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  • Writer's picturePatti Pontoon

Tunnel exposes YESAB corruption

WHITEHORSE - 'Silver Bullet' to carry traffic under Yukon River

Diagram of the planned 'Silver Bullet' project released by Yukon Highways and Public Works on May 8 (Graphic: Yukon HPW)

The Yukon Government announced plans today to construct a 500 metre long underwater tunnel connecting Dawson City to West Dawson.

Named the 'Silver Bullet,' the infrastructure project will see two high-speed trains carrying vehicles and pedestrians under the Yukon River.

The announcement was made in a written statement issued by the office of Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.

According to the statement, the project will go to public consultation and be submitted for review to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Board Assessment Board (YESAB).

Silver made clear, however, that the results of public consultations will be ignored and that YESAB will undoubtedly endorse the project.

"YESAB's loyalty to the Liberal Party is not in question" Silver claimed.

"YESAB's loyalty to the Liberal Party is not in question." - Yukon Premier Sandy Silver

Liberal takeover of YESAB

Silver appeared to be making reference to his party's gradual takeover of YESAB, a body that is supposed to be independent and arms-length from government.

The chair of YESAB, Laura Cabot, was the president of the Liberal Party in 2016 when Silver become Premier.

As party president, Cabot defended the illegal use of proxy votes by Liberal candidate Tamara Goeppel.

She also defended Liberal MLA Jeanie Dendys from allegations that her staff drove intoxicated people to the polls to vote for her.

Another board member, Kirk Cameron, was Liberal Party president in 2011 when Silver was elected MLA for Klondike.

Cameron ran as a Liberal candidate in the Whitehorse Centre riding that same year.

Conflict of interest

YESAB's website says that Cameron has a consultancy company that works on public infrastructure projects. This means he stands to benefit from projects that YESAB endorses.

Cameron is also listed as the "Northern Business Development Lead" for CH2M HILL, an engineering firm exposed in a national scandal along with the Yukon Government in 2016.

An investigation at the time found that the Yukon Government paid CH2M Hill $82M, instead of the agreed $20M, for remediation work on the Faro mine that never actually happened.

Both Cameron and Cabot were serving on the YESAB board on May 1 when it endorsed the Yukon Government's widely-opposed Alaska Highway upgrades.

Conflicts of interest on the YESAB board are illegal and expressly prohibited under section 13(1) of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

Suppressing public opinion

Liberal Party control of YESAB means that Cabot and Cameron are in a position to override the input of other board members, especially when there is a three-person committee such as the one formed to review the Alaska Highway upgrades.

"The Liberal Party knows full well that nobody wants or needs either the Alaska Highway upgrades or the Silver Bullet" NDP leader Kate White told the Whitewash news.

"By neutralizing the voice of public opinion on powerful boards like YESAB, the government is stripping Yukoners of their rights in the most Machiavellian way possible."

"The government is stripping Yukoners of their rights in the most Machiavellian way possible." - NDP leader Kate White

Minister for Highways and Public Works Richard Mostyn acknowledged that the projects are not needed but denied allegations that his government is being underhanded.

"I believe we have been quite open about how we do things" Mostyn said. "Everybody knows by now that our election promises and public consultations were purely for show."

"Luckily, YESAB looks at impact only and not at whether the public needs or wants a project."

"This allows us to ignore public opinion and at the same time create a false impression that YESAB's endorsement is all we need to move ahead."

Artist's impression of Premier Silver's 'Silver Bullet' train (Image: Yukon HPW)

Bullet-speed project?

The Yukon Government said it has no plans to share the Silver Bullet's price tag or completion date with the public.

According to Mostyn, the high-speed trains that will carry vehicles and passengers will eventually be ordered from Japan.

The trains have a maximum speed of 260 km/h but will be limited to just 0.7 km/h in Dawson City due to the short length of the crossing.

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