Friday, April 3, 1998
A problematic relationship

Governments of all levels have a problematic relationship with what some might call the "wages of sin."

On one hand, there is an enormous stream of steady revenue from taxes leveled on alcohol and tobacco. On the other, the costs of smoking and alcohol abuse to various government agencies and therefore the public are huge.

The dilemma remains. Nobody wants to reduce the flow of revenue, all the while acknowledging the costs to the public of alcohol and tobacco use.

These days, as government funding for all kinds of projects and programs suffer from cutback, organizations have turned to raising money by catering to yet another human foible -- gambling.

Governments have long used lottery tickets as a source of revenue and the rewards for artist and athletes, among others, have been substantial. In the South, governments have allowed gambling at video terminals and, in some jurisdictions, casinos. The profits have been astronomical.

Closer to home, bingo has been a staple of the fundraising circuit for a long time. Bingo games are social events as well and are well-attended by a cross-section of Northerners. However, not everybody goes plays bingo because they want to. Like alcohol, gambling can arouse in some a compulsion that leads to a self-destructive obsession.

So, once again, society faces the dilemma: the money raised for good causes might well be spent salvaging people who have a gambling problem.

Gambling isn't wrong. Like drinking, it is, for most people, a social activity, something done with friends in an atmosphere of conviviality. But there is a cost. Gambling games aren't the solution to decreases in government funding. The problem isn't with bingo games, it is with viewing gambling as a solution to government's fiscal problems.

The business of gambling, like drinking, can cause as many problems as it solves.

Water works

Anyone who lives in Old Town, the Ingraham Trail or anywhere else beyond the reach of the city's piped water supply knows what it means to waste water. Not only is it expensive, but running out before the water truck arrives can be very, very annoying.

There are ways to cut water consumption at the tap, but the NWT Housing Corporation has an even better idea: recycling some of what goes down the drain by a simple filtering process. It's not a new idea, and it's about time Yellowknife jumped on the bandwagon.

If and when the experiments scheduled for Ndilo later this spring prove the concept, the GNWT should provide generous support for anyone who wants to take advantage of an economically and environmentally sensible proposal.

Editorial comment
Drunk drivers: a cancer on us all
Arthur Milnes
Deh Cho Drum

Whenever I hear of a case of drunk driving, I think of Deanna Hunt.

You see, she was my school's valedictorian for the graduates two or three years ahead of me. An athlete, student government leader and one liked and respected by all, we all thought she had quite a future to look forward to.

Then, a few months before she was to mount the stage and articulate both her dreams and that of the Grade 13 students that year, a drunk driver mowed her down and robbed her of her life.

Thanks to that piece of human filth -- who is probably now out of jail and alive and well somewhere right now -- a young woman, on the verge of university and a life full of promise, is now just a memory.

With her life gone, one can only imagine the continuing pain still felt by her parents, siblings, relatives and friends. I'm sure they think of her every day.

And, the worst part of it all is that this tragedy didn't have to happen. In fact, it shouldn't have.

However, selfish and dangerous fools get into their cars everyday and gamble with lives that are not their own by sitting behind a wheel after drinking.

A few year's after Deanna's death, work found me in the Ottawa Valley. Not once, but twice while working there, did I have to cover the funerals of young people murdered by drunk drivers.

On one occasion, five kids ended up dead after an accident near a Quebec bar. Another time, a student died after he and his girlfriend did the right thing -- they chose to walk back from a bar, worried they might have had too many.

Unfortunately, the drunk driver who swerved onto the side of the road and dragged the student into a ditch and death -- didn't think like they did.

All these things came to mind this week when I began working on a news story about drunk driving right here in Fort Simpson. It seems that two people last month were arrested after being found to be driving with over the legal limit of alcohol in their systems. And, to make things worse, both these people were arrested twice within 24 hours for the same offence. Not once, but twice, in one day, did this pair each gamble with the rest of our lives.

And if these facts weren't enough, you should know that one of these people was caught on main street around 10 o'clock in the morning on a school day.

Think about that next time you see a child walking across main street to Bompas and TSS.

Now, you can think what you want about drinking. Be for it, be against, whatever. And, within certain legal parameters, the facts are that it is no one's business what a citizen of legal drinking age does with the bottle in their own home.

However, all this changes when you get into a car and drive while drunk. Then, it becomes everyone's business.

In a tiny place like Fort Simpson, the crime of drunk driving becomes even worse. There is simply no need -- or excuse -- to drive while impaired with everything so close and with cabs on duty and neighbors to call.

People who drink-and-drive are not only selfish and dangerous, they are a cancer on us all.

It's up to all of us -- me, you, our relatives, friends, neighbors, police and others -- to stamp this crime out.

Editorial comment
Out of touch
Ian Elliot
Inuvik Drum

"We believe that improved customer sensitivity and awareness will ensure that Canada Post continues to evolve successfully to meet the communication needs of Canadians." -- A portion of Canada Post's self-professed corporate strategy.

You may have noticed the bare wall where the message board used to be at the Mackenzie Road post office. Of course you've noticed. It's a running joke in this town that if you don't get to the post office for a few days to look over that board, you don't know what's going on.

What a small town we live in when something as little as that board is such a big deal. Yet there it is. Inuvik gets half its information about what's going on from that board, from stuff for sale to crib nights, from teas for elders to playtime for tots.

You may have gotten more useful information off that lowly board than you ever got cleaning out your mailbox. In fact, a few weeks ago, someone asked how I find out what's happening in town: only half in jest, I answered that I go to the post office, like everyone else.

The board is gone. It was ordered taken down by senior Canada Post managers from the south, who walked into the Inuvik post office last month as part of the ongoing cuddle-up with the Bank of Montreal and asked something along the lines of "What's that thing doing here?"

A eight-by-four piece of corkboard in one of the world's most northerly communities has no place in a corporate plan. In the minds of senior managers, we're supposed to look just like a post office lobby in Ottawa or Vancouver. Bright, clean and businesslike, especially now that the bank has moved in.

Think how it must look, having a tattered bulletin board thick with home-made flyers filled with misspelled words and good intentions just metres from the ground-breaking first partnership between Canada's largest bank and Canada Post. Wouldn't photograph well and all that.

Some southern managers also apparently don't like the fact that the board has a lot of items for sale. Yet that is also a part of life in the North: people move out of town and have to sell their furniture and their houses, they have babies and babies grow out of their clothes, they make handicrafts to earn a little extra money: all are little clues to life in a small, cold and isolated little town and the notices on the board are evidence of all our passings.

It's jungle telegraph and information central all in one, a reason to linger after collecting the usual assortment of bills and flyers, a place to meet friends and swap stories.

Managers, who seem a little surprised at the fuss, say they want to hear from people who are concerned about the board being taken down. Call Grant Pearson at (867) 393-6052, fax 668-3428 or write him at Suite 15, 1114 1st Ave., Whitehorse, YK, Y1A 1A3.

If Canada Post is wondering what that board is worth, here's the answer: it's worth a fortune. It's a community service and it costs them practically nothing.

Unlike the bare wall. That is going to cost them plenty.