Thursday, January 31, 2013

'Relief' extended to Peel claimholders

The Yukon government has extended its “relief order” for Peel quartz mineral claims for another year.
The order was set to expire this Monday. It’s now going to be in place until Feb. 4, 2014.
A claim post in the Peel.
Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers announced the extension at the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference being held in Vancouver this week, said a department spokesperson.
The order “provides relief" from annual assessment requirements on all claims in good standing. That means the more than 8,400 Peel claims will automatically get their expiry dates bumped ahead by another year for free.
Normally Yukon claimholders have to either do $100 worth of work or pay $100 in lieu of work to extend a 51-acre claim’s expiry date for another 12  months.
But Section 57 of the Yukon Quartz Mining Act allows the minister “to grant relief where circumstances over which a claimholder has no control may affect the ability of the claimholder to undertake annual representation work or make payment in lieu.”
Uncertainty over the future of the Peel and its controversial land use planning process was considered such a circumstance.
The “relief order” was first issued in late March, 2010, shortly after the government imposed a ban on new claim staking in the region. The "relief" only applied to 2,400 claims that were due to expire before Feb. 4, 2011.
It was renewed for a full year in 2011 and expanded to include all 8,400 plus existing claims, whether they were due to expire or not.
It was extended for another year in 2012  and again 2013.
Most of the Peel claims were staked after the land use planning process was well underway. There were only about 1,600 claims when the Peel planning commission started work in 2004.
Requests to put a moratorium on new claims until the plan was completed were initially ignored by the Yukon government.
A staking rush followed and by late 2008 there were more than 11,000 claims in good standing.
Then the markets crashed, the exploration companies moved on and they started letting their claims lapse when they expired.
Only about 8,400 remained by the time the government stemmed the lapsing tide with its “relief order” in 2010.
The Yukon may have lost several million dollars in potential revenue because of the "relief order" if all claimholders had paid the annual fee to hang on to that ground. More likely many would have simply let their Peel claims go.
Now the government's saying it has to reject the final recommended Peel plan because it can't afford to compensate the claimholders.
The plan allows existing claims to remain and to be worked. However it prohibits any new claims or roads.
The government’s website says “compensation is not being considered at this time.”   

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New date for Fort McPherson's Peel meeting

A lone snowmobile crosses the ice bridge across the Peel River.
The people who live on the Peel River will finally get to have their say about the future of the watershed on Feb. 12.
That’s the new date for the Yukon government’s public consultation meeting in Fort McPherson, N.W.T.
The government was supposed to hold its open house in McPherson on Jan. 23, but it cancelled it just a few hours before it was set to begin. It said it was too cold for its workers to make the 175-kilometre drive down the Dempster Highway from Inuvik.
It had held a meeting in Tsiigehtchic the day before when it was equally cold. But instead of continuing on to McPherson, just 57 kilometres further, to spend the night at the Peel River Inn, the six officials returned to Inuvik in their rental trucks that night.
Residents of Fort McPherson, a community 850, were extremely disappointed the meeting was called off. They’d been looking forward to telling the Yukon government what the watershed means to them.
The Fort McPherson meeting will be the last one the government will hold in the communities before it closes the consultation period on Feb. 25.
It’s already held open houses in Whitehorse, Mayo, Dawson City, Old Crow, Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic and Inuvik.
The McPherson meeting will be held at the Johnny D. Charlie Hall. It begins with lunch at 12 and runs until  5 p.m.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Provoking Peel court fight bad for mining biz

The Yukon government is hurting, not helping, the mining industry with its controversial position on the Peel land use plan, two Yukon environmental groups say.

In a news release issued just before Vancouver’s four-day Mineral Exploration Roundup started on Monday, the two groups said the government seems to be provoking a legal battle over the Peel and “putting certainty for the mining industry at risk.”

A land use plan for the Yukon portion of the transboundary watershed is in the final stages.

After more than six years of research and consultation, the Peel planning commission – as mandated by the Yukon’s treaty, the Umbrella Final Agreement - produced a final recommended plan in 2011. It protects 80 per cent of the watershed while allowing development in the other 20 per cent.

The government doesn’t like the commission’s plan so three months ago it released a new proposal that would protect none of the watershed, instead “actively managing” industrial activity such as mining and new roads.

“The Umbrella Final Agreement, which is Yukon law, lays out clearly how the land use planning process is supposed to go,” said Yukon Conservation Society executive director Karen Baltgailis in the release.

“Yukon government cannot, at this late stage in the process, propose a brand new plan that they’ve created behind closed doors with no input from affected First Nations or the public,” she said.

Land use plans are supposed to create certainty for miners and other land users so they know where they can and cannot operate, said Gill Cracknell, executive director of CPAWS-Yukon.

“But if Yukon government rejects the democratically-produced final recommended plan and tries to replace it with ‘active management’ of industry throughout the watershed, they will be creating uncertainty,” she said.

“If the final recommended plan for the Peel watershed is accepted, 20 per cent of the Peel could see some mining activity. If the Yukon government continues on its current course, 100 per cent will most likely be tied up in the courts for years.”

The government’s public consultation on the Peel plan ends Feb. 25. Following that it will begin negotiations with the First Nation governments with land in the watershed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

'Do the right thing: withdraw your plan'

INUVIK – It doesn’t seem to matter where the Yukon government sets up its Peel consultation shop, the message it receives is pretty much the same.

Protect the watershed. Accept the final recommended land use plan. Take the “concepts”off  the table.
Here on Thursday it was no different.  
Once the people got to speak that is.
As in Mayo and Dawson, Old Crow and Tsiigehtchic, the First Nations had to do a little arm twisting, so to speak, before the government agreed to turn its open house into an impromptu public meeting. But each time it seems to be put up less of a fight.
All it took was a request from the Inuvik-based Gwich’in Tribal Council and the bureaucrats lined up two rows of chairs and patiently waited for president Robert Alexie Jr. and his delegation to arrive.
When they did, Alexie first took the opportunity to give them a bit of a history lesson.
He told them about his family ties to the Yukon’s Blackstone area, his peoples’ ties to the Peel headwaters and his nation’s ties to the land, stretching from Alaska through the Yukon to the Northwest Territories.
“When I pass through the Blackstone River valley, I’m reminded that this is where my dad [Walter Alexie] was born; this is where my grandparents lived; this is where my people come from,” he said.
That’s also why the Gwich’in land claim agreement, finalized in 1992,  includes land in the Yukon.
He said they already have a land use plan for the N.W.T. part of their settlement area. Now they’re waiting for the Peel plan to cover off their Yukon lands.
The Gwich’in had a seat on the Peel commission and they were satisfied with the plan it produced.
“Then, for whatever reason that’s beyond our comprehension, the Yukon government took it upon themselves to modify and rewrite the plan in isolation from the other members of the commission,” said Alexie.
That’s “disturbing,” he said. And it goes against the spirit and intent of not only their land claim agreement but also the mandate of the Peel commission.
But it’s not too late for the Yukon government "to do the right thing:  withdraw your plan and publicly support the original plan as developed by the commission,” he said.
That plan protects 80 per cent of the watershed and leaves the other 20 per cent open for development.
The Gwich’in can live with that, Alexie said. They realize there is a need for some development.
“But some day - maybe 100 years or 1,000 or 10,000 years from now  - someone, maybe a Gwich’in, maybe one of your own descendents, may climb a mountain and look down on the land and give thanks to their ancestors for protecting the Peel,” he said. “Or they may look down and wonder what happened.”
A few seats down, his uncle, Robert Alexie Sr., who has spent years speaking about the Peel, nodded in agreement.
The Tetlit Gwich’in elder made the trip from Fort McPherson because the government cancelled the meeting it was supposed to hold there on Wednesday, saying it was too cold for its workers to travel.
One of his main concerns is keeping the Peel River free from contamination.
The people of Fort McPherson still rely on fish from the river, just as they always have, he said.
As soon as the ice goes out, the fish nets go in. “That’s our meal all summer,” he said.
Visitors to the region also prize the region’s pristine condition. The most common comment he hears from tourists is  “leave it as it is, untouched,” he said.
Abe Wilson, who also made the trip from McPherson to speak, wanted to remind the government the final recommended plan is based on the knowledge of the elders.
To dismiss it would be an insult, he said. Especially after First Nations participated in the planning process in good faith.
He said if the Yukon government doesn’t soon change its course, the conflict over the Peel plan will be headed straight to court.
Tetlit Gwich’in chief William Koe and the chief of the Inuvik Gwich’in, Herbert Blake, also urged the Yukon to take its “new plan” off the table and accept the one prepared by the commission.
Sarah Jerome, whose family comes from the Road River area, just south of McPherson, told the meeting she wants the Peel watershed protected for her children and her grandchildren.
“For their sake I will idle no more,” she said.
The government is trying to reschedule another meeting for Fort McPherson, but no date has yet been set.
That will be the last in its string of community meetings. It’s accepting written comments on the plan until Feb. 25.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yukon gov't calls off McPherson meeting

FORT MCPHERSON - The Yukon government cancelled the Peel watershed open house it had planned to hold in this community today.

It said it was too cold for its employees to make the three-hour drive from Inuvik for lunch and an afternoon meeting.

Equally cold temperatures on Tuesday didn't stop those same six officials from making the two-hour drive from Inuvik to Tsiigehtchic.

The Tsiigehtchic open house went for a few hours in the afternoon. When it was over the Yukon officials returned to Inuvik rather than carrying on down the road another 57 kilometres to nearby Fort McPherson.

They could have spent the night at the community's Peel River Inn and been ready for the community lunch and open house today.

This morning the First Nation was told the government was cancelling.

But since the food had already been prepared, the community lunch went ahead anyways. About 100 people turned up. Most didn't know the meeting had been cancelled.

Although the government has promised to reschedule its Peel open house in Fort McPherson, it didn't tell the community when that might be.
Meanwhile the Invuik open house on the Peel plan is still scheduled for Thursday. It's at the Mackenzie Hotel boardroom from noon to 6 p.m.

Flying the Peel flag

Protect the Peel stickers are everywhere in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., including this children's playground boat that overlooks the Peel River as it flows past this Gwich'in community of 850.

Gwich'in urge Yukon to accept Peel plan

TSIIGEHTCHIC, N.W.T.  – Gwich’in Tribal Council vice-president Norman Snowshoe was in no mood for government bafflegab when he turned up at the Yukon’s open house on the Peel land plan Tuesday.
After politely sharing a lunch of caribou stew and cupcakes with Yukon officials and community residents in the school gym, Snowshoe and other local leaders simply rearranged the seating, called the meeting to order and proceeded to say what they’d come to say.
The Gwich’in of the Northwest Territories support the final recommended Peel land use plan.
They’re not prepared to settle for anything less.
“We recommend to the Yukon government that they finalize the commission’s plan as agreed to in the framework, as agreed to in the planning process, and as agreed to in all the meetings we’ve had over the years to develop this,” said Snowshoe.
As for the government’s recent unilateral “rewrite” of that plan , he made it clear the four Gwich’in First Nations his council represents, including the Gwichya Gwich’in of Tsiigehtchic, most definitely do not support that.
“What the Yukon government is doing is insulting to the partners that have worked on this,” he said.
Those partners include the Yukon’s Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in and Vuntut Gwitchin.
They don’t like what the government’s doing either and it looks like the dispute may be headed to court.
The Gwich’in would rather not “deal with everything through the courts,” Snowshoe said. That’s why they negotiated land claim agreements that deal specifically with land management.
“I encourage the Yukon government to pay closer attention to the land claim agreements and what they say and how you’re supposed to deal with First Nations in the Yukon and with us in the N.W.T.,” he told the impromptu meeting.
Snowshoe, who is originally from Fort McPherson, but now works out of the council’s Inuvik headquarters, knows the Peel well. As a kid he spent part of the year trapping, fishing and travelling the region with his family.
In 2002, he got to see another side of things - he helped clean up the mess left behind by oil giant Shell when it abandoned its site on the Caribou River, a tributary of the lower Peel.
Through his work with the tribal council, Snowshoe has been involved with the Peel plan since the start.
But even that was a fight, he said.
“When we were developing that commission, it should be noted that there was great reluctance from the Yukon government to actually set up a commission to do a land use plan. It was only after a lot of lobbying by the First Nation groups of that area to get this planning process started.”
It’s important to remember the six-member commission had people appointed by both the Yukon and First Nation governments, he said.
There was also a senior liaison committee established to help work through “any differences that may arise during the planning process,”   said Snowshoe.
The Gwich’in believed in the process and participated in “good faith. “
They thought the plan produced in the end would have agreement by all. They didn’t expect the Yukon government to turn around and write a new one by itself – something the First Nations have not done, he added.
“If we agree to something, any format, any framework, we follow it,” he said. “In the years since we’ve had our land claims agreement, never once did the government of Canada or the territorial governments take us to court for not implementing our portion of the claim.”
The same cannot be said for the Yukon.
“How many times has the Yukon government been taken to court over land management processes? Is that the way you’re going to deal with your relationship with First Nations - go through the courts to determine if you’re right or wrong? Is this [the Peel] another process that you’re going to have to determine through the courts?”
Snowshoe said this was his council’s  “initial message.”He promised it’ll have more to say when it meets directly with the Yukon government in a month or so.
In the meantime, he told officials to make sure these comments were documented, recorded and posted on the Yukon government’s Peel consultation website.
It’s not right that the government isn’t sharing the public’s input as it receives it, he said.
“They’re public documents. You guys are a public government. This is a public process,” he said. “The only time anything was done in isolation was when you guys modified the plan.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fort McPherson preps for Peel meeting

Fort McPherson residents packed into the community hall Monday to prepare for a meeting with the Yukon government this Wednesday to talk about the future of the Peel watershed. Chief William Koe and elders' president Mary Teya both urged young and old to attend the govenrment meeting and tell officials why they want the Peel protected. The Fort McPherson meeting is from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 23. The Yukon government is also holding an open house in Tsiigehtchic Jan. 22 and in Inuvik Jan. 24.   

Friday, January 18, 2013

'An open house is not a consultation'

OLD CROW – Vuntut Gwitchin elder and Yukon dogmushing legend Stephen Frost is a straight shooter.
The 81-year-old admits he doesn’t know much about the far away Peel River watershed, but he’s certainly no stranger to the land that lies in between.
So instead of giving his two bits about the Peel to the six-member Yukon government contingent at their open-house-turned-public-meeting on Monday, Frost said he wanted to tell a story.
It was 1954. He was with Charlie Abel, who later became chief of the First Nation.
They were travelling by dogteam between Johnson Creek and the Whitestone River when they ran into the first seismic crew clawing its way through the Eagle Plain region by bulldozer.
The newcomers were friendly enough. They even showed the young mushers how to drive to a Cat and work the blade.
But the chance encounter marked the start of a new era that doesn’t hold many other fond memories.
“Too many times we see damage done to the land,” said Frost. “Way back, there’s some awful stories about what’s been left by oil companies. I’m not against nobody, I’m just telling the story of why people are so darned worried.”
Worried about the land. Worried about the water.  And especially worried about the Porcupine caribou herd.
So closely tied are the two that the map of the barrenground caribou’s range is a mirror image of the map of the Gwich’in nation.
“That poor Porcupine caribou herd - it don’t mean a darn thing to some people in the south and it shouldn’t. It’s not their style of life but to us it means lots,” said Frost.
“I guess we depend on that Porcupine caribou herd like a lot of people depend on farming.”
Frost almost didn’t get the chance to tell his story.
When he first arrived at the community hall, the bureaucrats tried to send him and several others on the “information station” circuit. Instead the men grabbed chairs at the first table they came to, sat down and politely listened while former politician Lorraine Netro pushed for a presentation and comment period.
“An open house is not consultation,” said Netro. “It’s not the way we do it here.”
After some deliberation, the government finally caved, but by then a group of school students who’d come to learn about the Peel had already bailed.
Before the presentation began, Netro gave an opening prayer, followed by a few moments of silence in honour of former Peel commissioner and Tr’ondek Hwech’in chief Steve Taylor, who died suddenly on the weekend.
Then senior planner Jim Bell tried to spell out what the government is trying to do with the Peel, but he spoke so quietly, and without a microphone, that few, including Frost, could hardly hear a word he said.
When the floor finally opened for public comment, William Josie wasted no time reminding the government about its obligations under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
“There was a process through the UFA and I recommend to your government to stick to that process,” said Josie.
“We had a letter of understanding….If you stray from the UFA, there will be no more land plans in the Yukon and it’s all going to end up in court.”
Netro also urged the government to scrap its new “concepts” and go with the plan prepared by the planning commission after its years of research and consultation.
“We have to have a clear understanding of what the meaning of consultation is,” she said.
“What it means to you is very different than what it means to me….Our voices are not being heard. We can have a consultation process and what we say and what you say you’re going to do are two different things.”
Look no further than the TV to see that First Nations across the country are losing trust in the way government is doing business, she said.
“The First Nations people in northern Alberta can’t even eat their fish now because the waters are poisoned,” said Netro. “We don’t want that to happen in the Yukon.”
To Stanley Njootli Jr., who chairs the North Yukon Renewable Resource Council, the final recommended plan – which protects 80 per cent of the watershed – seems to be what most Yukoners want for the region.
“This is the voice of the people - this final recommended plan - and I think it should stand as the final recommended plan,” he said.
“The consultations were all done, all across the board, all across the Yukon….This [the plan] is the voice of the people and the voice of the people should be heard.”
The North Yukon land use plan, which was finalized by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Yukon government in 2009, never had the problems the Peel is experiencing, the resource council’s Nick Gray pointed out.
“That process went quite well in comparison to this one,” said Gray. “They didn’t run into this kind of thing.”
However, the government didn’t introduce new “concepts” at the 11th hour to undermine the North Yukon plan like it has with the Peel.
He said Old Crow had faith in the Peel commission because it had a Vuntut Gwitchin representative and it came to the community to hear what the people had to say.
When he asked the officials if the government will listen if most people support the final recommended plan, they said they couldn’t say because they aren’t the decision-makers.
But they assured him that no decisions had yet been made.
“The consultation is on the final recommended plan,” said government planner Manon Moreau.
“As part of the consultation, we wanted to add some information about another zoning to try to see if there was any appetite there, to see if we could get some feedback on that,” she said of the government’s Peel “concepts.”
The public has until Feb. 25 to submit comments about the Peel plan.
Following that the government plans to hold consultations with First Nation governments, she said.
Vuntut Gwitchin chief Joe Linklater didn’t attend the open house even though he was in town.  Since the government has left the four affected First Nations out of this consultation process, the First Nation governments, in turn, have not participated in the open houses.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Stick with final Peel plan, says Old Crow

OLD CROW – The Peel watershed may be miles away from this remote village on the Porcupine River, but support for the final recommended land use plan seems to be as strong as anywhere else.
In part because the Peel is part of the Vuntut Gwitchin’s traditional territory and in part because it includes some of the Porcupine caribou herd’s winter range.
Despite howling winds and blowing snow, several dozen people turned up at the Yukon government’s open house, held at the community hall on Monday.
But they weren’t interested in visiting the “stations” set up to provide information on what one bureaucrat referred to as the two plans – the commission’s and the government’s.
Nor were they prepared to simply converse with one of the six officials on an individual basis.
They wanted a public presentation so the people could understand why the government had come to the community of 250 and what it wanted.
They also wanted the chance to speak and to ask questions, like at normal public meetings.
After some serious arm twisting by former politician Lorraine Netro, the government finally, but reluctantly, agreed to do both. But not until 3 p.m., just an hour-and-a-half before officials had to jump back on the charter plane that had delivered them from Whitehorse shortly before lunch.
For the first time during this round of consultations, government planner Jim Bell gave a power point presentation that spelled out the government's take on the Peel. The only problem was he spoke so quietly most people could hardly hear what he had to say, including several elders.
Then it was the public’s turn to talk and their message was loud and clear: stick with the final recommended plan.
That’s the plan developed by the planning commission, which included a Vuntut Gwitchin representative, they said.
The plan that protects 80 per cent of the watershed and is based on seven years of research and consultation.
And the plan that has almost nothing in common with the government's new plan or "concepts."
"It's completely different," said Netro when it was her turn to speak.
And that's not going to fly.
“Our position, that was clearly stated to the commission when they came to Old Crow, is we want 80 per cent protection of that area,” she said.
“I don’t think that’s changed and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
The final plan reflects what most Yukoners want, said Stanley Njootli Jr., who chairs the North Yukon Renewable Resource Council.
“This is the voice of the people - this final recommended plan - and I think it should stand as the final recommended plan,” he said.
The process for developing the regional land use plans is laid out in the Umbrella Final Agreement, resident William Josie reminded the government.
Straying from that process could bring land use planning to a halt and send the whole issue to court, he said.
The North Yukon land use plan, finalized in 2009, is the only one that’s made it through the entire process.
And although it had its problems, that process “went quite well” in comparison to the Peel, said Nick Gray, who works for the resource council.
Noticeably absent from the community meeting was the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government.
Unlike the 2010 consultations held jointly by the Yukon and four First Nations government, this time around the territory has decided to go it alone.
First Nations say that’s contrary to the UFA and its land use planning provisions. With possible lawsuits looming, now they’re treading carefully when it comes to the dealings on the Peel with YTG.
Once the public comment period closes Feb. 25, the Yukon plans to hold government-to-government consultations with the First Nations.
Those attending the Old Crow meeting also took a few moments to pay silent tribute to Peel commissioner Steve Taylor, who died suddenly on the weekend.
The former Tr’ondek Hwech’in chief was on the commission when it produced the final recommended plan. He was also the First Nation’s representative on the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission.
Next week the Yukon government wraps up its community meetings with open houses in Tsiigehtchic, Fort McPherson and Inuvik.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013: the Peel on tap

The Peel watershed had a wild political ride in 2012, but it may pale bycomparison to what lies ahead in 2013.
Between controversial consultations on the final recommended land use plan, pending lawsuits from Peel First Nations and growing public anger over the way the Yukon government is handling the issue, news about the region is bound to stay in the headlines for another year.
January kicks off with more community consultations on the Peel plan.
The Yukon government is holding open houses in Old Crow Jan. 14, Aklavik Jan. 15, Tsiigehtchic Jan. 22, Fort McPherson Jan. 23 and Inuvik Jan. 24.  
Unlike 2010, when consultations were done in conjunction with the affected First Nations, this time the government has decided to go it alone. Either way officials can expect to get an earful just as they did before Christmas in Dawson City, Mayo and Whitehorse.
So far most people have told the government to dump its new “concepts” and accept the final recommended plan, prepared by the planning commission.
Just as the community meetings wrap up, the high-profile Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver will get underway. Although the Peel's not on the agenda at the Jan. 28-31 conference, it’ll likely come up for discussion along with the growing list of uncertainties facing the Yukon's mining industry.
In early February, the government’s “relief order” for Peel claims is due to expire. Since it was first issued in 2010, all 8,400 claims in the region have been automatically renewed each year for free. Claimholders haven't had to do any work or pay $100 to keep each 51-acre claim in good standing.
The question is whether the government will extend the “relief” once again.
As for Valentine’s Day, this year it’s likely going to be about a lot more than hearts and chocolates.
Feb. 14 will mark 40 years since Yukon First Nation leaders asked Ottawa to begin treaty negotiations and presented their historic document, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow.
It would take another 20 years to finalize that treaty - the Umbrella Final Agreement  - but by Feb. 14, 1995 the first four First Nations – including the Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Vuntut Gwitchin – were ushering in a new era of self-government.
Joint land use planning was a central piece of the UFA.
This important land claims anniversary was also the day chosen by the Yukon government last February to announce it had rejected the final recommended Peel plan and was paving the way for industrial development throughout the region.
This year it’s picked Feb. 25 as the last day it will accept public comments about the future of the Peel. Submissions can be emailed to or faxed to 867-393-7421 or mailed to Box 2703, Yukon Government, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2C6.
To date all comments it's received are still under wraps, but it's promised to release them in late February.
Although the public comment period ends Feb. 25, the government says First Nations consultation will run for another month. It's not clear exactly what that will entail.
Pro-Peel protection and democracy protests bookended the past two sittings of the Yukon legislature. When MLAs return to work sometime in the next few months, they'll likely face more voter discontent and it could be even louder given the up and coming Idle No More movement.
The spring sitting usually begins in March, but no date has yet been announced.
By April, attention will turn to the Peel moratorium on new claim staking and oil/gas/coal dispositions. Right now the government has only promised to keep the ban until May 4.
The ban was first put in place for a year in February 2010 while a final land use plan was completed. It's been extended several times since then, most recently last September for another eight months.
If the ban is lifted, claim-stakers will flood into the region, snapping up ground that one day may yield financial compensation payments.Thousands of new claims could be staked in a matter of months.
Many are hoping First Nations won't let it get that far.
They're threatening to take the government to court for violating the terms of Umbrella Final Agreement in its handling of the planning process. If they do, that will likely bring Peel planning to a screeching halt and could force an extension of the staking ban.
If not, the government will likely take the Peel issue back behind closed doors until it has a final plan in hand. Given there is no timeline laid out for that, it could be weeks or months or even longer.
Whatever the case, the first half of 2013 is going to be anything but dull.
Beyond that all that seems certain is uncertainty for all.