Editorial page

Friday, December 28, 2001

An agenda for 2002

On Sept. 10, Rudy Giuliani was headed for the political scrap heap.

His personal life, a failed second marriage and subsequent relationship with a drug company sales manager, were front and center. Forgetting his accomplishments, New Yorkers were ready to cast off the once-popular mayor.

That all changed on Sept. 11. On the day terror rained from the sky, New York, indeed all of America, needed a leader. They found one in Giuliani. He shone through the crisis and gave Americans hope and his country a sense of purpose.

Now is also the time for our city's mayor to step up and take Yellowknife into the future and give it a new sense of purpose.

For most of the past year, councillors have dealt with the legacy of their predecessors. They ended a 10-year debate by deciding to build a new arena. They are cleaning up the financial situation by setting long-term spending goals. They moved away from the previous era of litigation. And they are still dealing with the Niven Lake debacle.

Through it all, we have seen a new, refreshing level of debate. That's thanks to the healthy diversity of opinion represented by the eight councillors.

As 2002 begins, it's time to set goals for moving forward, unity of vision and purpose.

Council has to come to grips with the housing shortage, kick-start waterfront development and maintain a balance between services and affordable taxes. The city must continue to bridge the gap between it and the Yellowknives Dene in Ndilo and Dettah. That partnership are critical to our growth and development.

The mayor can now be most effective as a leader by focusing councillors on key issues. Working with council and the community, he can set the agenda for the coming year.

But that doesn't mean councillors must abandon their beliefs. Yellowknifers do not agree on everything and it's the job of councillors to represent a broad range of opinions.

It may get messy sometimes, but it's democracy.

Looking back at 2001

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

As 2001 winds down, perhaps the late John Lennon best summed up the current state of affairs in the Kivalliq when he sang, "Strange days, indeed. Most peculiar, mamma."

Let's see if we've got this one right. Atuqtuarvik Corp. loans the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. the money to pay the Sakku Investments Corp.'s share in a joint business venture. Qikiqtaaluk Corp. ends up taking Sakku to court to force it to pay back its share of the loan.

Atuqtuarvik Corp. then lends Sakku the money to pay back the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. the money it borrowed from Atuqtuarvik to begin with. Got it? The Atuqtuarvik Corp. was started by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which just recently "loaned" Sakku a bushel of money to pay down its debt, which obviously didn't include the $700,000 or so Sakku owed the Qikiqtaaluk Corp.

This, of course, is all designed to promote business opportunities for the benefit of Kivalliq Inuit through job creation, training and skills transfer and increased business growth for Inuit entrepreneurs.

Now that we have that straight, we just have one question. Wouldn't every corporation be able to declare an impressive profit margin in its last fiscal year if it simply just didn't pay any of its bills? If this is not enough to have you shaking your head, ponder this one: most of the personalities involved with these companies and corporations can't figure out how Cathy Towtongie won the NTI election.

Cabinet shuffle a good one

The worst kept secret in the capital became a reality this past Monday when Premier Paul Okalik announced his cabinet shuffle. The changes Okalik made in splitting Public Works and Housing were good ones. Although Manitok Thompson did a good job managing the combined portfolio, the Department of Community Government and Transportation (CG&T) needs help.

With her previous MACA experience, Thompson is the ideal choice to get the department back on track.

With Okalik's cabinet shuffle, the capital rumour mill now has one or two high-ranking officials fearing for their jobs.

We hear one deputy minister may soon be travelling a lost highway to oblivion, rather than one bridging Manitoba to the Kivalliq. And, if all unfolds the way we hear, that deputy minister will be dropping off his current boss at the CLEY office along the way. Okalik is showing signs that 2002 may usher in a new era in the capital, one in which the premier is actually going to demand results. Now that he's shown the fortitude to put a political bullet in the chamber, let's hope he also has the wherewithal to pull the trigger if the need arises.

Christmas greetings to one and all

Editorial Comment
Malcolm Gorrill
Inuvik Drum

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The stockings are hung by the chimneys, or windows, with care. Bright lights decorate homes everywhere, providing some welcome brightness in the absence of the sun.

It's said Christmas is for kids, and certainly lots of excitement can be spotted in the eyes of many youngsters, as they anticipate what they'll find under the Christmas tree, and have fun picking out gifts for friends and family.

But adults share in the experience as well, remembering Christmases past and catching up with family members and old friends.

Indeed, friendship and fellowship are the hallmarks of the Christmas season. Peace is another result, and especially a desire for world peace. That holds special meaning this yuletide season, with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath.

On a more local level, this is the perfect time of year to mend fences with a neighbour or former friend, or even just to call up an old friend out of the blue.

Many school and church concerts take place this time of year as well. They provide youngsters valuable experience in singing or otherwise performing with a group, and in front of an audience. They also have a lot of fun in the process, and are left with lasting memories.

Speaking of which, the Sir Alexander Mackenzie school Christmas concert takes place today at 7 p.m.

Adults and youngsters often partake in another great tradition, namely singing carols at street corners or going door to door. Sending beautiful notes wafting through the still, crisp air warms up all those within earshot. Hot chocolate afterwards adds to the experience too.

One of my favourite Christmas Eves was a quiet, calm evening outside, and quiet within the house too due to a power failure. Without the television or radio or other electronic gadgets, it truly was a silent night.

Speaking of which, Silent Night and O Holy Night would rank among my favourite Christmas carols.

May you have a merry, merry Christmas and a happy new year.

A fresh perspective

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

One man turned Fort Simpson village council upside down Monday night.

That's no exaggeration.

Paul Gammon, newly elected but long on experience, convinced other councillors to do away with the planned

in-camera session on the agenda. The topic -- the legal battle over the sewage treatment plant -- was still discussed, but it was addressed in the open. Gammon says there's no need for in-camera sessions. Period. If it's a personnel matter, the senior administrative officer can sort it out. That's what she is paid to do, he argued.

Legal issues? Well, those aren't taboo either, he said. As a matter of fact, he argued that in-camera meetings are the very reason why the village has so many legal problems.

Needless to say, the merits of purchasing a laptop computer wouldn't qualify as in-camera material by those standards, but that didn't stop village council from discussing that very issue privately last month. Because of Gammon, Monday's meeting ran until nearly 11 p.m. He spent close to an hour of that time peppering senior administrative officer Bernice Swanson with questions about the draft 2002 budget. The other councillors sat silently the vast majority of that time, trying to follow along as Gammon scrutinized the budget line by line.

To Swanson's credit, she was not defensive. Rather, she welcomed the input and acknowledged an error when one was detected. Having only been on the job four months, she admitted that she is still on a learning curve. As well, she openly disagreed with the way former SAO Bruce Leclaire formulated budgets. She said his budgets were "padded." Gammon also demanded to have the role of mayor and council reviewed at an upcoming meeting. He wanted detailed listings of all payments made to mayor and council. He argued that all payments made to mayor and council should be approved at a council meeting before cheques are issued. He said he won't support any travel to conferences south of 60 unless a donation arrives from a business south of the NWT border first.

As much as his vast knowledge was a breath of fresh air, he advocated that the village bulldoze the troublesome sewage treatment plant and dump sewage into the Mackenzie River instead -- an antiquated idea. He also made a remark about the deputy mayor, who was not present, that could be considered slanderous. How is he going to follow up on such a conspicuous debut?

Vinegar or honey?

Village council is facing a tough decision in choosing the tactics it will employ as MACA funding cuts loom ($440,000 less next year). Council had secret financial negotiations with cabinet to take out some of the sting. In order to gain these concessions -- which haven't been disclosed, but would be if and when they are passed in the legislature -- council is expected to raise village revenues by increasing rates for services such as water and sewage. Now council is leaning in the opposite direction, opposing all tax and most service increases. Will standing nose-to-nose with the government prove more effective? The possibility of reverting to hamlet status continues. We'll see who blinks first.