Yukon News

Mining the public purse

Wednesday April 19, 2017

On multiple occasions, Northern Cross assured Yukoners it had no plans to use fracking. Now they are suing the Yukon government because there is a five-year moratorium on fracking. In suing the Yukon government because Northern Corsst can’t do what it said it didn’t want to do, the company appears to be trying to “mine the public purse.”

I wonder if that has been the goal all along.

As industry activities go, exploiting the fine print for protection of investment is neither as messy, nor as visible, as extracting the value of natural resources from underground. As Northern Cross sets its sights on the deep pockets of a Canadian subnational government, it need not worry about getting product to market, diminishing demand, or low commodity prices. The field expertise of geologists, hydrologists, biologists and drill rig operators can be replaced by accountants and lawyers who will work behind closed doors to harvest profit from agreements that were in many cases negotiated in secret.

With respect to environmental impacts, these too are more easily mitigated by directly mining the public purse rather than natural resources. Caribou, indigenous lifestyles, even wild waters will not bear the brunt of this economic activity.

What about the public interest? Who will defend the public from this sort of predatory business practice? Not the governments which have facilitated the great diversity of foreign investment protection mechanisms, and not the media which rarely reports what is embedded in the various deals to which Yukon is party. The devil really is in the details of those darn trade and investment protection deals.

In suing Yukon, Northern Cross may well strike a lucrative vein, and they certainly would not be the first corporate entity to make a profit that way.

Tory Russell,

Whitehorse

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