Consultation called 'a farce'
Non-skaters, low-income kids already left out in cold

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 25/97) - The public consultation process on the future community centre complex has been undermined by the fact that the big-money decision has already been made, say some community group leaders.

"It was a farce," said Lydia Bardak of a meeting organized to hear the views of user groups.

The executive director of the NWT Council of Disabled Persons noted that, before consultation even began, the city decided to spend more than $6 million on two arenas.

Council approved construction of the twin-arena portion of the project Dec. 9, although a budget for the project has yet to be established.

"It's obvious the arena is the priority," said Eileen Fitzpatrick, executive director of the John Howard Society of the NWT. "We should be addressing the needs of the rest of the community, not just the hockey players and figure skaters."

Bardak said a gym and indoor track would better serve the needs of the general community than an arena. Fitzpatrick said a city as wealthy as Yellowknife should have had a youth centre long ago.

"What about the folks who don't have a high income?" asked Bardak. "What about the folks who aren't elite athletes? What is the city of Yellowknife doing to address their needs?"

At the meeting, representatives of community organizations were asked to rank items on a priority list in order of importance.

After the results were tabulated, meeting facilitator Gary Debney said the twin arenas had been ranked No. 1.

"It was quite clear to everybody they were trying to make it appear we had a choice on it," said Bardak. "But no matter how you voted, the arena would have come out No. 1."

Meeting facilitator Gary Debney said results were based solely on the priorities indicated by those at the meeting. Debney is part of the Park Sanders Adam Vikse engineering team overseeing the project.

He said survey numbers won't be available until after consultation is concluded.

Another meeting of user groups was held Wednesday night and input from the general public was gauged Thursday.