Friday, November 28, 1997

MacQuarrie gag order lacks integrity

The recently released report on the territorial coroner's office is nothing short of damning.

The report's author found that no files have been concluded in three years. There is no efficient filing system and the files that exist are hopelessly inaccurate anyway.

There is no database to track deaths nor the classifications required to create such a database. And such an essential tool had been rejected by the chief coroner.

There are no guidelines for ordering inquests and the high numbers of them in the past indicate they have not been ordered properly.

On top of all this, a justice department official said spending levels were so high in the coroner's office, a review was required.

These are just some of the shortcomings the author, a veteran coroner from British Columbia, found in the chief coroner's office as run by Yellowknife resident and long- time Northerner, Jo MacQuarrie, since 1992.

All we can say is, thank God for government cutbacks. Otherwise, how would the disarray of one of the most critical government departments have ever come to light? The next question is how could such inefficiency and mismanagement have gone on for so long?

Of course, the public doesn't have the whole story. When firing MacQuarrie, the government included in their generous severance package an agreement that forbids her from telling her side of the story.

This is nothing less than taxpayer's money being used to keep information from those same taxpayers and for what purpose? The answer that jumps to mind is to save the government embarrassment, as if that's worth a dime!

While the government has taken steps to act on the report's recommendations, this gag agreement hardly inspires confidence.

Maybe MacQuarrie stepped on a few toes, maybe she did a poor job. The public will never know.

Hollywood North

Yellowknife city council must be starstruck. Roughly one quarter of the 1998 economic development fund is to be devoted to promoting Yellowknife as a film location.

Spending $124,700 to encourage moviemakers to come to town is betting on a longshot. In view of the familiar economic challenges facing this town in the next couple of years, surely this money could be better spent on a more realistic approach to economic development.

It would be great to have a film business here, but let's spend our economic development money where it will do some good.

Time to ignore 1002 rhetoric

The public has always been led to believe that it must choose one or the other. Mounting evidence suggests we can have both.

Alaska's 1002 lands have become the cause celebre of the environmentalist movement. The 600,000-hectare coastal plain is the calving ground for the Porcupine caribou, and home to North America's last great untapped oil reservoir.

Many geologists believe there could be as much as 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil under 1002. Opponents of development say you can't put a price on the caribou, which they fear would be devastated by development.

But let's forget the rhetoric for a moment, and concentrate on what we know. Let's look about 120 kilometres away to Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, for example. It is North America's largest oil development.

After 30 years of intensive development, there is not yet a single scientific study documenting population decline of caribou using areas around Prudhoe for calving.

Anti-developers convinced the public that caribou won't tolerate pipelines, or airstrips and roads. But that's not what we're seeing with other projects. I smiled this week while reading in xxxNews/North that the Lupin Mine offers such a favorable habitat for the Bathurst caribou that developers are considering fencing off the site.

It seems the airstrips, tailing ponds and roads offer the caribou a habitat with fewer mosquitoes, and one where they can more easily monitor predators.

With 1002, we don't have to choose the environment or oil. Consider these facts:

* Only about 800 hectares of 1002 coastal plain would be needed for oil development -- the equivalent of a briefcase lying on a football field.

* No evidence suggests that the four major herds that use land near Prudhoe Bay have been affected. In fact, the Central Arctic caribou herd has tripled in size since the early 1970s, when development began.

* The Porcupine herd does use 1002 for calving, but it also uses other areas as well. Between 1982 and 1995, studies show, only 44 per cent of the herd used the 1002 area, for a maximum of eight weeks.

These facts that don't even consider the hundreds of billions of dollars that would be pumped into the Northern economy, which would also greatly benefit Inuvik as a transportation hub.

Finally, remember that the Alaska Inupiat -- brothers of the Inuvialuit -- greatly favor 1002 development, because their beneficiaries in communities like Kaktovik would benefit from the project.

The Alaska Gwich'in oppose the project, in my view at least, because their people would see limited benefit from the project. The Alaska Gwich'in welcomed the oil companies with open arms onto their lands years ago, but the drilling programs found nothing but dust, and moved on.

Now it seems, for political reasons and little else, the Gwich'in are determined to kill 1002 development. With little scientific evidence backing up their caribou doomsday claims, perhaps it's time to ignore the rhetoric and consider the facts of 1002. - From the Inuvik Drum

Winter safety

With darkness descending earlier and earlier and with snowmobiles travelling around the city with more frequency, it's time for all residents not just to think about, but to act on snowmobile safety.

Snowmobile enthusiasts must use abide by the rules of the road and should always remember that just because it's dark outside doesn't mean that people, especially young children, are indoors, away from danger.

And those who aren't on snowmobiles must ensure their parkas and snowpants are adequately marked with reflective tape so that snowmobilers and motorists can see them before an accident happens.

Let's work together to ensure that this winter is a safe one.