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Hot air in the cool North

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Screen Shot of a Yukon Government Oil and Gas Request for Posting web page that

A funny thing happened when the Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski popped into the local supermarket to perhaps pick up some groceries. He called a territorial election.

This election call was no surprise. An election had to be called this month as the current five year mandate has expired. What was a bit odd was having the photo opportunity of the election call at a grocery store. The fresh produce aisle, if you must know.

The reason soon became clear as the premier stated that his party, the small C conservative Yukon Party, will, if re-elected, fight the Government of Canada’s proposed carbon tax initiative tooth and nail. 

The Yukon Party used to be the Yukon Progressive Conservatives, but rebranded themselves during the federal Conservative implosion of the nineties under Mulroney and Campbell. The Yukon Party does certainly seem of late to have dropped the progressive bit. 

Everything in the store, according to Pasloski, will go up because of the dreadful carbon tax. The Yukon Party even put out a press release a few days prior to the event partly headlined, Yes cost of diapers will go up

Many others elsewhere have explained in greater detail and with better accuracy than this blogger possibly could on how the system will work. But no matter, the Yukon Party is dead set against it. 

Of course the premier forgot to mention that the tax as envisioned by the Federal government will be revenue neutral and all the spoils will be returned to the originating jurisdiction to be spent or redistributed as it sees fit. 

To their credit the Yukon New Democrats, the Yukon Liberals and the Yukon Greens are all supportive of some form of a carbon tax. All these parties are running candidates in the territorial election. 

Now for those interested in such matters, the Yukon Party is quite resource extraction oriented. 

But they have been a little bit leery around some oil and gas issues. They called a moratorium on fossil fuel exploration in the Whitehorse area when almost the entire populace of the greater Whitehorse region, including no doubt a lot of their supporters, came out against it. But that moratorium expires with this current government term. 

The Yukon Party also participated in a legislative committee on fracking, the convoluted end result being that it could possibly go ahead in the south-east Yukon in the future, but only with the support and involvement of affected First Nations. This support has not been forthcoming. 

Of late, a notion has been kicked out into the public arena for contemplation that developing a local fossil fuel industry would mean the Yukon could stop importing fossil fuels. 

There has been no recognition that as soon as one develops a fossil fuel industry every effort is made to develop a huge one so as much as possible can be exported. 

Also, there has been little to no discussion among the powers-that-be about developing small scale renewable energy and attempting to get the Yukon off fossil fuels completely. 

However, among the general populace the idea of fossil fuel development is controversial in the Yukon. Factor in the remoteness of the Yukon and the lack of fossil fuel infrastructure -- that is probably why there has been so little of it in the territory. 

Yukoners are aware of the environmental horror show that is north-east British Columbia. Every time one of us has to drive the Alaska Highway south we get to witness what the impacts of fossil fuel activity is on the boreal forest. In a nutshell, it is not good. 

But aside from the development in the Yukon’s neighbouring jurisdiction, which could easily seep over into the south-east Yukon, there is a different fossil fuel threat this time in the north-central Yukon -- in the remote Eagle Plain basin.

This brings us to a curious delay by the Yukon Government in releasing some fossil fuel related information. 

Every six months the Yukon Government issues a Request For Posting (RFP) for fossil fuel companies to state which area of the Yukon they would like to bid on for exploration rights.  

The government takes these RFPs, consults with affected First Nation governments, non-governmental groups and the general public on the area in question, and once concerns have been addressed (which usually involves reducing the size of the land area originally requested in the RFP) the land is put out to bid on by fossil fuel companies. 

However, something unusual has happened to the most recent one. The RFP closed on July 13th, but the government has been sitting on the requests for three months. Usually the results are released within a few weeks and a sixty day public review period starts. Not this time. This time there has been a three month delay. 

The Yukon is a small place population wise. Word gets around. 

And the word is that the area requested by a fossil fuel company is allegedly just south of some current exploration permits in the Eagle Plain region. This is in the north-central Yukon, and is the wintering grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd

If the results of the fossil fuel Request For Posting are not released until after the election it will not be an issue that the Yukon political parties will have to state their positions on. 

This is very convenient for the Yukon Party, similar to the situation the same party took on a process known as the Peel Watershed Land Use Plan back during the 2011 election. Simply put, they refused to say what their position was on a recommended land use plan, but once re-elected they rejected it and substituted their own. This saga is now tied up in the courts, and will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in March of 2017. 

But hey, it is apparently okay for the Yukon Party leader and premier of the Yukon to stand in front of a pile of vegetables and fret about whether the price of onions will go up a few pennies. 

It might be more appropriate to state where a party stands on whether they intend to commit the Yukon to a fossil fuel future, along with all the horrors of climate change, fracking, and ecological destruction that could entail.

Maybe someone is channelling former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell who was famously misquoted on her path to electoral defeat as saying "an election is no time to discuss serious issues."

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