Whitehorse Daily Star

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David Loeks

Previous commission has advantages: ex-chair

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.

By Chuck Tobin on November 10, 2015

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.

Comments (13)

Up 20 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Nov 14, 2015 at 2:08 pm

The 9th paragraph of this article suggests it is First Nations and environmental organizations vs. the government and industry.

Not exactly accurate as the for-profit tourism and ecotourism industries are against the government. Same with the trophy hunting industry. These industries oppose both resource development and the creation of a territorial or federal park. For them it's is as much about the money that can be made in the Peel as it is for the resource types.

Parks get in the way of profits which is why we never hear about that option from any of the parties which ironically includes CPAWS.

Up 9 Down 4

Community Gal on Nov 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

The process would not have to budget for a steep learning curve if the former commissioner did his job thoroughly and documented the opinions and input from all stakeholders. It is the nature of a bureaucracy to document information so that another can take their place. Nobody is indispensable. Proper documentation would determine whether the process and inputs were documented or whether rhetoric and bias were documented and used to filter out opinions not in line with the underlying bias.

Up 32 Down 1

Max Mack on Nov 13, 2015 at 4:31 pm

So . . . Mr. Loeks says it's not his place to recommend that the former commissioners carry on the work, but then does precisely that. Implicitly, but still.

I for one think the previous commission was biased. However, I am not confident that any commission can present a balanced plan on the Peel. Any outcome that does not cater to the environmental groups and the First Nations will be sabotaged.

There will continue to be tremendous pressure to cave in to these protection demands. The "public" no longer appreciates primary industry. And, I would go so far as to say that the "public" views resource-extraction activities with something bordering on hatred.

Up 13 Down 15

BnR on Nov 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Why not just have a referendum on this. Simple question, accept the commissions recommendations, or start again. It's contentious, it's important, and letting the Yukon public vote on it will decide it one way or the other.

Up 34 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Nov 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

Start fresh with a new group and a clear mandate. The proposed Land Use Plan is tainted by bias of various kinds. I also hope there will be some way to keep the hyperbole and over the top demonstrations from the international save the world groups from contaminating this process as well. We already have an adequate supply of BANANAS living here. (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)

Up 29 Down 0

Yukon Cornelius on Nov 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Mr. Loeks is living in fantasy-land if he thinks that the government will reappoint him. The media largely ignored it but the Court of Appeal decision wasn't exactly kind to the Commission and the way it conducted itself. Lots of blame to go around on this one.

Up 26 Down 7

yukoner on Nov 12, 2015 at 10:26 am

It's crown land not band land. They were staying off band land.

Up 10 Down 10

Give Yukoners a break on Nov 11, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Yukoners are smart and want a balance in the Peel.
Planning commission intentionally want one and the YTG did it the other way.

Up 3 Down 4

NDP leader of the new study on Nov 11, 2015 at 5:38 pm

What do you think Yukoners.

Up 25 Down 10

ralpH on Nov 11, 2015 at 8:33 am

Sometimes I wonder in politically charged process such as this one it would not be better to bring in an independent Chair from the out side. I do believe Mr Loeks does not consider the views of all Yukoners. I would even go as far as the whole committee being outsiders compiling the data and info provided by stakeholders. Otherwise this will go on forever with the agenda being hijacked by special interests. Whatever the outcome through this process I can live with it.

Up 30 Down 5

Joel on Nov 10, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Previous commission also has bias which would not be good for the process now, if it ever was.

Up 14 Down 29

joe on Nov 10, 2015 at 4:20 pm

The YP should just accept the commission’s final recommendation. Done.

Up 27 Down 5

Need new people on Nov 10, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Start over and put in place a proper planning process.

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