Question re: YESAA process - October 26, 2015

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. For the last two years, the Government of Yukon worked hand in hand with the former Conservative government in Ottawa and our former Member of Parliament to pass S-6. A visit to the territory by Prime Minister Harper during the federal election campaign confirmed that the four problematic sections of the bill came from the Premier and the Yukon Party government.

Yukon First Nations are strongly opposed to these four sections and sued the Government of Canada over them. Despite the lawsuit, the Premier continued to back the federal government’s approach and even endorsed our former MP and his approach. The new federal government has vowed to repeal the four sections of the bill.

Will the Premier now support the new federal government’s decision to repeal these amendments?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: As I have spoken and stated in this House and outside this House many, many times, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and Bill S-6 are federal legislation. It is federal legislation. This government will not be a barrier if the new federal government decides to make amendments to their federal legislation.

I have stated that I do believe that there is another path forward. I have spoken to First Nations. I have reached out to them to have a discussion — a conversation — on how we can move forward. I was happy to report last week that First Nations have agreed to sit down. They would like to have a trilateral conversation. I have said that I am more than willing to co-sponsor a letter to the new Prime Minister encouraging that conversation.

In the end, as I have always stated, Yukoners support an opportunity for economic investment and any time that we can have a legislation that allows us to be on a level playing field, consistent with other jurisdictions — that’s a good thing.

Mr. Silver: Yukon First Nations have been very clear. They are not interested in implementation of the four contentious amendments in Bill S-6. They are only interested in striking out those problematic four clauses from the bill.

For the record, they are also not impressed with the Premier’s offer to help them write letters to a new Prime Minister either.

Many First Nations chiefs, development corporations and individual First Nation people want to see resource development proceed. Now, the Yukon Party government does as well, but it has demonstrated that it is incapable of working with Yukon First Nations to achieve this common goal. The fact that Yukon First Nation governments are in court over S-6 and the fact that the major problem is the last-minute changes championed by this Premier prove that. The Yukon Party’s approach has eroded trust between the two levels of government to the point where it is impossible to repair.

Does the Premier now see the negative his approach has had on the economy and will he now support seeing these four amendments scrapped?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: As I have stated, this is federal legislation. This government will not be a barrier to the federal government making amendments if they so choose. There is another path forward and I’m pleased to say that Yukon First Nations have agreed to sit down and have that conversation and I look forward to that conversation.

In the end, it is federal legislation, it always has been and if they choose to make amendments this government will not be a barrier.

Mr. Silver: It’s very unfortunate that the Yukon Party continues to take the path of most resistance when it comes to First Nation relations.

There is no support for these four amendments that were added at the last minute by his government. The new Government of Canada has recognized this and has signalled it will remove them. There are still improvements to our environmental assessment process that absolutely need to happen. What this government doesn’t seem to grasp after four years in office is that they have to be part of a good-faith negotiation process between different levels of government. Yukon First Nation governments are having a hard time trusting the Yukon Party. Neither the lawsuit nor the defeat of the local Conservative candidate seems to have made that message clear to the Premier. Continuing to support four failed amendments that have had no consultation is not a good start.

When is the Premier going to accept the fact that his four amendments are dead in the water?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: What is obvious is that the Leader of the Liberal Party didn’t have anything else to say after I answered the question originally. He continued on with his prepared speech that his staff provided him with. I was very clear to say that the new federal government — if they choose to make amendments to their legislation, this government will not be a barrier. I have reached out prior to the tabling of that legislation to see whether or not there was an opportunity for conversation with First Nations. They have agreed to that conversation. I am willing to sign a joint letter urging the Prime Minister to have his people go forward on a trilateral discussion about these amendments. In the end, we believe that having an environmental process that is consistent with other jurisdictions allows this jurisdiction to remain more competitive.