Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SETTING OUT THEIR PLATFORMS – Seen left to right at Tuesday evening’s election forum on environmental issues are candidates Danny Macdonald, Liz Hanson, John Streicker and Kristina Calhoun.

Candidates debate the environment, food security

Protection of the Peel Watershed, battling climate change,

By Chuck Tobin on October 19, 2016

Protection of the Peel Watershed, battling climate change, and food security were all discussed at length last night during the territorial election forum sponsored by the territory’s two major environmental organizations.

Well over 100 people were in the audience at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre as candidates of all four parties provided the party platforms and replied to specific questions put forward by special interest groups and members the audience.

At the outset, Chris Rider of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society described the forum as having the utmost importance because the environment is reaching a critical juncture.

And when Christina Macdonald of the Yukon Conservation Society closed out the evening after more than two hours of discussion, she encouraged Yukoners to question candidates at the doorstep, to talk to friends and neighbours about the issues.

“Above all,” she said, “make sure you vote on Nov. 7.”

The candidates were asked about their commitment to the development of guidelines to manage wetlands, regulations restricting the use of offroad vehicles and how their parties felt about expanding the program requiring deposits for beverage containers – including milk jugs.

They were asked about their stance on the development of oil and gas resources in the Yukon, and not just the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, but also their position on conventional drilling.

How would the parties want to be remembered by future generations who will look back at what was done to combat a warming planet?

Kristina Calhoun of the Yukon Green Party told the audience conventional wisdom says oil and gas reserves need to stay in the ground.

The children are already feeling the impact of climate change, she said.

“We can’t keep going the way we are going,” said the candidate for Riverdale North. “We have to look at other alternatives. We can do this here in the Yukon, and the Green Party is ready to do it.”

You can’t have healthy communities without a healthy environment, Calhoun said.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson emphasized her party’s commitment to ban fracking and move the territory away from its dependency on fossil fuels by focusing on renewable energy.

The economic opportunities associated with renewable energy sector these days is far greater than opportunities associated with oil and gas, she said.

It’s not enough, Hanson said, to say it’s somebody else’s problem. She noted an average temperature in the Yukon has already risen by two degrees over the last 50 years, and four degrees in the winter.

“We have to do our part,” she said.

Hanson laid out specific policy promises outlined on the party’s platform, as did Liberal candidate John Streicker and Yukon Party hopeful Danny Macdonald.

John Carney of the Yukon Fish and Game Association asked the candidates if they were willing to support the creation of a stand-alone facility to provide outdoor education initiatives.

The late and renowned Alex Van Bibber spent his life teaching others about hunting and trapping because he saw it as a platform to teach the value of conservation and support for wildlife and nature, he said.

The Yukon Party candidate for Riverdale South said his party already supports summer camps, the Old Crow muskrat camp, the annual bison hunts by elementary school trapping workshops.

The party sees the value in providing experiential opportunities on the land, Macdonald said.

“This work is already underway and will go further under the Yukon Party.”

The Liberals, said the candidate for Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes, believe in outdoor education as a means of embracing conservation values that connect Yukoners with the land.

“I think there is a suite of ways to increase the awareness and and value of the wilderness here,” Streicker said.

Candidates were asked if they would reinstate the Council on the Economy and Environment, a body meant to oversee disputes stuck in the territory’s regulatory regime.

They were asked if they would return the power of veto for First Nations in the Yukon Oil and Gas Act.

The importance of land use planning was held up by all candidates as a means to ensure a collaborative approach to mapping the territory’s future in wilderness protection and economic development opportunities.

The audience heard the candidates describe their parties’ positions on a carbon tax or some form of carbon pricing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to implement, like it or not.

Dave Loeks, the former chair of the now defunct Peel River Watershed Planning Commission, asked for certainty on their positions regarding the land use plan recommended by the commission and discarded by the Yukon Party government.

The matter is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The commission recommended 80 per cent wilderness protection over the 68,000 square kilometres, with very little allowance for access by road or rail.

Streicker reiterated the Liberals’ promise to adopt the plan recommended by the commission, as did Hanson and Calhoun.

Macdonald said the ruling by the Supreme Court will provide clarity. Once that clarity is provided, the Yukon Party will sit down with the First Nations to discuss the way forward.

His answer prompted the only tisk-tisk of the night, as faint as it was.

For the final question of the night, candidates were asked how they would like their parties to be remembered.

Streicker said the Liberals want to be remembered for sustainability, avoiding short-term decisions tied to the five-year election cycle and instead making decisions that will affect the long-term future of the territory – remembered for affecting change in how Yukoners use fossil fuel.

Hanson said the New Democrats want to be remembered for making a responsible, carefully thought out transition from dependency on fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Macdonald said the Yukon Party wants to be in a position where people look back and see that the party tackled climate change aggressively while maintaining the quality of life for Yukoners.

Calhoun, however, told the audience if there was a proportional system of voting, the views the audience – many of whom have strong opinions on the environment – would have already been heard, and many of the changes candidates talked about would have already happened.

Comments (3)

Up 2 Down 4

Revolution on Oct 24, 2016 at 11:34 am

Greenie is wrong, as usual in most cases. The process should go back to where the section that was decided upon in the Yukon Supreme Court, not right to the start. The conservation party had a plan all along and deceived voters in 2011 by telling them they didn't, then right after election day, bam, oh look we did have a plan all along. Who'da guess?

Up 5 Down 9

ProScience Greenie on Oct 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

The whole Peel planning process was flawed from day one as they had Dave Loeks, 'key member of the Tourism Industry Association Yukon and the Wilderness Tourism Association of Yukon' as chair of the Peel River Watershed Planning Commission. That was a complete conflict of interest and should never have been allowed.

The only solution for the Peel is to redo the whole process with neutral members on the Commission and with way less input from Outsiders.

It must also include an option for the creation of a park. Notice how there is no mention of a park above. Something stinks when you see self-proclaimed environmentalists not wanting a park. Most likely because parks come with tough rules and fees for eco-tourism operations and don't allow people to trophy hunt big game. Guessing they don't want a park because it would cut into their profit margins while exploiting the Peel.

Up 10 Down 7

Petronius on Oct 20, 2016 at 9:11 am

How interesting that the MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT Wade Ischentko was not the one debating for the CONservative party. Why not? Is it because he doesn't really know anything about it and wasn't comfortable letting that show? Is it because he believes it's better to falsify first then ask forgiveness after, like how he got his wilderness tourism licence??? http://www.yukon-news.com/news/kluane-mla-admits-to-falsifying-documents

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