Editorial page

Monday, September 28, 1998

Looking out for the long term

The three-year residency requirement for voting on an NWT plebiscite may strike some, particularly those who have lived here less than three years, as too exclusive.

After all, if you support the territory with taxes squeezed out of your hard-earned paychecks, and can vote in territorial elections, logic dictates you should be allowed to participate in non-binding votes on specific issues.

Logic may dictate it but reality does not. For many southerners, the North is an exotic destination where one can earn money faster than in the south in spite of the higher cost of living.

Most of those who come North, come to work for a short term, save some money, and return to their families and friends in the south. Though some find the North more difficult to leave from than get to, the vast majority of newcomers are here for a good (and profitable) time, not a long time.

Anyone who questions whether there is a large short-term population here need look no further than the last census.

In 1996 16 per cent of the population did not live here five years earlier. In Alberta, by comparison, that figure was only seven per cent.

The reality is, an inordinately high percentage of the population has no long term interest in the territories.

Consider a hypothetical plebiscite: the government proposes building an Arctic University, but says it will have to raise the money by increasing territorial income tax.

How many people planning on saving as much money as possible in three years then leaving would support such a proposal?

The financial and political interests of this significant portion of the population has in the North are exclusively short term.

The future of the North, and any jurisdiction, demands both the short and long term be considered, and the three-year residency requirement ensures that it will.

Answers, please

John Todd ought to cool down. The high-spirited and sometimes combative finance minister seemed at the boiling point last week when questioned by fellow MLAs Jake Ootes and Jane Groenewegen about the GNWT's $500,000 contract with Roland Bailey.

Bailey, as you may recall, is the investment adviser who oversees the $60,000,000 Aurora Fund. As well, he and business partner Mike Mrdjenovich leased office space to the GNWT in a long-term deal currently under scrutiny by the conflict of interest commissioner.

If Todd doesn't like legitimate questions, he shouldn't hire people under a cloud.

Union ties

Oct. 16 is the date planned for the founding convention of the labour union that will replace the Union of Northern Workers in Nunavut.

As the people of Nunavut embark on the bold experiment of self-government it is only fitting that the workers inaugurate their own union.

It is important to remember, however, that organized labour does not function in a vacuum. The support unions get from their colleagues in the labour force are an integral part of the weight that a union can bring to bear on negotiations.

While it is important that Nunavut workers have a forum for addressing distinctly Nunavut issues, they would be well advised not to put too much distance between themselves and their fellow workers across the country.

Black day in BC

Many people are shaking their heads over British Columbia newspaper publisher David Black who ordered his 60 newspapers to oppose the Nisga'a land claim treaty in editorials.

First, it's a bad business decision. Sixty communities could well have 60 different views the newspapers will have to ignore. Worse, Black's edict displays deep ignorance of the facts.

Land claims are not a political issue but a legal issue. Negotiations are a far cheaper alternative to going to court which governments well know.

More importantly, as we have learned in the North, settled land claims are good for the economy. Besides providing stability necessary for economic growth, the millions of dollars in land claim funding remains in the region. There are winners all round.