Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The past chair of the disbanded Peel planning commission says it’s not his place to recommend whether the old commission or a new successor should handle the new process.
David Loeks said in his opinion, however, it makes better sense to have the former commissioners do the work. They understand the background, they were at the public meetings the first time around and they’ve heard the arguments from both sides, Loeks pointed out.
“I think the original commission will probably be able to function in a more informed way than a brand new one,” he said.
Loeks said if the decision is made to go with an entirely new Peel land use planning commission, the parties would have to budget for a steep learning curve.
The Yukon Court of Appeal has ordered the territorial government and affected First Nations back to the planning table.
It found the government failed in its participation during the planning process.
The court ordered the parties to return to the point in the process where the commission delivered its initial recommendation for the government to review and comment on in 2011.
It ordered the government to provide a clear, concise and full response to the recommendation in the next go-around, unlike the first time around, when its response was vague and cryptic.
The Peel land use plan has been controversial since the commission tabled its first three options in 2009.
The First Nations and environmental organizations favour maximium wilderness protection. The government and industry want a land use plan that provides more of a balance between development opportunities and wilderness protection.
Loeks said if the decision is to go with the original planning commission, he has no idea if the original members are available or would be willing to return to a planning exercise they were involved in for several years.
One of the six members, Steve Taylor, has passed away, though Loeks said he does not see an issue bringing a replacement up to speed.
With Taylor’s death, Loeks said, the commission has lost the valuable knowledge and input of a commissioner who knew the aboriginal land claim agreements inside and out.
“The only thing to be said for an absolutely new commission is, frankly, it might be more palatable for the Yukon government,” he said.
Premier Darrell Pasloski said last Friday the government is satisfied with the court’s decision.
Whether the parties decide to go with a new planning commission or attempt to reconvene the previous commission is a matter to be discussed with the First Nation leaders, Pasloski said.
He said whether they’ll attempt to get a commission back together before next year’s territorial election is also a matter to be discussed.
The two First Nations and two environmental organizations which launched the court action against the government have indicated they’re still reviewing the decision and have not decided whether they’ll appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Yukon government rejected the commission’s final recommendation for a land use plan and instead implemented its own plan.
Justice Ron Veale of the Yukon Supreme Court struck down the government’s land use plan because he found the government’s conduct during the planning process had been less than honourable.
As a result, he ordered the government to accept the commission’s final recommendation and the government appealed to the Yukon Court of Appeal.
While agreeing with Veale’s finding of dishonourable conduct, the Court of Appeal overturned his order that the government must accept the commission’s final recommendation.
It would not be in the public’s interest and in the keeping with the spirit and intent of the aboriginal land claim agreements to force the government to accept the final recommendation, the Court of Appeal ruled.
It said it would be better to return the parties to the point where the process went off the rails, to the point where the government accepted the initial recommendation, prior to the government providing its vague response.
The Court of Appeal also said the planning commission could have gone to greater lengths to have the government provide a more fulsome response to its initial recommendation.
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