Simpson puts GNWT in quandary
No rules in place for liquor plebescite

by Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Feb 27/98) - A request by Fort Simpson's tri-council for direction on how to hold a plebescite on liquor rationing has GNWT officials scrambling.

Last week, the Department of Finance's deputy minister, Margaret Mellhorn, said that in the case of Fort Simpson and Norman Wells, there are no rules now in place governing such a plebescite. And, there is nothing on the books dictating how these two communities should go about getting community input for such a contentious issue.

"It's one of those things that falls between the cracks," she said. "We're trying to work out the best approach to determine what the community wants to do."

Other communities in the NWT can conduct votes and hold consultations as outlined in what the NWT Liquor Commission calls the Local Options package.

However, the fact the decision to impose a rationing system in Fort Simpson was done by the then commissioner in the early 1980s means there is no mechanism in place to change it.

"These are the only two communities that have restrictions on liquor store sales," Mellhorn said. "In no other communities are these restrictions in place."

"We're hoping to get this resolved as soon as possible to everyone's satisfaction."

Patrons of liquor stores in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik may purchase as much alcohol -- within the guidelines of the law -- as they wish on each visit.

Tri-council in Fort Simpson -- made up of representatives from the Liidlii Kue First Nation, Metis Association and Village of Fort Simpson -- wrote to the GNWT earlier this year and asked for direction on how to hold a plebescite on the issue.

At that time, village Mayor Norm Prevost, Chief Rita Cli and Metis Association president Marilyn Napier all said they supported the idea of having local voters make the decision directly.

At the end of the day, it appears that the final decision is in the hands of GNWT finance minister John Todd. While he could not be reached for comment, his executive assistant, April Taylor, did make a statement on his behalf about the liquor issue in Fort Simpson.

"If the community held some form of vote and the minister was comfortable that it had been done in a fair and reasonable manner and that in accurately reflected the will of the community, he would give that consideration in making the decision," she said.