Thursday, August 22, 2013

Secret Peel plan results: 9,196-489

The Yukon government's own numbers - suppressed until now - show there's little public support for its decision to dump the final recommended Peel watershed land use plan.

It was recently forced to release response numbers from last winter's public consultation to the Yukon News under an access to information request.

The new figures show 9,196 responses favoured accepting the Peel planning commission's land use plan while only 489 said it should be rejected.

As for the government's new plan, which it presented during the consultation under the guise of four “proposed concepts,” only 97 responses supported it.

The government's numbers were supposed to be part of its What We Heard report. An easy-to-read table of themes and figures was included in the first two drafts. By the time it was released to the public in early April “Appendix 1” had been removed, but a reference to the numbers had inadvertently remained. 
The new numbers still don't include any verbal submissions made during public meetings held in Whitehorse, Mayo, Dawson City, Fort McPherson, Old Crow, Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik.  

More than 800 people attended one of the events. Not one person who spoke publically favoured ditching the plan prepared by the commission after six years and $1.5 million worth of work.
When the government was asked about what it heard from the public, it tried to pretend the response was anything but clear-cut.

Although these new results come as no surprise - independent analysis of the public feedback produced similar findings - they do raise more questions about the government's handling of the Peel file. 
Discussions about the future of the wilderness watershed moved behind closed doors last spring.

The government says it's meeting with the four affected First Nations - Na-cho Nyak Dun, Tr'ondek Hwech'in, Vuntut Gwitchin and the Gwich'in Tribal Council.
It has presented its position and is waiting for a response.
First Nations say the government has violated the Umbrella Final Agreement by waltzing in with a new plan at this late stage.That treaty sets out the process for regional land use planning in the territory.
They've threatened to take the Yukon government to court if it rejects the commission's plan.

Several weeks ago there was a change of command at the department in charge of the Peel plan. Brad Cathers was replaced as minister of energy, mines and resources by former Yukon Chamber of Mines executive director Scott Kent.

Click here to see the first draft of the government's table of numbers and click here to view the final draft.

To read the final What We Heard report, click here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

No more Peel for Cathers' playlist

After nearly two years of stick-handling the thorny Peel watershed issue, Yukon cabinet minister Brad Cathers has been pulled from the Energy, Mines and Resources post.
Brad Cathers
He's been sent to Community Services while Scott Kent moves from education to take Cathers' place.
The change was part of a larger cabinet shuffle announced Monday.
Cathers has taken a lot of heat trying to defend his government's decision to dump the land use plan produced by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission.
His department's replacement plan was roundly criticized by First Nations, conservation and tourism groups, and most of the public who participated in the consultations.
Although final talks between the government and First Nations have now gone behind closed doors, it looks likely the whole controversy is headed straight to court.
This change at the top gives the Yukon government a chance to alter its position without losing too much face.
Kent has never been a fan of protecting the Peel –- even when his then Liberal Party supported it - but he is well-versed on the issue.
He was the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines when the Peel planning controversy moved to centre stage. He's also been the minister of that department before, from 2000 to 2002 when the Liberals were in power.
The other two ministers on Premier Darrell Pasloski's Peel team remain the same. Currie Dixon stays on as both minister of the environment and economic development.  Mike Nixon keeps tourism and justice.
Although many expected Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias would get a cabinet post as a reward for joining the Yukon Party in early July, that didn't happen.
When he crossed the floor, he told the media the Peel file caused him some concern and that he'd be keeping an eye on it.
For the time being, he'll be doing that from the backbench.
Elias is vice-chair of the legislature's newly-formed fracking committee. That could be prove to be more challenging than he first expected since his First Nation just passed a motion to keep its traditional territory frack-free. It encompasses most of the northern Yukon along with parts of the Peel watershed.