NNSL Photo/Graphic

NNSL Photo/Graphic
Editorial Cartoons

Subscriber pages
buttonspacer News Desk
buttonspacer Columnists
buttonspacer Editorial
buttonspacer Readers comment
buttonspacer Tenders

Subscribe now
Subscribe to both hardcopy or internet editions of NNSL publications

Our print and online advertising information, including contact detail.

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size

Visitors centre needs proper funding to succeed
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 26, 2017
Last week, things went from bad to unemployed for workers at the not-for-profit Northern Frontier Visitors Association.

If you've been following Yellowknifer's ongoing coverage, you know association's visitors centre shuttered earlier this month due to structural issues with the building. Years of frost heave have rendered it unsafe to occupy.

There has been a lot of soul-searching in recent weeks as the visitors association, the territorial government and the city figure out how to replace the tourist-welcoming centre months after reporting a whopping 50,000 people had come through its doors in 2016 -- mainly aurora tourism visitors from Asia.

In this respect, the visitors centre is a success story. Alas, it is teetering over a swamp - both figuratively and literally - and its governing association faces the prospect for the foreseeable future of greeting tourists from a kiosk at the museum with no ability to generate revenue through rent and selling merchandise.

The visitors association received $161,000 from the GNWT and $86,723 from the city last year but its primary revenue comes from merchandise and renting office space in the visitors centre - $1.09 million. Now that money is gone and up to $5.25 million will be needed to build a new building.

This speaks to the most critical problem the visitors association faces aside from losing its building- namely that it is at the mercy of an uncertain revenue stream.

For some reason, the city and GNWT decided it only needed to top up funding for the city's primary tourism promoter and leave it to the association to do all the heavy lifting. This was a huge mistake. The visitors association has been set up to fail at a time of exponential growth for tourism.

The problem should be obvious now that the city's tourism needs are being handled by a makeshift greeting desk at the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre.

And as far as constructing a new building is concerned, the visitors association is clearly in no position to take on the task itself. This must be a project by government and time cannot be wasted dithering about who will fund it and when. It is critical that plans be developed for a new visitor's centre immediately. The question then becomes, what next? With no disrespect to the hard and valuable work performed by the visitors association over the years, recent events causes one to wonder whether it is appropriate to leave a non-profit in charge of promoting the city.

Board members come and go and none are immune to the frustrations that come with trying to keep a non-profit afloat.

When Kyle Thomas, the visitors association's president, admitted "he was at the end of his rope" trying to navigate solutions with city and territorial government representatives after endless board meetings, not a lot of imagination is required to understand what he is talking about.

If the government won't provide adequate funding, the best solution may be to bounce the ball firmly back into the government's court. Therefore, the pressure is on the politicians who are elected - and get paid - to make big decisions and not on volunteer board members trying to dig their way out of a multi-million dollar mess.

Forging a new energy identity
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, May 25, 2017

It was surprising to hear that finding interest for the Arctic Energy and Emerging Technologies conference and tradeshow has not been too much of a challenge for Vicky Gregoire-Tremblay, the town's economic and tourism manager.

In fact, people were coming to her before she could reach out to them, eager to be part of the show and get involved in the region's energy future.

There's no current booming alternative energy industry in Inuvik for the show to centre itself on in the way the old Inuvik Petroleum Show focused on oil and gas.

Money isn't flowing in the area in renewable technologies, at least compared to the oil and gas boom.

But what it does highlight is the power of shifting public opinion.

The Arctic has emerged as something of a mascot and recurring personality in the shift from oil and gas to new technologies.

In a similar way to the Arctic being used as an example of the ills of climate change, many people look longingly to it as a possible banner bearer in new ways going forward.

Though anyone declaring the death of oil is speaking far too prematurely, the wave of public support and investment money opening up for new energy sources is equally undeniable.

People want to make it work, and humans have the ability of almost willing their demands into existence.

Of course, the main challenge of the Arctic isn't going away: the lack of infrastructure and harsh environment, combined with low population, make many large-scale projects untenable.

With hope, Inuvik can reimagine itself and become an economic hub again.

The south can keep the north's traditions alive

The idea of hunting whales by qayaq is a childhood dream for many.

It's hard to imagine a more intimate and wild experience than taking down a sea monster with nothing but a qayaq and sharp spears. Guns help in the modern age, but the idea is the same.

Kevin Floyd and the Inuvik Qayaq Club are trying to keep that tradition alive, or at least continue the interest and skills involved, if not the actual beluga hunting.

Floyd and Jennifer Lam will be down south this weekend at the Pacific Paddling Symposium, teaching some Inuvialuit qayaqing skills.

Perhaps one of the best ways to keep Northern traditions alive is through southerners, many of whom value and respect these ways of life highly and wish to find a connection with them.

Cultural tourism is a growing industry, and there are a lot of different ways to capitalize on that demand, including passing on traditional skills directly to non-indigenous people.

Cultural appropriation is the controversial phrase of the day, but spreading these traditions is cultural celebration more than anything, and Canadians have a high appetite for these experiences.

Embrace transparency
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Louis Sebert, the minister responsible for transparency, is very confident in the transparency of his government.

"I think the government is already pretty open," he told a GNWT employee - who complained to him of a general lack of information, rumours flying and MLAs having to read the newspaper to find out what is going on in government - during a public meeting about the creation of a new open-government policy.

"I'd say politicians in this jurisdiction are more open than anywhere else," Sebert went on to tell a member of the public who complained of having trouble securing meetings between politicians and clients of the Safe Harbour Day Shelter, where he works.

It seems the only thing Sebert, who is in the process of developing a new open-government policy, was willing to assert at this meeting is that things are already A-OK.

Looking past Sebert's suggestion that while creating a new transparency policy, nothing apparently needs to change, Yellowknifer is left wondering what evidence lies behind his assertions that the government is already transparent?

The people who shared their concerns with Sebert only echo what many MLAs have complained about before in the legislative assembly - cabinet shrouds its work in secrecy, leading to a proliferation of rumours and eventually the indignity of having to read about developments in the newspaper rather than simply being kept in the loop.

Yellowknifer can certainly sympathize with cabinet's instinct to protect information.

The stakes are high. If an elected official says the wrong thing or releases half-baked plans, the public can really push back at the possible cost of that cabinet minister's job.

That said, it's important to remember that when the public or media want information, they aren't necessarily searching for a smoking gun.

Most of the time people just want to know what's going on. The way it is now, newsworthy information inevitably gets leaked, meaning it probably isn't complete or in proper context, leading to misinformation and confusion.

The best way to mitigate this problem would be for Sebert to listen when regular MLAs, GNWT employees and members of the public are singing the same chorus - the government is not transparent enough.

Stop being so afraid of controversy and just open up a little bit.

Next winter is coming
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Last winter, the Stanton Territorial Hospital lobby became a place of refuge for the city's vulnerable population.

There was no action plan, no strategic framework, no report with a list of recommendations.

Based on the simple direction of Colin Goodfellow, the hospital's then chief operating officer, the lobby simply opened.

This was a good decision made out of desperation, and it got vulnerable people through last winter during times when other alternatives were limited. Last week, the NWT Health and Social Services Authority announced it was suspending the lobby policy as of May 21.

It's probably safe to assume this is an indefinite suspension, considering the force behind its implementation is an executive who, for reasons that remain unclear, is no longer with the health authority.

Winter is going to come again and health officials should acknowledge this problem is not going to magically go away.

Hopefully, there will be other choices in place for people who need shelter, such as a sobering centre but either way the territory's leaders need to acknowledge homelessness in Yellowknife is a big problem and simple, innovative solutions like leaving the lobby open to people who need to keep warm at night could be the difference between life and death.

The magic of Pepper
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It was 50 years ago, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. Well, at least, it will be come June 1.

With the Kivalliq summer music festivals just around the corner, what better time to revisit the album that changed the face of popular music forever.

Released on June 1, 1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the eighth studio release by The Beatles and, arguably, represented their finest hour as studio musicians, transcending popular music and being accepted as art.

The album spent an astonishing 27 weeks atop the British charts and 15 weeks at No. 1 in the United States.

As regular readers of Kivalliq News realize, I am both a rock music and Beatles fanatic.

And while there are numerous groups deserving of fame and admiration, The Beatles have crossed so many generations with their music, which continues to sell astonishingly well in 2017 that to argue against the group being the best of all time by a country mile borders on foolhardiness, if not absolute madness.

One of the great things about The Beatles, is that no matter how much you love their music, and no matter how many books you read on the group, it is, without fail, comments from regular music lovers that continue to startle all these years later and eclipse everything ever written by critics, or placed on the liner notes of a Beatles album.

So it was for me two weeks ago, for possibly the hundredth or more time in my life, while chatting with a teacher friend of mine from the Kivalliq when he sent me a message concerning The Beatles that read, "Their body of work probably covers every emotion and experience of the human condition."

Just doesn't get any better that that!

The most avoided question among avid Beatles fans is to name their favourite Beatles album.

But Sgt. Pepper was a ground-breaker on so many different levels that there is sparsely a recording artist today that doesn't owe something to the album.

It has sold more than 32-million copies worldwide, and that number is going to get a significant bump later this month with the release of the remastered Pepper, as well as deluxe and super-deluxe versions of the album that contain a number of outtakes and song variations that have either never been heard before, or haven't been heard at this high a quality.

The Beatles used so many musical styles, and incorporated so many recording techniques onto the making of Pepper, that it is really quite mind boggling.

The album's play list is incredible, stretching from the -at the time -recording genius of Sgt. Pepper itself, to the every-man's voice of Ringo Starr bellowing out the hit, With A Little Help From My Friends, to Paul McCartney's overly dramatic, but unflinching, She's Leaving Home, to one of the best Harrisongs (George Harrison) of his career, Within You, Without You, to the John Lennon/Paul McCartney magnum opus, A Day In The Life, and, also, to Lennon's Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds.

With that being said, another interesting side note to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is that although it already boasts an incredible lineup of songs, the first two songs the Beatles meant to put on the album never made it.

That's because The Beatles label, Parlophone, and their engineer, George Martin, were pressured into releasing a new Beatles single by the parent company, EMI.

Since the first two songs intended for Sgt. Pepper were almost completed, Martin convinced The Beatles to release Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane as a double A-side single.

In those days, songs released as singles were rarely, if ever, included on an album.

Martin is renowned for his work on Lennon's Strawberry Fields Forever, producing the magic splice that linked two takes of the song together. That is, two takes of the song recorded in different tempos and pitches.

But, then again, magic is what Sgt. Pepper is all about!

Preparing for forest fire season ahead
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, May 22, 2017

Everyone was able to escape unharmed, as a forest fire leaped towards them in the near distance.

Not only lives were at risk but also a cherished family fishing lodge on Harding Lake, about 50 kilometres east of Yellowknife.

The lodge owner was not warned to flee before that fire destroyed Namushka Lodge in July 2016.

To this day, Bryan Chorostkowski remains skeptical the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has learned from the experience.

The lodge had 21 guests at its fly-in location when a wildfire swept through on July 15. The fire began a day earlier near Pickerel Lake, roughly 12 kilometres to the northwest.

By 7:15 p.m., the wildfire had jumped a fire break in the woods near the lodge and people fled the flames by boat.

An independent review concluded Environment and Natural Resources had "inadequate" communications with people whose property was at risk and recommended "significant communications improvements."

The department, its forest fire crews, and assisting crews from out of territory deserve credit, after the 2014 forest fire season in particular -- one of the worst on record, consuming 34,000 square kilometres of forest -- with not a single loss of life. Their spectacular defence of Kakisa that year was nothing short of heroic.

But there are still lessons to be learned.

Much like in 2014 when a forest fire destroyed a family homestead on the Hoarfrost River, the Namushka fire was flagged by someone -- in this case, Chorostkowski's brother -- concerned about the approaching fire but nothing was done to save the lodge.

Ahead of the upcoming fire season, the territorial government is trying to gather more contact information for people who have properties in the bush. But there are hundreds and hundreds of cabins, lodges and camps in the territory

Ahead of what could be a "very difficult" forest fire season, the territorial government now has some new fire-fighting equipment. Eight new Air Tractor 802A FireBoss amphibious water bomber aircraft have arrived in the territory over the past several weeks.

The aircraft, at about $3.5 million each, replace four GNWT-owned CL-215 planes that will be sold off. Four of the planes will be based in Yellowknife while the other four will be in Fort Smith.

The water bombers arrived as a long-term forecast developed with Environment and Climate Change Canada and Canadian Forest Service predicts a warm and dry summer in the southern part of the territory.

Areas that "look like they may be trouble" are the Deh Cho and parts of the South and North Slave regions, he said.

In fact, the fire danger in Fort Simpson was listed as high for several days last week and into the weekend of May 20. Though only one small wildfire has been reported so far in the territory. That was near Inuvik.

So what can the GNWT and you do to stay safe this spring and summer?

Basic precautions such as FireSmarting your property and knowing your community's emergency plan are good starting points.

And according to the report into the Namushka Lodge blaze, the GNWT must improve communications and use computer software that can predict fire growth in real-time. The GNWT also needs to be able to source a fire behavior analyst when needed and generally update training for staff - this just to satisfy previous recommendations for improvement.

Frank Lepine, the department's director of forest management, acknowledged problems during the Namushka fire.

"It's possible we could have done a better job and we're always trying to do a better job."

If the government believes it has the ability to do a better job in these life or death situations, then it is a goal that must be pursued.

The government has a duty to do whatever it can to protect the people. It's just common sense that in a territory so vast with people spread out so sparsely that every lodge or cabin can't be protected from wildfires. But surely the human beings can be.

Call for action needs loud bell to be rung
Nunavut/News North - Monday, May 22, 2017

Mary Simon, former president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has travelled all over the North listening to Northerners as Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Minister Carolyn Bennett's special representative on Arctic leadership.

After 65 meetings with 200 Northerners, Simon told the federal government the obvious: they want the things other Canadians take for granted.

That includes a quality education, access to universities, reliable energy, economic development opportunities and basic infrastructure.

Surely Simon did not need to have a single meeting to come up with her list of 40 recommendations. Northerners have been broadcasting these concerns for ages.

We're generalizing, to an extent. But looking at the recommendations in detail, they are mostly a relay of concerns raised in these pages and elsewhere. Despite being raised over and over, response from the federal government is typically slow and insufficient but always enough to allow for a photo opportunity.

Simon is concerned her report will sit on a shelf somewhere in Ottawa and it's a fair concern.

Simon herself is a good photo op for Bennett and the government. Send a prominent Inuk leader north to hear from the people and show them the feds are listening.

And certainly she has collected 40 action items that would improve life in the North. Improve infrastructure, raise housing above Third World standards, make efforts to preserve and strengthen language, give broadband projects access to the Building Canada infrastructure fund, account for Northern costs and head counts in funding calculations, and consider local knowledge in research and programs.

Some of the recommendations are easy to direct bureaucrats to implement. Others are moonshots that will take far longer than one government's mandate. Cheap fixes versus courageous investments.

The majority of southern voters will want to know that their money is being invested wisely, and southern jurisdictions have their own big dollar concerns. Unfortunately, there are only a small number who speak for the few of us living in Canada's North, and too many in Ottawa who speak for many more.

But perhaps Mary Simon's brand is big enough in Ottawa, and perhaps her role gives her access to the right people to move the North forward.

If her report is a roadmap to nation-building, she needs to get it in the right hands. Bennett is a start but every MP and bureaucrat who could have a hand in this needs a copy. People from St. John's to Vancouver need to see the benefits of investing in the North. They need to understand the issues and see why it matters to them.

People can talk about our problems all they want up here but the real audience for this is in the south. That's why you can skip the old advice to write your MP, and go one better. Write someone else's MP.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.