Editorial page

Friday, July 16, 1999

Put it out!

Rain may dampen summer spirits but it does wonders for forest fires.

There have been only 15 fires to date in the Yellowknife/North Slave region. Over 100 fires were reported for the season last year, some of which threatened the Ingraham Trail. In fact, cottages were lost at Tibbitt Lake and several mine sites were destroyed.

While the weather is cooperating this year, recent reports indicate people are not. Fire officials were alerted to an abandoned campfire on a one-hectare island on Prelude Lake. Luckily there were no people or cabins nearby but half the island was burnt.

Leaving a campfire burning no matter what the fire risk is still a risk not worth taking. We can only hope news of the fire got to those responsible and they'll change their ways. The rest of us can take note -- Put it out!

World class dump guy

Every town has a dump, or something like it. The difference between here and every other town is that we have Walt Humphries.

Mr. Humphries' weekly column in Yellowknifer has brought national attention to our dump. There was an appearance recently in the National Post and then it was a visit from Wayne Rostad, the host of the popular CBC show On the Road.

We don't know how lucky we are. Every community could use an independent monitor of the tricky business of waste disposal and recycling. Mr. Humphries' observations go a long way to keeping the management of the dump on their toes and Yellowknife in the limelight.

Let's party

It's that time, yet again folks, to brave the elements and head out of the city for the annual Folk on the Rocks music festival.

And judging by the musical acts headlined in Yellowknifer this past month, this year's festival promises to offer something for everyone, with Fred Penner and Wild Strawberries to name a few

An entrepreneur's dream, the event also offers an excellent opportunity for small businesses, whether it be artists, retailers or food vendors to earn a good chunk of change.

One thing's for sure. It beats going to the bar, and, hey, you can take your kids for a true day of family entertainment.

See you on the rocks.

Solid reminders

Digging into the past is always an interesting and often an extremely satisfying experience.

Spirit Yk and RWED have teamed up to dig into the history of Yellowknife and have mounted a display of mining equipment at the airport.

These heavyweight pieces of historical memorabilia are solid reminders of the history in which Yellowknife is steeped and, while it may be a relatively brief history, it is one rich in frontier tradition and oozing personality.

The restored pieces are a fitting physical reminder of the importance of mining and miners to Yellowknife and the entire territory. It is a proud history and well worth preserving. We hope this is just the beginning.

Inuvik's where it's at
Editorial Comment
Paula White
Inuvik Drum

I got an interesting phone call last weekend. Coincidentally enough, it was from a person living in Saint John, N.B., which, as I've mentioned more than once, is my hometown.

This person was going to be interviewed for a job here and she wanted to know some of the current issues in Inuvik.

I didn't know where to start.

Just this week I did stories on two businesses that have started up in recent months and one that is expanding. They offer products ranging from T-shirts to picnic tables and even water. I've seen the products and can vouch for their quality.

Then there's Inuvik TV, which is bound and determined to keep Inuvik on the cutting edge of technology. It apparently has given this community another first with its introduction this week of the only digital cell phone system in the North. Incredible. I wouldn't be surprised if the phones become a hot item. To think, NorthwesTel missed out on this opportunity.

Then there's all the construction projects about to happen or taking place right now. The installation of the natural gas pipelines, construction of the new female young offenders facility, Aurora College campus and hospital, not to mention the demolition projects of Grollier Hall and the Laundromat, are some that come to mind.

There are some major cultural events and conventions coming up as well. Starting this week, the Great Northern Arts Festival, one of the town's biggest tourist draws of the year, is taking place. Next April, about 250 economic development professionals will descend on the town for the Community Futures Conference known as Catch the Spirit 2000: Celebrating Entrepreneurship in the New Millennium. The convention, hosted by Western Arctic Business Development Services, basically paves the way for other conferences and conventions to be held here as well. Conferences and conventions, as we all know, equals cash and exposure for the town.

So there I was on the phone with this girl, whom I didn't know from Adam, and I was speechless. In the end, I talked about only few of these issues -- the female young offenders facility, the hospital and self-government. There was no way I could have mentioned everything that is going on. After all, she was the one footing the bill for the call.

Anyway, the bottom line is, Inuvik is one happening place. Let's hope it stays that way.

Flower bandits?

Can somebody tell me why kids around here seem to have a penchant for stealing flowers?

I've heard from a couple of different people that it's difficult for them to keep kids from picking or vandalizing the flowers in the flower boxes around town. Not only is this bizarre, but it's quite disappointing as well. There are a lot of people who are working hard to make this town more beautiful. Kids and ravens are making their work that much harder.

Oh well. I suppose we should be grateful the kids aren't into graffiti instead, although I have seen some around town. That's a lot harder to clean up.

Close rein on front-line staff
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Regular readers of Kivalliq News know, for the most part, we have adapted a wait-and-see stance with the vast majority of our new Nunavut government's policies.

While we have expressed concern -- some policies, such as decentralization, often work much better in theory than practical application -- the new legislative assembly deserves a fair chance at initiating its policies and proving them to be workable.

That being said, the directive being given to regional territorial government employees from the ministerial level to not answer questions from the public or its media is totally unacceptable.

Regional government employees are being told to direct all questions to their various minister's departments and failure to do so, as in the case of one Iqaluit employee, will result in disciplinary procedures.

What this does is effectively remove any semblance of public accountability from the front line or, "grassroots" employees. It also allows capital spin doctors to spend time on each and every issue before releasing whatever information they feel the public has a right, or a need, to know.

This is the type of clandestine directive more at home in a Nixon-styled administration built on secrecy and paranoia than one would expect from a new government which has been trumpeting accessibility, smooth communication and bringing government closer to the people as its main cornerstones to governing our new territory.

Denying the public and its media the right to ask questions of those implementing government initiatives at the grassroots level denies public scrutiny of those initiatives. And, just as importantly, it seriously retards the public's ability to accurately gauge just who in their respective communities is doing an adequate job and deserving of support in their position.

Major issues, such as accusations of wrongdoing or poor work performance, should be handled by top government officials, at least at the initial stages. However, it speaks volumes about our new government's faith in its frontline employees when it denies them the ability to field routine questions on their department's initiatives, performance, goals and objectives.

It seems accountability is another concept that works better in theory for our new government than it does in practical application. One can't help but wonder just how many of Nunavut's ambitious programs and initiatives will ever be properly realized with most of our ministers and deputy ministers spending most of their days on the phone.

Maybe the whole point is for only the easy questions to be answered to free up more time for the ministers. Or, perhaps, when things do go wrong -- and they will -- our new government has decided a blame-by-committee approach is in its best interests to adopt.

If that, indeed, is the case, they are mapping out a very tricky course for their departments to navigate, one fraught with danger where regional employees would be well-served to beware of falling objects from very high places.