Leave business alone
Business woman angry at city

Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 16/98) - Butt out.

That was the blunt message a Yellowknife business person delivered to members of city council Monday.

Susan Ireland, of the Computer Training Centre, went before council to express anger over comments by some local politicians over a cut rate airfare deal between First Air and the BHP employee group, the Diamond Travel Club.

Mayor Dave Lovell and Coun. Dave Ramsay, in public comments, suggested the deal could be bad for the city. It could mean BHP workers could work here in the North while keeping their principal residences in the south.

"Public comments by certain members of city council about a local company, First Air, over a business deal it struck with a group of rotational employees are at best inappropriate, and at worst, represent an attempt to use political influence to direct the transactions of private organizations," she said in a speech to council. "In case you are not aware, this private deal involved First Air flying these employees to their chosen places of residence. This happened to be somewhere other than Yellowknife."

Pointing out that all Canadians have a right to live wherever they please, Ireland said politicians have no right to make such comments.

"As a local business person, I am wondering, as are many of my peers, who will be the next to face a public relations nightmare courtesy of our politicians," she said. "By letting these remarks go unchecked, council is setting a dangerous precedent."

Ireland's partner works for First Air. Despite, she said, of their ability to access cheap air fares to the south because of this, she said they choose to live in Yellowknife.

For his part, Ramsay, who had been highly critical of First Air in comments in the Yellowknifer, apologized. He said he met with First Air officials and learned that two southern based companies were bidding on the contract as well as First Air. This has changed his view, he said.

Mayor Dave Lovell, on the other hand, didn't seem to be backing down. He told council he had recently met a BHP employee and his wife while out for a walk.

When he asked them what made them move to the city, Lovell said the BHP worker's wife said job opportunities were better for her here. And, she also had another answer.

"The second thing was the airfare," Lovell said. "Flying in and out of here cost too much... My thoughts are the cheap airfares, whether offered by a Northern owned airline or southern, are still harmful to Yellowknife."