocating for tourism values, he has fallen behind the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources’ plan to open the entire region to potential development.

A vocal critic of the government’s plan was the owner of Midnight Sun Outfitting. He attended a meeting with the Energy, Mines and Resources minister and told him that he didn’t like the plan. The same outfitter appeared in a photo with the Minister of Tourism and Culture on the minister’s Twitter page. It shows the minister and the outfitter at an Outside trade show promoting the Peel as a great wilderness place for hunting. Under the government’s plan, the area will be open to industrial development and its value as a wilderness hunting area will be diminished. The Minister of Tourism and Culture is happy to promote the Peel as a wilderness area outside the Yukon. When he’s here in the Yukon, he sits silently while his colleagues push a plan for the development of the same area. I have simple a question, and that is why?

Hon. Mr. Cathers: There is a simple answer — the member is wrong. In fact, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, like every member of this government, has worked collaboratively as part of this process and will continue to do exactly what the Premier committed to in the 2011 election campaign at the leaders forum on September 27 — that is, to seek a final plan that protects the environment and respects all sectors of the economy

As members know, the Premier used strong language during the election campaign to express our concerns about the commission’s proposed plan, including characterizing it as picking winners and losers and using strong words to explain why we considered it financially unaffordable and to express our vision for seeking a final plan that was fair and balanced to all users. We will continue to honour that commitment. We very much look forward to finishing reviewing the comments received from Yukoners during this consultation period. We also will consider input received from non-Yukoners, but, as was noted in the press release yesterday, the form letter and petition campaign saw 86.5 percent of the feedback from outside of the Yukon. Our primary focus is on what Yukoners think.