Monday, August 11, 1997
A good compromise

At first it seemed absurd: why 17? But on closer inspection, the recommendation made by the panel charged with coming up with electoral boundaries for Nunavut was well worth the exercise.

The territorial and federal governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. had their sights set on 20 or 22 ridings. But that means for a large government given the Nunavut population of 25,000.

However, a smaller government, with 10 or 12 electoral districts is not only difficult to imagine -- its cabinet would more than likely include more than half of all elected representatives.

Which brings us back to the new magic number, 17.

Senior NWT Supreme Court Justice Ted Richard, former MLA Titus Allooloo and Keewatin Board of Education member Sandy Kusugak have done Nunavut a great service by going against the grain.

In their report they show that by grouping communities and ensuring fair representation across the regions within Nunavut the numbers add up.

The one drawback, they point out, is the reduction of one seat each from Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and the High Arctic. Knowing how often residents of communities outside Yellowknife have complained about the capital city having too many representatives, we can only imagine the glee those smaller Nunavut communities will exhibit, which won't see that as a drawback of any sort.

Certainly the panel's recommendation is not a done deal to be rubber-stamped by all parties involved in making the final decision.

Debates will no doubt take place at the legislative assembly, in Ottawa and all over Nunavut until the federal cabinet makes a final decision.

Our advice is, why not give it a shot? In a democracy, very rarely is anything set in stone for ever. If the boundaries don't work, they can be adjusted -- just make sure there's a mechanism set up to do just that before the first election is held.

Long-distance affair

People tend to be a bit skeptical when the NorthwesTel announces some good news -- they aren't used to it.

But this time around it sounds like good news to us. While the monthly service rate for the western NWT will increase by $4, long-distance rates will drop more than expected. (Nunavut's rates will stay the same.)

The monthly service charge has never been the problem, it is the cost of long-distance calling that has long been a sore point in the North. Without competition, customers are at the mercy of the phone company. So, we'll take the good news when we can get it.

Arts bonanza

Way back in the mid-1980s, when Charlene Alexander organized the first Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik, "quaint" was a common reaction from curious tourists and Northern observers alike.

Nine years later, the festival has become one of those rare events that deserves a description more like "phenomenal." This year's event sold more than $100,000 worth of art -- double last year's receipts. This in a town that is as far from Toronto's culture czars as you can get and still say you're in Canada.

Wonders will never cease. We congratulate the team that put it together and wish them many more years of success.