Peel appeal ignores spirit of final agreement: Yukon opposition

Territorial NDP and Liberal leaders say the Yukon government's plans to file an appeal of the Peel watershed decision shows bad-faith bargaining, and undermines the spirit of the umbrella final agreement.

Territorial NDP and Liberal leaders want government to abandon appeal

Opposition MLAs are criticizing the Yukon Government's decision to appeal a Yukon Supreme Court decision that overturned a controversial land use plan for the Peel Watershed. (CBC)

Yukon's opposition politicians say the territorial government is being bull-headed by seeking an appeal of the Yukon Supreme Court decision on the Peel watershed plan.

Both NDP leader Liz Hanson and Liberal leader Sandy Silver are critical of the governing Yukon Party's decision to appeal a December ruling by the Yukon Supreme Court that effectively quashed the Yukon government's land use plan for the watershed.

The ruling found that the Yukon government’s modifications to the plan did not respect the land use planning process set out in the territory’s umbrella final agreement with First Nations. Premier Darrell Pasloski has said the ruling undermines the authority of the territorial government.

"They are essentially trying to 'unwrite' a covenant, an arrangement between us as citizens and agreements between governments," said Whitehorse Centre MLA Hanson.

"I think it's fundamentally flawed, and in the long term, will be very, very expensive."

Liberal leader Silver, who represents the Klondike riding, says the government bargained in bad faith during the planning process. 

"We noticed that the modifications at that time were window-dressing at best, and now we find out that their plan really was to reject outright that plan and replace it with their own," he said.

Pasloski has argued that because the Peel watershed is public land, the territorial government should have the final say when it comes to its use. The Yukon government's land use plan provides protection from development for less than 30 per cent of the watershed, as opposed to up to 80 per cent called for by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission.

Silver said Pasloski and the territorial government refused to be honest when it chose to modify the commission's final plan.

"With one word: 'modify,' the Yukon Party government proved to be extremely disingenuous as to their real intentions, which was a full-out rejection of the plan," he said.

"So for them to say 'Now we want to have our democratic right as a freely-elected government,' well, they missed their chance."

Both Hanson and Silver say the Yukon's reputation as a predictable place to do business will be damaged, and that it's not enough to wait for the next election. They want the government to abandon its appeal now.

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