Wednesday, November 5, 1997
Sometimes you have to follow the rules

Wendy Sperling's fight with city hall over the right to run a day home for children does bring forth some sympathy.

She's been running the home for nine years and her frustration at learning the city has ordered her to limit the number of children she looks after is understandable.

She has the support of dozens of parents and 21 letters of recommendation. But the simple fact is Sperling was breaking the law by taking in more children than safety regulations allows.

Her plight offers some useful lessons about the way businesses are governed in Yellowknife, and serves to remind us of why all that red tape exists in the first place.

Sperling's popular support is proof she's doing a good job, but the city can't award exceptions to rules and regulations on the basis of popularity. Fire regulations, building codes and other requirements of operating a business in the city are there for a reason.

If the city doesn't do all it can to make sure day homes are safe places to send our children, whom should we blame when tragedy strikes? That's why there are occupancy limits for bars and restaurants, and fire exits in schools and offices.

There's also the free market to consider. If Sperling wants to operate a day home or a day-care facility, she should upgrade her building to meet all the necessary specifications, just as her competitors have done. To grant an exception would be to favor one business at the expense of others who have invested in meeting those requirements.

Perhaps the regulations are unnecessarily strict or not flexible enough to reflect the nature of the business. But then the answer is to lobby for changes to the municipal, territorial or federal law that applies.

With all due respect to Wendy Sperling, who seems to be outstanding day-home operator in every other respect, that's how it's done in a democracy

Bargain service

Quietly and behind the scenes, Yellowknife's Side Door teen centre has been a port in a storm for many of Yellowknife's problem-plagued teens.

The centre, along with co-ordinator Kevin Laframbroise, recently celebrated the second anniversary of being there for kids suffering from low self-esteem, drug addictions and even plain old boredom. About 60 or 70 teenagers visit the Side Door when its open: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

At just $100,000 per year in operating costs financed through solicited public donations. The Anglican Church-run operation is a bargain, although some would argue it's a bargain at any price.