A community divided
Fired settlement council split over MACA's decision

by Eileen Collins, James Hrynyshyn
   and Arthur Milnes

NNSL (Apr 20/98) - Shock, anger, resentment, confusion and a feeling of helplessness has washed over Enterprise following the dismissal of the settlement council by the GNWT.

And a meeting between residents and officials from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs last Tuesday evening did little to ease the tension.

Instead, the community became divided into two camps -- those who support MACA Minister Manitok Thompson's decision, and those who want their six-member elected council back in power.

On one side are the two Enterprise councillors, Karl Mueller and Anne Leskiw, who asked MACA to take over the settlement council.

On the other are the other four councillors, led by Winnie Cadieux, who has formed the "Coalition for Democracy in Enterprise" to protest the decision.

Mueller and Leskiw argue they aren't the only ones unhappy with the way their community has been run for the past decade.

"People have been approaching me in the community and they told me they are happy MACA is dealing with it," said Anne Leskiw, a member of the Enterprise council for the last 18 months.

Leskiw and Karl Mueller, both longtime residents of the Enterprise, told xxxNews/North they asked for help out of frustration with the behavior of the rest of council.

"Totally out of control," is how Mueller, who has been on council for two and half years, described the situation that led to MACA's intervention last week. "This has been going on for 10 years."

Though Thompson is refusing to give reasons for the dismissal of council, Mueller and Leskiw have a long list of complaints that likely form the basis for the action.

They claim the rest of council were making decisions in private, refusing to supply answers to their questions and awarding contracts without first going to tender.

"You cannot run council as the way it's been run here," Leskiw said.

Cadieux's group, meanwhile, is angry over Thompson's refusal to explain her decision.

"They didn't tell us anything," she said. "Basically, all they said was that previous councils had breached the Settlement Act 23 times.... She said the minister felt that this could blow the community apart and that the community couldn't handle it. The community takes great exception to that."

Even Leskiw and Mueller agreed that Enterprise deserves to know why MACA acted.

The job of addressing resident's concerns fell to deputy minister Penny Ballantyne and regional superintendent Gordon Norberg.

They said a newly appointed administrator, Ian McCrae, will establish policies governing contracts, tendering and human resources in the settlement while the situation is reviewed by the department.

Ballantyne said it was her opinion that, having read the minutes of council meetings, that it was not possible for the council to work together to resolve the issues.

Residents heard that their council was resistant to the advice from MACA. For example, when the town of Hay River wrote to the department stating that the lower tax rate in Enterprise was hurting the growth of Hay River, Enterprise council did not respond.

Some residents at the meeting said council was also preoccupied with the aftermath of the Jake Klassen sexual abuse trial place.

Others accused MACA of pursuing a hidden agenda, suggesting the appointment of an administrator is the precursor to asking Hay River to take over.

Hay River Mayor Jack Rowe's view is, "They're looking for someone to blame but Hay River isn't the one." Rowe says that the issue between his town and Enterprise is over taxation. He worries that lower commercial tax rates in the community are taking business from Hay River.

The absence of both Thompson, and MLA Jane Groenewegen was also noted. Groenewegen had sent her constituency assistant because she was in constitutional forum meetings in Yellowknife.

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