Editorial page

Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Ball in our court now

Tu Nede MLA Don Morin, Sahtu MLA Stephen Kakfwi and former Rankin MLA John Todd deserve yet another round of congratulations for their role in establishing a secondary diamond industry in the NWT.

The recent decision by Aber and Rio Tinto, partners in the proposed Diavik diamond mine, to make rough diamonds available to Northern manufacturing firms is directly related to the tenacity of these three MLAs.

Two years ago, Morin as premier, Todd as finance minister, and Kakfwi as renewable resources and economic development minister, all displayed uncommon leadership and resolve in convincing BHP to provide rough diamonds to the North.

There were business organizations and individuals who also helped apply pressure for secondary industry but the territorial government stepped in where the feds feared to go.

Now Premier Jim Antoine has used Kakfwi and his able lieutenant, RWED Deputy Minister Joe Handley, to strike a similar deal with Diavik.

Winning the co-operation of these corporate giants is only part of the secondary diamond industry equation. Putting together partnerships that provide the expertise in diamond processing is the next step.

Though BHP has been producing NWT diamonds for almost a year, and has committed 7,000 carats of higher end quality diamonds for Northern processing, there is only one cutting and polishing facility.

Sirius Diamonds, based at the Yellowknife airport, can handle only a fraction of the diamonds available.

More joint ventures are in the works, but we must train people, attract capital and work as hard to win the respect of our mining partners as we did to convince them to share the wealth.

Northerners are now in a position of having to put our money where our mouth is.

A good deal

It's a good deal no matter how you look at it.

Premier Jim Antoine took a five-member delegation from the NWT to Japan.

If the territory is ever going to realize its potential as more than a supplier of raw materials, it has to find trading opportunities and partnerships that will give us the clout to develop a sound, diverse economic base to build on.

Japan and other areas of the Pacific rim are among the most populous and energetic of all trading regions and consumer markets. Any inroads that we can make for exporting Northern goods and/or services is good as gold. Such deals also lessen our reliance on southern Canada and bring us one step closer to being an independent economic entity.

Finally, the federal government picked up the bill for the trip -- which makes it even better.

Cautious giving

Yellowknifers are a pretty generous bunch. They loosen their purse strings at the slightest mention of need. Last year, Yellowknife had the highest per capita donation rate in the nation. That's impressive.

With that in mind, it is both saddening and infuriating that somebody would decide to take advantage of that generosity for their own gain. It seems that somebody has been soliciting money, allegedly for cancer research, by going door to door.

The Alberta/NWT chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society has issued an alert that they are NOT conducting a door-to-door campaign to raise money.

It is their view that this is a scam and want Yellowknifers to be aware. Generosity is a virtue, but in this day and age, caution is a necessity.