Editorial page

Friday, April 23, 1999

Federal inaction disappointing

The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is prepared to twiddle its thumbs until the Giant mine closes before they will commit to any cleanup of the troubled property.

Minister Jane Stewart confirmed as much in a Thursday news conference.

Knowing there will be no buyer forthcoming without a federal commitment towards cleaning up the mine, Stewart is content to let the employees work day to day, until the receiver's operating funds run out.

Although the mine was operated and continues to operate according to regulations approved by Stewart's office, she refuses to accept responsibility for the cleanup of the thousands of tons of arsenic trioxide stored in drums underground.

If the mine closes without being sold, the responsibility of sub-surface cleanup becomes the feds problem anyway. But Stewart seems content to wait while our 250 Giant employees twist in the wind.

Western Arctic MP, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, has alluded to a federal commitment, but after doing so, she quickly retreated and has not returned any calls from this office to hers.

The receiver, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is absolved by the court of any responsibility towards environmental problems at any of Royal Oak's former properties, so the responsibility is left to the next owner -- presumably someone with deep pockets and bad math skills.

With slumping metal prices and perhaps only a few years of reserves left in Giant, a quick sale is unlikely.

The union always said they would last one day longer than Peggy Witte and Royal Oak and they have. But can they last one day longer than Jane Stewart and DIAND? For their sake and the sake of their 250 families, we sure hope so.

Finding the will

Ten years before the 75 kilometre road to Rae is paved.That's the assessment of the territorial government's department of transportation. The same assessment stated that paving and straightening the road would reduce accidents by 50 per cent.

Upon hearing that news, Councillor Bob Brook's pointed out: "One or two people each year will no longer die..." if the work is done.

It's a matter of money say the bureaucrats. Well, many Yellowknifers may remember the paving done on the Ingraham Trail in the 1980s. Coincidentally, a lot of high level bureaucrats had cottages on that road.

That indicates paving the road to Rae is more a matter of will than money. We hope both Yellowknife and Rae-Edzo councils help the territorial council find that will again. Lives depend on it.

Taxing reality

Having a small business threatened by a slumping economy and a mounting tax bill is not what taxes are all about.

That's happening to the Old Town Float Plane Base owned by Robert Jensen. He owes $55-60,000 in back taxes.

Cities collect money for building an infrastructure to attract and encourage the business community. But businesses in hard times must make difficult decisions -- pay suppliers and employees or pay taxes. As the former are often standing there wanting their money, it's usually easier to defer taxes.

Cities react to delinquent accounts the same way businesses do -- a late charge penalty that compounds monthly. That hurts as it is intended to and turns a $60,000 tax bill into a $200,000 tax bill in four years.

Despite the penalty, the city is owed millions in back taxes. If they gave Jensen a break, millions more would not be collected. That would not be fair to the businesses that do pay.

Self-government is no cure-all
Editorial Comment
Glen Korstrum
Inuvik Drum

Once discussions about self-government become more frequent, it may be easy to imagine that if only the agreement is ratified, all will be well in the Delta.

But there are no panacea solutions.

Enabling decisions to be made closer to the people affected may even create new problems.

Centralizing decision-making ensures various and diverse interests are taken into consideration.

Making decisions in small groups could mean not as broad a perspective and a greater chance that hastily thought ideas might catch fire and be put in practise without input from enough thoughtful dissenters.

Large families or other subgroups in a community could gain political power and fail to represent all interests.

Though the same holds true on a larger scale, the broader the constituency gets, the more biases distinct to various regions are checked and balanced.

This said, one good thing about evolving Beaufort Delta self-government is that territorial standards in areas such as education will remain for the entire NWT.

That ensures students here will have a gauge for how well they can compete against those in other communities. That will help all students achieve more, but it is particularly important for those who aim for post-secondary training.

Curriculum changes may be easier to accomplish, but ideas such as going out on the land to teach some subjects or traditional culture has not met any recent resistance on the part of the GNWT.

The drive for more say in area decisions is understandable given historic wrongs in the area (such as residential schooling) and the resultant fast cultural change.

But changing decision-making from one level of government to another is merely a cosmetic change.

Real change comes when individuals act constructively and commit not only to work together but also to be productive.

Healthy communities start with members who balance all facets of life and share a concern for all.

Let's not expect too much from a greater say in how society functions.

Bad decisions could just as easily be made by Delta residents as by those in Yellowknife.

End of an era

It seemed everyone was talking about Wayne Gretzky last weekend.

Perhaps it is appropriate that he is retiring in '99.

Throughout his heady younger years where he stunned fans with his talent and into his middle age, he was always open to the media, active with charitable causes and pronouncing positive messages for youth.

Personally, I remember playing street hockey when Gretzky was in his rookie year challenging Marcel Dionne for the scoring title.

I wanted Gretzky to win because I thought it would be exciting to see someone so young win it.

When the two tied at the end of the year and Dionne won the Art Ross Trophy on the basis of more goals, I remember my dad saying how Dionne deserved it after playing for so many years on mediocre teams and that Gretzky would have many more years to win the scoring race.

He certainly did that while at the same time being as suitable an ambassador for the game as the NHL could hope for.

Preparing for a boom
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary

Some credit has to be given to the leaders and social-minded community members in Fort Liard. The community is obviously realizing some of the vast economic potential that lies in its oil and gas resources. But with increased dollars often comes the potential for increasing social problems.

So, the community is now addressing the issue of drug and alcohol use. It's not to say those problems never existed before prosperity came into the picture, however, those troubles could become overwhelming if there's not an effort to deal with them at present.

Including local youth in the campaign against drugs and alcohol is essential if the momentum is to last. The community wants them to choose to lead healthy, productive lives.

It's a choice people will have to make for themselves. Yet the more influence the community can exert and support it can offer, the greater the likelihood that others who are tempted by drugs or alcohol will be able to resist.

Frank Kotchea, social programs co-ordinator, has been extremely busy with projects such as the community day care, senior care and a youth bush camp since taking on his position a year ago. He mentioned he's now involved in a potential Employment Assistance Program (EAP) for the community.

During a meeting conducted by NWT Community Mobilization in Fort Liard last week, there was talk about establishing standards to be met in the workplace, according to Mayor Joanne Deneron. Simply put, employees have to be willing to prove that they're committed in order to ensure themselves of keeping a job. The EAP could potentially help employees by offering them a variety of counselling services. The program, which already exists for BHP employees, runs on a voluntary and confidential basis.

By providing support services, the community can hopefully strengthen its local workforce and avoid having to rely on human resources from the south. That will help create the Northern employment that's always at or near the top of the agenda locally, Deneron pointed out.

These initiatives will undoubtedly prove worthwhile in the long run.

He'll be missed

Is there anything left that hasn't been said about Wayne Gretzky? The news has been chock full of highlights, interviews and analysis of the Great One's career over the past week. It was difficult not to get caught up in the whole affair, watching one press conference after another, listening to Gretzky answer the same (or very similar) questions over and over again. He's truly a Canadian icon who had the foresight to call it quits before everyone else suggested he waited too long.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to watch him establish 61 NHL records during the past 20 seasons have many great memories of his athletic abilities and "magic moments" on the ice. We've been lucky to have witnessed a number of phenomenal athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Mark McGuire, perform the most unlikely of feats.

When it comes to hockey, Gretzky is obviously incomparable. But one has to wonder where Gretzky ranks in the overall picture of great Canadians. Are his achievements up there with those of Norman Bethune, Nellie McClung, Billy Bishop, Lester B. Pearson and the like?

Honesty shines brightly in Repulse
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

There are many things I could write about my first trip to Repulse Bay, April 9-12, to take part in the annual Kivalliq Cup old-timers tournament.

I could write about the warmth and hospitality of the people, the competitiveness of the tournament, or how impressed I was with the number of Canadian flags flying proudly in the community.

While all these things would be worthy of special mention, something happened in Repulse which not only reaffirmed my belief in the basic good in people, but also created an impression within me which will last the rest of my life.

I met a young lad whose name I didn't learn until I talked with Repulse's recreation co-ordinator upon my return to Rankin Inlet -- a young lad I will never forget.

My tale begins on the Sunday evening Rankin won the Kivalliq Cup. During the post-game ceremonies, I learned players from the winning team often offer their hockey sticks to members of the crowd.

I don't mind admitting goaltenders get awfully attached to their equipment and, at about $50 a pop, I wasn't in too much of a hurry to part with either of my trusted wooden warriors.

I had escaped to the relative sanctum of our dressing room with both sticks still in my possession and was the last player still packing away gear when four young fellows entered.

One of the lads told me he was a goalie too and couldn't take his eyes off my blue Koho stick bearing the No. 29 of my favourite NHL goalie, Felix Potvin. Finally I thought, 'oh what the heck' and asked if he liked the stick. He said he sure did and asked if he could have it.

When I told him he could, his eyes became as large as dinner plates and he was practically beaming heading out the dressing room door, quickly, I remember thinking at the time, in case I changed my mind.

The next day I was one of a handful of Rankin players lucky enough to get an early flight home. We were milling about outside the "terminal," maybe 20 minutes from our scheduled departure, when I heard a voice calling my name.

There, coming toward me, was the kid I'd given my stick to and he was carrying a bright red goalie's trapper -- MY bright red goalie's trapper. Somehow my catching glove had been taken from my equipment bag at the airport and this kid found out about it, got it back and returned it to me safe and sound.

The young man's name, I found out, is Noah Siutinuar. A young man whose honesty I will never forget and who I will always consider my friend. I owe him thanks for the glove and, more importantly, I owe him thanks for reaffirming my beliefs.

Thank you, Noah!