Wednesday, April 2, 1997

If the price is right...

Of course the City of Yellowknife should buy Northland Utilities Ltd., if that means real savings to the city's residents.

But some of what we've heard so far -- potential savings, $250,000 in court costs, accusations of a power grab and invalid process -- has us wondering just whether or not the city knows what it's getting into.

Theoretically, cutting out the middleman -- the power distributors who purchase power from one entity (Northwest Territories Power Corporation) and then sell it to another (the consumers of Yellowknife) -- would, if done properly, make for a more efficient service.

Savings of between 3.5 and 6.5 per cent would be seen at the distribution level, according to a study done by the Power Corp. Surely those savings would in turn be passed on to the consumer at a slightly lower rate.

And if that was the scenario, 100 per cent guaranteed, not a single person would be questioning a move by the city to take over Northland.

However, with the city not even sure that a takeover is possible and already spending tens of thousands of dollars to study the options, we're not sure if this isn't -- as Northland shareholder Jack Walker phrased it -- a power grab or empire-building.

What has us even more nervous is Northland officials saying that an independent appraisal of its assets that came in at $15.7 million underestimated the actual value as much as $6 million, which means someone's figures are way out of whack.

If city hall is going to purchase Northland for the good of the residents, then fine, go right ahead.

But if the city and the power corporation just want to cut out the middleman for the sake of gaining more direct control, then they should drop the ball now, before any more money is spent.

Answers needed

Residents of Finlayson Drive North are asking tough questions about a proposed psychiatric group home the territorial Department of Health and Social Services wants to open in the neighborhood.

They need answers. The proposed home would house up to four "clients in crises" for up to six months at a time, according to a report on the home. One neighbor made the point clearly, asking at a council meeting, "Are there pedophiles or sexual offenders living next door to my children?" She has yet to receive an answer.

City council is expected to discuss the department's development application to open the home at its next meeting, April 7.

Giving a little of yourself

Not everyone is a regular blood donor, but at least the practice is a firmly entrenched one in Canada and much of the rest of the world. Without reliable and accessible supplies of blood, thousands of people facing operations or suffering from injuries would be condemned to a needless death.

They don't call it the gift of life for nothing.

The need for bone marrow is not as great and matching up compatible donors and recipients is much more difficult -- even between family members a match is not assured -- but the argument for donating marrow is just as compelling.

Yellowknife's Travis Arychuk has leukemia and requires an infusion of someone else's marrow -- the fluid factory that produces the white blood cells that fight disease. Doctors say he has about six months to live unless a suitable donor can be found.

We can think of no reason why any healthy resident between the age of 17 and 50 in the city shouldn't be tested to see if his or her marrow could do the job. All it takes is a blood sample. Selected donors suffer little discomfort and the body would replace the marrow within a few weeks.

But this isn't just about Travis. Sooner or later another Northerner will face a similar threat -- leukemia is rare, but not extremely so. Meanwhile, there's no reason why marrow collected in the NWT can't be used to save the life of someone from elsewhere in Canada or the U.S.

Stanton Regional Hospital is only asking for 200 willing donors to show up to add their name to the Unrelated Bone Marrow Registry this Sunday afternoon. We would be surprised if this city can't produce that many citizens willing to give up nothing more than an hour out of their weekend.

Do it not just for Travis, but for every leukemia patient who might one day need something that only a few other people have -- a very specific and special gift of life.