Monday, February 24, 1997

Advice to Nunavut-watchers: don't panic

Things are just beginning to get interesting in the negotiations leading up to the division of Nunavut.

Reading our coverage of last week's summit of the main players in Cambridge Bay, it would be easy to conclude that the next couple of years are going to be less than peaceful. But we shouldn't get too worried, at least, not just yet.

First of all, no one ever said it was going to be easy. Second, what we are seeing and hearing now from the existing territorial government, the federal government and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. should not be considered final bargaining positions.

Political negotiations by their very nature demand some degree of posturing and bluffing. Good negotiators start by demanding more than they will settle for.

So when Nunavut Implemenation Commissioner John Amagoalik makes not-so-veiled accusations of a conspiracy to exclude his voice from the talks, or when Nunatsiaq MP Jack Anawak complains that NIC is overstepping its mandate, it would best not to take such statements too seriously.

In end, everyone is going to have to compromise and give up some of the things they say they shouldn't have to surrender.

Aivilik MLA Manitok Thompson is right when she says that she should be able to run against whomever she pleases in a Nunavut election. But she might have to be patient if the people of the territory approve a temporary gender-parity system of government.

And NIC commissioner Bill Lyall is right when he says he's tired of taking orders from the South. But the truth is Ottawa has more than a passing interest in the creation of Nunavut. Indeed, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Ron Irwin is obliged by law to look after every Northerner's interest, even if some Northerners don't like it.

It would be wrong to belittle anyone's arguments or their sincerity. But for the next two years, it's be important not to let cynicism get the upper hand. This isn't it game, even if sometimes it looks like one. (24/Feb/97)

Plan 2000

Plan 2000 is a move by the GNWT to get 2,000 families into their own houses by the year 2000. The intention is to get private-sector lenders such as banks involved in financing housing purchases.

However, the pressure on the housing market is for affordable rental housing. The private sector can't be expected to get involved without the profit motive.

Non-profit, co-operative housing incorporating land claims groups, the community, the government, and private sector construction expertise would come closer to solving the problem. (24/Feb/97)

Damn the torpedoes

Just what is holding back public consultation on the proposed constitution for the western NWT? The federal government has now kicked in nearly $200,000 and the GNWT is contributing a similar amount.

That kind of money represents less than a drop in a bucket for either government. There was no excuse in October for not taking the document directly on the road, so there's certainly no excuse now.

Enough already. Full speed ahead, and let the people decide whether or not cabinet Minister Jim Antoine and the Constitutional Working Group have achieved what no other group could over the last 25 years: an acceptable option. (24/Feb/97)