Sahtu loses contract bid
Kakfwi blames bad advice, poor advance planning

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 26/97) - The Sahtu land claim's business arm is demanding that a government firefighting contract go to Canadian Helicopters instead of the successful bidder.

The helicopter contract for the Sahtu was first awarded in February 1997 to the lowest bidder, Thebacha Helicopter. But the company couldn't fulfil all its commitments.

Then the Territorial Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development awarded the unfulfilled part of the contract to Great Slave Helicopters, which had been the second-lowest bidder.

The Norman Wells Claimant Corporation and its partner -- Canadian Helicopters -- are considering appealing the decision, according to Larry Tourangeau, president of the Ernie McDonald Land Corporation in Norman Wells.

Tourangeau insisted last week that the contract should go to Canadian Helicopters. "It should stay in the region. We're training people," he said. "At the very least, it should have gone out to tender again."

But Resources Minister Stephen Kakfwi said the Sahtu claimants never asked him for a negotiated sole-sourced contract. Instead, it placed a bid jointly with Canadian Helicopters when the tender came out.

To automatically give the remaining contract to Canadian Helicopters would mean the public would have to pay the price of the higher bid.

"I can't patronize my own constituent. I can't intervene in the process unless there's a good reason to," Kakfwi said in an interview last week.

"They're (the Sahtu claimant group) getting bad advice and there's a serious lack of management," Kakfwi said. He recommended strategy planning for the Sahtu to outline what they want from the GNWT.

The Norman Wells Claimant Corporation is the business arm of the Ernie McDonald Land Corporation of the Sahtu. It entered into a joint venture agreement with Canadian Helicopters March 7, 1996, to take on contracts or other opportunities in the Sahtu settlement area.

The agreement calls for training of Sahtu beneficiaries as helicopter pilots or engineers.

One such beneficiary, Winter Lennie, is now in Penticton, B.C. undergoing pilot training. And scholarships are available with input from both joint-venture partners, Tourangeau said.

Tourangeau wrote to the GNWT a year ago outlining the joint venture with Canadian Helicopters and referring to Chapter 12 of the Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement for the Sahtu, which calls on the territorial to "strengthen" the region's economy where possible.

"We didn't negotiate this claim for it to just sit there -- it's an agreement in place, you know," Tourangeau said in an interview from Norman Wells.