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Attempted donation sends message
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 6, 2017

With A New Day in the news so much over the past few months, it's no surprise a group of kindhearted individuals would come together with a generous donation.

The program, which delivers counselling to men who have been violent toward loved ones, was set to temporarily receive the axe as of Dec. 31 while the Department of Justice carried out a review of its merits. When the public got wind of this, there was an outcry which caused a series of heated debates during November's legislative assembly sitting. The outcome of those discussions was a last-minute decision to extend funding for six months so those who rely on A New Day would not see a gap in services while the government waited for the review.

Meanwhile, 100 Men Who Give a Damn met up in November to decide where to donate a round of funding its members had raised. They agreed the approximately $11,000 should go to A New Day and were surprised to hear the program would not be able to accept the money.

Generally, when an organization or group is doing a good thing, people want to support that good thing, so why would A New Day be an exception?

Because A New Day is a government program, this particular donation is, in its essence, an $11,000 cheque written to fund the territorial government's operations. From this angle, it becomes quite clear that people shouldn't need to donate to what their taxes are already paying for.

Now, Justice Minister Louis Sebert and his colleagues should take note of this attempted donation because it shows just how valued A New Day is to the community.

As MLAs and cabinet enter into budget season next month, it would be wise for them to keep in mind the public believes this program is

essential for the health of people across the territory, and should be fully funded.

Donny Days make no sense outside GNWT
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 6, 2017

Sitting in a field emptied of other targets that have been chased into hiding by scare talk about the need for austerity measures is the white elephant colloquially known as Donny Days.

While multi-billion dollar companies such as Dominion Diamond are pulling up stakes and moving their headquarters elsewhere because they can no longer afford to be here, thousands of territorial government workers are getting their annual, extra, taxpayer-paid Christmas vacation. And because the GNWT is by far the territory's largest employer, pretty much everything else stops too.

Need to check the court registry for important legal documents required by your bank? Not going to happen. Need a birth certificate to complete your child's passport application? Sorry.

It wasn't always this way.

Donny Days is the fruit of union negotiations following austerity measures in 1996, when former premier Don Morin introduced the mandatory leave as a salary cutback. The territory at the time, similar to today, was facing an economic crisis as the mining sector - always the NWT's lifeblood - began to collapse due to low mineral prices.

GNWT workers resented being forced into an unpaid vacation for five days but at least they got to keep their jobs.

Diamonds brought the economy back in the early 2000s and by 2009, the Union of Northern Workers was able to negotiate what was once an austerity measure into a perk.

Well, how times change. Last year, the territorial government announced $150 million needed to be cut over five years to balance the budget. So far, only $53 million has been cut and 19 government jobs eliminated. Does anyone really believe the worst is over?

The GNWT and UNW are currently negotiating a new contract. Talks haven't been going well. There have been whispers of strike action over the government's refusal to increase salaries.

It seems the answer is staring both parties right in the face although neither is all that keen on giving up their precious Donny Days. Something has got to give.

Looking forward
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, January 5, 2016

Well, folks, 2017 is here and the future of the Deh Cho region has rarely looked brighter.

Traditionally, the dawn of the new year is a time for reflection. No matter how you view it, 2016 was a good year for our region, our communities and many of us.

Yes, there were any number of sour pills to swallow. Take for instance the spate of crime in Fort Providence and Fort Simpson, where youth crime catapulted to the forefront of community discussions as break-ins and theft became rampant.

But those break-ins prompted both communities to seriously look at the problems facing their youth and come up with solutions - that's a win in our books.

And speaking of youth, one only needs to look at the youth programming in Fort Liard to see how positive the future looks.

Fort Liard lost its hardworking, award-winning recreation co-ordinator, Roslyn Firth, but gained an equally dedicated one in Firth's replacement, Sophie Kirby.

The past year saw an economic plateau in which Fort Simpson lost at least a couple of businesses.

But new businesses sprang up as well.

The territorial government broke yet another promise on the Dehcho Process when it failed to deliver a new land quantum offer to Dehcho First Nations.

Yet the future of the Dehcho Process looks solid in the hands of Grand Chief Herb Norwegian, who is acting as interim chief negotiator.

2016 brought with it the announcement of a new ministerial special representative, Ann Marie Doyle, an advisor for both the federal and territorial governments, who started meeting with communities toward the end of the year.

That marks a shift for the territorial government, especially, which has for years been an antagonist of sorts in land claim negotiations.

In fact, the first month of 2017 should bring with it Doyle's report on the Dehcho Process, which is the first step in a potential mandate shift for the federal and territorial government's negotiating teams.

That alone will be a huge step forward for the Dehcho Process.

Of course, things look a bit bleaker when you look beyond our border. 2016 will go down in history for the election debacle in the United States, which saw politicians spend billions of dollars on their respective bids for office.

And in our own country, Trudeau has so far failed to live up to the expectations many people had for him, refusing to take a hard stance on just about anything.

His promise of a new nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations fizzled out when he green-lighted construction permits for the Site C dam project in B.C.

But here at home, the future is a bit brighter.

Many of our local politicians are still focused on positively impacting the region; in Fort Simpson, plans for a new fitness centre will be going ahead this year, while other much-needed infrastructure projects proceed as well.

That will increase the quality of life for the village.

And let's not forget that 2017 is important for Fort Simpson in another way: it marks the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to the community. Coupled with Canada's 150th birthday and the construction of a new Catholic church in the village, we can expect 2017 to include a celebration to be remembered.

2016 certainly had its bleak moments.

But it also served to draw our communities closer together in search of solutions. We hope that's a trend that continues in the new year.

North needs to pursue sustainability
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, January 5, 2016

My friends and relatives in the south often ask me what goes on in Canada's North.

How do you survive? What do you do? Is it even possible to go outside? The North mystified me when I first arrived too, but it became clear quickly that life up here is the same as anywhere.

The most interesting question I get is what fuels the northern economy.

That's a harder one to answer. There's some mining and a natural resource industry, albeit in economic doldrums, so inevitably I have to default to "government."

In the south, you see businesses everywhere, even in very small towns. The North is rather sparse. Government and the public sector are clearly the primary driver of the economy here.

Considering the circumstances, it makes some sense for things to be this way, but it's inherently unsustainable.

This is not meant as an insult to the North but as reality.

The federal funding that pays for the lion's share of the GNWT budget could well go on indefinitely but it is obviously wiser even down to a personal level to become self-sustainable rather than relying on federal transfers. Will the North be floating helplessly in the economic ocean or sustainable enough to weather national and global downturns on its own? Will we have our own paddle and boat or just hope the conditions don't get too bad?

With this sentiment, I hope 2017 can be a year for Inuvik and the North to pursue self-sustainability and economic opportunities. That's the kind of spirit that built the North in the first place and contributed to the impressive survival of its aboriginal groups.

On a regional and territorial scale, mining, shipping and other large-scale industries need to be supported and pushed. Tourism and other softer industries also provide ways for the North to capitalize on its assets.

Locally, Inuvik is clearly embarking on a big tourism push, but it needs to find other ways to stimulate industry as well. Let's hope the $300-million Inuvik-Tuk highway can significantly boost our mining, exploration and tourism sectors, because a road to a community of fewer than 1,000 people shows a clear danger of being just another make-work project. It's due to be completed this year.

But from countries to territories to towns and individuals, pursuing self-sustainability is a worthy goal for any new year. Get out of debt, achieve positive cash flow, be healthy, take care of your own house and the rest will follow from there. What's good for the individual is good for the nation.

Happy new year.

The good news in 2016
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

There was a lot about 2016 to make Yellowknifers feel uneasy, starting with the economy.

The city was still smarting when the year began over De Beers' announcement in December that it was closing its troubled Snap Lake mine and laying off more than 400 workers after seven short years of production. The company recently announced that it couldn't find a buyer for the mine and will now flood it. This follows a decision by Dominion Diamonds to move its headquarters - and 100 jobs -- from Yellowknife to Calgary, and the laying off of 51 workers at Diavik Diamond mine.

The territorial government meanwhile - also feeling the pinch - spent much of the year looking for places to trim and warning of more cuts to come.

The economy remains a cause for concern but there has been some better news on the social side of things.

This year, after years of public pressure, municipal and territorial leaders, non-profit organizations and other special interest groups mapped out a comprehensive plan to alleviate poverty in Yellowknife. This city, with less than 20,000 people, has the highest per capita homelessness rate in the country. The problem is everywhere, and finally leaders seem to have summoned the political will to actually fight this thing. The plan, which includes an expansion of shelters, a pathway to permanent housing with Housing First, an emergency mobile unit, a sobering centre, a managed alcohol program and various other supports, will need money and lots of it.

The good news is, at least some money seems to be flowing. The Department of Health and Social Services has stepped up with more money to extend day shelter hours, the federal government has provided $600,000 for more beds at the Salvation Army and Centre for Northern Families and Housing First is chugging along with six people housed so far. City council ramped up social spending in the city budget, passed in December, with $50,000 earmarked for a homelessness employment program, $100,000 to go toward the mobile street outreach service and $300,000 for community safety officers.

These are good initiatives that are going to help vulnerable people and make Yellowknife a safer place for all of us. If the municipal, territorial and federal government continues to devote energy and resources to this cause then maybe -- just maybe -- the city might actually make a dent in this massive problem.

For people feeling anxious about the city's future: it's still possible to make Yellowknife -- and the Northwest Territories -- a great place to live. Reducing homelessness and addictions will make the city more attractive, not only for people already living here but to newcomers and potential investors who see the city as a great place to build a life and business but worry not enough is being done to curb its social issues.

So as 2017 begins, let's take a moment to appreciate the good work that has been done in the city over the past year and continue to hold our elected leaders to a high standard.

Thanks for helping keep Kivalliq News truly regional
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Well, valued readers, here we are at the start of a brand-new year.

There are so many possibilities ahead for the Kivalliq region, and, hopefully, the vast majority of the news throughout the upcoming 12 months will be of the good news variety.

I'm proud to be in my 19th year of doing the Kivalliq News for our readership.

It's a wonderful challenge each-and-every week, and one I could never successfully accomplish without the help of a number of folks across our region.

On that note, as I do every year, I would like to dedicate the first column inches of the year to those good folks.

Here in Rankin, my longtime friend Noel Kaludjak continues to also be a great friend to this publication.

As most who call Rankin home realize, Noel is a picture-taking madman.

He is also nice enough to know I can't be at two places at once, have a hard time taking action photos of big hockey games when I'm on the ice officiating, and actually enjoy having an evening off.

His photo contributions to Kivalliq News are often invaluable and, as always, I thank him profusely for his help.

Up in Naujaat, I don't know what I'd do without the photo contributions and story leads from Julia MacPherson and Lloyd Francis.

Julia keeps me up to date with everything going on at Naujaat's wonderful high school, and Lloyd keeps me in the loop on the successes of his most awesome cadet corps.

And both keep me in the loop on community news in general.

To Julia and Lloyd, my humble thank you for all you do outside your teaching duties during the year.

Being a regional newspaper, stories from our smaller communities are of utmost importance to me.

And, for many years, Victor Sammurtok School teacher Glen Brocklebank in Chesterfield Inlet has come through for me on that front.

Glen and his wife, fellow teacher Ana Leishman, are tireless workers for the kids in their community, and I appreciate them both taking the time to get me photos from the school and passing on the news of the community to me.

In Arviat, Gord Billard is yet another Kivalliq teacher who goes above and beyond the call of duty in being involved with youth projects in the community.

He has introduced generations of kids to the magic of the theatre as a director, and has never shied away from topical issues.

Gord is another I owe a huge debt of gratitude to for his contributions.

Also, in Arviat, Eric Anoee Jr., master of the digital realm, keeps me in the loop on many projects throughout the year, and often contributes photos to Kivalliq News, such as the awesome photos he provided from the Charlie Panigoniak benefit concert.

Thank you Eric. Your contributions are most appreciated.

I would be remiss if I did not give an honourable mention to Karen Yip for her help this past year in Baker Lake, and there are many others who send me photos now and again during the year.

While there are far too many to name in this space, you all know who you are and I thank each and every one of you for your contributions.

So, after getting all caught up with the thanks we owe so many people for helping to keep Kivalliq News a truly regional publication, it's time to set our sights back on the year at hand.

I look forward to hearing from all six of our communities outside Rankin this year, and having the opportunity to, once again, write about the exciting events and awesome people who make Kivalliq so special.

Have a great year, everyone!

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