Monday, August 25, 1997
Slow but promising start for minister Stewart

Who wants to run one of the most challenging ministries in the country? Not us.

So we're encouraged that Prime Minister Jean Chretien, a man who knows the Indian and Northern Affairs portfolio well, gave it to someone as enthusiastic as Jane Stewart, the MP from the rural Ontario riding of Brant. And we don't blame her for taking her time before exploring the Northern half of her new job description. There's a lot to learn.

The jury is still out on whether Stewart will prove a wise choice. So far, she has demonstrated little serious understanding of the issues facing Northerners and aboriginals. Her answers to questions offer little more than trite observations with which no one can argue.

But the fact that she backs the creation of an independent land claims commission is a sign that something has changed in Ottawa. Whether the decision can be traced to the new minister in particular, or to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples' report which recommended just such a panel, is unclear.

Even the land claims commission proposal has problems. As Stewart describes it -- reviewing land claims, conducting research -- we could end up with just another bureaucratic obstacle to getting things done.

On the other hand, if it serves as a lens to focus the attention of aboriginal and federal negotiators on the key issues at stake in determining the future of Ottawa's relationship with our First Nations, then it may be just the thing we need to move ahead into the 21st century.

Both Stewart and her proposal deserve close scrutiny and further encouragement. It's the first positive sign of real progress on aboriginal land claims since the signing of the Nunavut Agreement.

Where's the meat?

Last month's failure of the Hay River abattoir is another example of why government should never play more than a supporting role in developing new business.

The abattoir was built before the market for its meat products existed, something that could only happen with government money. But bad business decisions don't change the fact that hundreds of thousands of caribou represent a major untapped food resource for the North nor rule out meat processing north of 60.

Hay River Metis and the Territorial Farmers Association are looking at getting the facility up and running again. We hope their plan is based on sound marketing and government responds positively.

Try, try again

Somewhere in the annals of sport there is a saying: it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. And it's good to see that Team NWT took that to heart at the Canada Summer Games in Brandon, Man.

While victory always seems so sweet, it is but a fleeting moment that never serves to overshadow the thrill of competition and the experience of just being there. The worst thing we could ever do is not send athletes to the next Canada Games based on performance statistics, not that anyone has suggested such a thing.

We extend congratulations to all our athletes and coaches for representing our jurisdiction with the pride, sportsmanship and competitive spirit we have come to expect.