Yukon fracking opponents say report shows public is against it

NDP MLAs and a local citizens group say opposition to fracking in the territory is overwhelming, in the wake of a committee report released yesterday.

Yukoners Concerned About Oil and Gas Exploration say report is legitimate call for 'full moratorium'

NDP MLAs Jim Tredger and Lois Moorcroft say the government won't accept that Yukoners don't want fracking in the territory. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A committee report released yesterday by the Yukon Legislature on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, demonstrates the Yukon government has no mandate to pursue it, according to two opposition committee members and a citizens' group. 

MLA Jim Tredger, who represents the Mayo-Tatchun riding and sat on the committee as a member of the territorial NDP, said the evidence heard from First Nations and Yukoners is overwhelmingly against developing a fracking industry in the territory.

"Their concern for and connections to the environment... their sense of stewardship for future generations is evident," he said. 

"I'm honoured to repeat their clear message: Yukoners do not want fracking. I heard this time and again."

The Select Committee on the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing made 21 recommendations in its report, released Monday. 

However, it also noted the all-party committee couldn't reach consensus on points like whether fracking is safe, or whether it should take place in the Yukon.

NDP member Lois Moorcroft, MLA for Copperbelt South, says the committee's inability to reach consensus bodes ill for those who oppose fracking

One sticking point for the committee was whether the government needs to have "social license," or general public approval, to pursue fracking. According to Moorcroft, the three government Yukon Party MLAs on the committee, Patti McLeod, Currie Dixon, and Darius Elias, resisted making a recommendation on the issue.

"The inability of the committee to reach a consensus, despite a severe lack of scientific knowledge about fracking, and the staunch public opposition, goes a long way to show that the government remains determined to put rose-coloured glasses on this report and dismiss the concerns raised by hundreds of Yukoners," she said.  

Dixon, however, says it's hardly a surprise that representatives from three different political parties would disagree on fundamental issues.

Governing Yukon Party MLA Currie Dixon says disagreements on fundamental issues are not surprising when politicians from three parties are involved in a discussion. (CBC)

"What we were able to reach consensus on was a variety of issues including the need for additional data," Dixon says.

"We weren't able to reach consensus on some of the more fundamental issues, that's just the nature of having six different individuals from three political parties trying to reach consensus."

'A legitimate call for a full moratorium'

Malcolm Mills, co-chair of Yukoners Concerned About Oil and Gas Exploration, was more optimistic. He said the committee's recommendation that government have support of First Nations before fracking takes place on traditional territories speaks volumes about what will happen next.

"I think it makes a legitimate call for a full moratorium," he said. "With regards to the recommendations, if those are accepted by the government, it has in effect created a moratorium already."

Mills noted that the territory's First Nations governments are unified in their opposition to fracking. In 2013, the Council of Yukon First Nations passed a resolution declaring all traditional territories to be 'frack free.'

That, plus the signatures of over 7,000 Yukon residents in two separate petitions delivered to the legislature last year, means the government doesn't have public approval to frack, said Mills, who admitted that there is "still work to be done."

"I think at some point, the government has to start listening," he said. 

"First Nations members have said 'No.' Over 7,000 people have said 'No.' There is no way that they'd be able to state that they had social license. The may have corporate license. They do not have social license."

Yesterday, Premier Darrell Pasloski, of the governing Yukon Party, said in a statement that the government will review the report's findings before deciding how to proceed.