Editorial page

Wednesday, December 16, 1998

The long and dangerous road

BANG! Another Yellowknife driver gets a flat tire driving on the city's gravelled streets.

Winter driving is just one of the many challenges residents of Yellowknife cope with for the six or seven months that the snowy season hangs over our heads. The city tries to ease the challenge by ploughing the roads and spreading gravel to increase traction.

An editorial in last Friday's Yellowknifer stated that RWED Minister Stephen Kakfwi had dismissed a question from Tu Nede MLA Don Morin about a media contract. In fact, Mr. Kakfwi had declined to answer a question concerning his executive assistant. Speaker Sam Gargan later ruled the question "trivial." Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion the error may have caused.

This year, however, the treatment is killing the patient. Garage owners are reporting an increase in the number of flat tires and the prime suspect is the gravel.

This year's gravel seems to be more lethal than last year's and vehicle owners have the deflated tires to prove it.

Experts in the gravel business will tell you that there are different kinds of gravel and that some are better suited to providing road traction than others.

All the average driver knows is that the gravel on the road is wrecking tires in record numbers. You would think that it would be a pretty straightforward procedure to determine whether or not a particular type of gravel is appropriate to throw on the roads. Looking at a fistful of it should be enough. If it looks like it could puncture a tire, it probably will.

Price is no doubt a factor but any gravel savings the city may passing on to taxpayers may be more than eaten up repairing tires.

There is a safety factor to consider as well. Slippery roads are dangerous, so we put gravel on them. If the gravel is puncturing the tires, we are back to a dangerous situation. Getting a flat can be tricky enough under ideal situations, never mind on snowy roads.

Long, cold winters mean lots of headaches for vehicle owners. Having to change tires because the gravel is punching holes in them is only adding insult to injury. The city should take another look at the hazard they are spreading on city streets.

No excuse

It's encouraging to see the team efforts by the RCMP, the city's bylaw department and Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD) so near the Christmas holidays.

On any given night, hundreds of drivers are being stopped as police and students operate their check stops at various locations throughout the city.

You only have to go to any average day at the territorial court to see that impaired charges are alive and well in Yellowknife.

But that can change and having these check stops is the best way to get the point across that drinking and driving don't mix. Those stupid enough to try it stand a big chance of ending up in court.

Cheer up!

With less than a couple of weeks to go, there's a good chance you are beginning to feel a little bit of that annual Christmas pressure.

Feeding family and friends, buying presents for relatives you wouldn't recognize in a police line-up, trying to decorate the place without spending a fortune, spending a fortune decorating the place, watching your credit cards melt from overuse, these are the things that can ruin that already frail feeling of Christmas cheer.

There's only one solution and that's to give it back as good as you get it. When the collection agency calls about the overdue bill, wish them all a merry Christmas. Same to crabs behind you in the line-up at the Post Office.

Don't forget to wish the cops who tell you to turn it down a happy holiday and save a special season's greeting for the landlord who's confused about when the rent's due.

Who knows? By the time you're done, some of that Christmas spirit may have rubbed off on you.

Where do you live?
Editorial Comment
Marty Brown
Kivalliq News

There is an acute housing shortage in Nunavut and it doesn't look like things will get much better in the near future.

"It's like we've got a Cornish game hen when we need to feed 55 people at a turkey dinner," said Darrin Nichols, manager of the Rankin Inlet Housing Association.

Nichols was at a housing, community government and transportation conference in Iqaluit and said housing was being blamed for everything from domestic violence to students quitting school to health problems. But housing associations aren't safe shelters nor are they short-term emergency housing, he said.

The government figured if they pushed home ownership, everything would be alright, but Canada Mortgage and Housing went out of the house building business in 1995.

"There's only so many homes on the market and besides ownership is an expensive proposition. Many people want back into public housing when they find out how expensive it is," he said. "If more than 30 per cent of your income is spent on housing, you're in deep trouble."

Then there's the catch 22 -- if you get a job, your rent goes up. Housing rents are based on salaries, so if salaries go up so does the rent.

But the government can't afford to get back into public housing.

After the Iqaluit meeting, Nichols came away thinking that different organizations think housing associations are the bad guys. "We're not, but with so little money, I'm not sure what anyone expects us to do," he said.

Habitat for Humanities is an international organization that builds houses in partnerships with needy families. People have to be able to make mortgage payments, show they have a need for housing and show their present accommodations are inadequate. Families take on a 20-year mortgage of appraised cost, but don't pay a downpayment. Much of the materials and labour is volunteer.

But when they went to Iqaluit with the offer to build houses for needy families, there were no takers. No one could afford to maintain a house.

Down south, public housing has a bad name. But most of the housing association tenants are good, said Nichols. The North just echoes a problem right across Canada -- affordable housing.

Nichols' hopes lay with the assistant deputy minister of Housing Sarah Flynn. Nichol hopes she will be able to supply some direction. As it stands now, housing associations lose $3 million a year and spend $1 million a year in utilities. An average house uses 90 litres of water per day.

There will be a complete study done on the housing issue after the new Nunavut government is installed.

The old saying "if you have a roof over your head..." is starting to take on a whole new meaning.

Housing is an important part of one's sense of well-being. A place to hang your hat they say or lay your head is very important to people. Ask any homeless person.

Of course, I copped out and bought a recreational vehicle. But that's not a solution for everyone, especially families.