Carbon tax a heavy levy
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 14, 2017
The arrival of Pan-Canadian carbon pricing to the North is nothing to look forward to - especially now that it's been revealed that it could cost $923 per household by 2022.
The territorial government proposal, which comes in response to the federal Liberal government's much-ballyhooed demand for provinces and territories to come up with their own plans to reduce fossil-fuel usage might be workable in large urban centres in southern Canada. But risks being yet another yoke of oppression from the federal government in a place that relies heavily on fuel for all forms of transportation and for generators to keep the lights on and provide heat to ward off freezing to death.
The prospect of switching to smaller vehicles - electric? Sure, go try that out - and renewable forms of energy is problematic for a place that gets so cold and so dark that even wind turbines freeze up in winter.
People with low incomes and those in smaller communities will likely be hurt the most ("Carbon tax could cost $923 per household," News/North Aug. 7).
Lisa Nitsiza, chief administrative officer of Whati, which has fewer than 500 residents and can only be reached by air during summer, said the carbon tax would likely hit the community hardest if flight prices increase.
"The chief has been saying that the average household cannot afford a trip into Yellowknife for two," she said, adding that for a family of four, the price is close to $1,600, round trip.
The latest talk on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's carbon pricing plan, promised in the 2015 general election, is in response to a GNWT survey and discussion paper about the implementation of carbon pricing in the NWT.
It states households will be hit directly with fuel price hikes at the pump, and indirectly with taxes included in the prices of goods and services.
The tax is expected to generate $12.6 million in its first year, and $63 million per year in 2022, according to the paper.
Now that's not chump change. But NWT residents are going to feel like chumps if this new tax simply lines government coffers deeper and is not used to improve the territory's energy infrastructure, such as building hydro potential and more solar panel arrays.
And what a nasty bit of spreadsheet wizardry that will prove to be for what will obviously be an expanded territorial finance department.
Housing and transportation costs are already straining credulity in the NWT and the last thing the territory's economy needs is a tax that will scare off business.
The GNWT must ensure the tax makes the cost of energy in the North more affordable.
While we're on this topic, whatever happened to the confident statements from Premier Bob McLeod that the North's unique needs will be addressed by the feds as the tax scheme was in development last year? Don't hear much of that talk any longer.
However, it's logical that measures to introduce workable new green energy alternatives should continue to be developed and introduced.
As we wrote here in a previous editorial on this matter ("Trip down greener
road a long one," Dec. 19, 2016), the NWT would need millions, if not billions, of dollars from the feds to invest in the infrastructure needed for increased hydro production, wind turbines, and solar panels. The territory will need millions more to better insulate buildings and homes. And even then, it is difficult to imagine how the NWT will be able to do anything more than modestly reduce our diesel consumption - and only after many years of planning and construction.
In July of last year, McLeod united with Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna and former Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski in publicly opposing a carbon tax because cost of living in the North is already so high.
Did those words really fall on deaf ears in Ottawa?
Nunavut's language challenges are many
Nunavut/News North - Monday, August 14, 2017
Last month, under the radar, Nunavut's Department of Culture and Heritage let a significant date pass with zero fanfare. More than two weeks later, we learned that all businesses and non-governmental organizations must join the government in offering its services in the Inuit language.
It's a big deal. Why wasn't a bigger deal made? Perhaps because it's summer in Nunavut.
Nunavummiut know that English has a lot of power here, perhaps more than Inuktut, despite the fact the territory is 84 per cent Inuit, according to the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics. Outside of Iqaluit, the figure is 92 per cent.
Very many Inuit speak English but the same can't be said for qallunaat speaking Inuit languages.
The erosion of Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun can only stop if they are used, promoted and more widespread. The government is right to step in to push back against one of the world's most dominant languages.
It makes sense to conscript businesses into the fight. But halting Inuktut's erosion will take a lot of effort, money and goodwill.
Businesses run by qallunaat tend to use English names, and their marketing is rarely translated into Inuktut. The government is ready to help with a $1 million fund - up to $5,000 per business - to translate materials and produce signage, etc., to match the prominence of the English ones.
But producing reading material is only one solution that doesn't line up with the reality that literacy is low here, particularly outside of Iqaluit.
The poor state of Inuktut in government and in education in Nunavut is a huge barrier that needs to be addressed if this effort is to work. Inuit employment in government has been stuck at 50 per cent for ages, and the problem is more pronounced in Nunavut schools, where the next generation is expected to develop Inuit language skills while spending their days being taught by English-speaking non-Inuit teachers using a different writing system.
To save the language, all schools should be requiring all students to learn all subjects in Inuktitut first, and English should be taught as a second language much the same as French is offered at English-speaking schools down south.
Until such ideas are possible to execute, asking businesses to have Inuktut speakers available to answer questions about products and services will run into a capacity issue. It's difficult for small businesses to recruit Inuktut speakers when the need for their labour in government is in high demand, and the pay is higher. Finding translators is also difficult, especially those who speak Inuinnaqtun, even for small projects.
Technology isn't much of a help, at this point. Google Translate offers more than 100 languages, almost none spoken by Indigenous people in North America. It does offer Latin, though, which has zero native speakers. There's something wrong with that.
Surveying the landscape, it's no surprise the languages commissioner is saying fines won't come right away for businesses that don't comply.
It's smart business to speak the language of the client. Unfortunately for us all, the territory's biggest employer - the government - has a much bigger language problem, and it's going to take far more money and far more time to solve.
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 11, 2017
Last week's flip-flop on signage warning about arsenic contamination in area lakes highlights a communications fiasco that began with the release of 30-year-old data on Kam Lake last spring.
Last week, Dr. Andre Corriveau, the NWT's chief public health officer, was forced to endure a very public course correction by his minister Glen Abernethy after the good doctor said erecting signs would be "expensive" and likely to be "defaced or vandalized" or "just fall over in time."
According to the minister, signs have been in the works since the spring. The territorial government will pay for them and the city will post them in four key areas: Kam Lake, Grace Lake, Frame Lake and Jackfish Lake - all bodies of water people may be tempted to swim or fish in if they didn't know any better.
Presumably they will be as sturdily built and as reasonably priced as the handful of signs already dotting the McMahon Frame Lake Trail or Baker Creek informing passerby of the area's fauna and geology.
City councillor Niels Konge told Yellowknifer he doesn't think the lakes need signs "because at some point people need to take the initiative to educate themselves and take care of their own well-being."
This is a marvelously libertarian point of view but doesn't help a person new to town or the tourist from Korea who would never consider reading health advisories on the Department of Heath and Social Services' website before taking a stroll down by the lake.
A few strategically placed signs with clear warning labels is the most responsible way to inform members of the public who may not be aware there is a problem.
The signage flip-flop was an unfortunate misstep in a week where residents were finally given solid information on a number of lakes within city limits, particularly Kam Lake - the subject of a health advisory in April, based on information from 1989, that stated arsenic levels in the lake were more than 50 times higher than the level considered safe for drinking water.
New testing shows the figure has since been halved to 24 times higher than the Canadian guidelines for safe drinking water. It's still an alarming number but the discrepancy suggests the health department would have been better off giving itself a few more months while doing its homework before firing off a health advisory based on out-of-date information.
The department has been playing catch up ever since and in the process has confused and greatly alarmed the public without being able to answer questions - questions concerning bodies of water many people have been living next to and enjoying all their lives.
There is much more to learn about arsenic in city lakes. Hopefully, the health department will learn how to better communicate the new information that it learns.
Food bank support impressive in this environment
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 10, 2017
The Muslim Welfare Centre spent an extraordinary $120,000 last year funding the Arctic Food Bank.
That act of private charity must be one of, if not the, largest in the region.
Most community group funding here comes through government grants and programs. Grant and proposal writing has become an entire industry itself, with thousands of non-profits and charities vying for pieces of the public purse.
However, there's something more meaningful about individuals opting to fund a certain program with their own money than bureaucrats in government offices choosing which programs to fund with their tax collections.
The people who voluntarily donated to the Muslim Welfare Centre, knowing the money goes to programs like this, have parted with their money because it's a cause they believe in.
It is slightly more hollow to receive a bounty that was forced out of other people's hands.
This is not just semantics, because the incentives behind money circulation matter.
People are naturally generous, but to a logical point.
If the government assumes responsibility for a country's generosity and taxes to the extent needed to attain that power, the incentive for individuals to give plummets.
First of all, they have less money to give. Second, they wonder why they should fund something that the government has said is its job.
Third, the causes the government supports are not necessarily the same causes the people who are paying for them would support.
Peter will naturally use different judgement spending Paul's money than he would his own.
The Muslim Welfare Centre props up organizations like the Arctic Food Bank no doubt because the people who donated believe it is not just a good cause, but something that resonates with them personally and will extend their brand.
It is a mutual benefit: they feel good about themselves, and they get their name out there in a positive light. There's no such thing as selfless acts: people give because it makes them feel good.
But the person who's taxed for someone else to provide charity with that money has no choice in how the money is spent and all the brand payback goes to the government.
This can lead to a crowding out effect, which makes people less likely to be generous if they think the government is already assuming that role.
We can at once support the government's ability to provide funding to underrepresented causes and be wary of the fine line it can cross with regard to incentives.
People's charity does not exist in a vacuum, but is responsive to the ebbs and flows of their environment.
The Muslim Welfare Centre's support is a fantastic example of private charity still alive and well. So are the town's 100 People Who Care Inuvik group and donations businesses have made to the Children First Centre and youth athletics.
Groups like these deserve extra praise in an environment that doesn't always push people to give.
This bird still stuck in ashes
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The ongoing Phoenix pay mess may seem abstract to some, but one federal employee shared a story last week that illustrates how it's turning lives upside down.
The system was implemented in February 2016 by streamlining all federal pay through an office in Miramichi, N.B. A glitch in the system led to all sorts of pay issues for hundreds of thousands of federal employees. People weren't paid when they should have been, were paid when they shouldn't have been and waited for months to see adjustments to pay for parental leave, overtime, long-term disability and modifications of duties.
Jane, who spoke to Yellowknifer last week, saw a number of these problems happen at once. Yellowknifer didn't use Jane's real name, as her department warned telling her extraordinary story to the media could be a conflict with the government's code of ethics.
Her daughter died suddenly in December. In April, her nurse practitioner advised she go on disability leave to deal with the grief. In the meantime, the Phoenix pay system continued to pay her despite the fact she was on leave, while the record of employment she needed to apply for disability pay took months to arrive - and when it did, it was wrong. She had no choice but to use the money she was mistakenly being paid in order to make ends meet.
In mid-July the pay stopped coming and there was still no word on when her disability pay would kick in. Jane needed money to pay her mortgage and nowhere to draw that money from.
Now, she sits in a precarious position where she has no money coming in and a Damocles Sword hanging over her head if the feds decide to recoup what has been mistakenly paid to her.
Jane is one of 228,000 people across Canada struggling with pay issues like this. For her, and everybody else with stories like hers, the federal government must commit the resources to rectify the situation without compounding damage that's already been done.
Relay for Life too lucrative to cancel
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Last August, the Canadian Cancer Society closed its Yellowknife office. The society believes it can serve residents better through social media than with a physical presence.
Unfortunately, this means there is nobody left in town to organize annual fundraisers such as Relay for Life and Daffodil Month. So this year, the community missed these events.
Relay for Life, which has been a mainstay in the community since 2003, usually generates more than $100,000. This is an astounding amount of money for about 20,000 Yellowknife residents to raise.
It's hard to believe the Canadian Cancer Society will drum up enough support to match this without an office in town. Not only that, but these events shine a greater spotlight on real cancer survivors and their families. A Facebook page just doesn't have the same impact.
The Canadian Cancer Society does good work through funding cancer research, prevention strategies and helping those suffering with cancer. Without a human face and boots on the ground, the society is not going to be as effective as it would be. Perhaps it doesn't need to fund a full office, but keeping one full-time person around to organize Relay for Life - an event that so many people in the city love and support - is an investment that will pay back.
Training saves lives
Editorial Comment by April Hudson
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 9, 2017
There's an old, racist stereotype about the 'drunken Indian.'
You all know of it. Some of you will have experienced it first-hand: that assumption by some people that if you belong to an Indigenous group, you have a drinking problem.
I heard that stereotype make the rounds when I was a child growing up in Whitehorse.
You would think that 20 years later, things might have changed — that society had progressed, and people are aware of how harmful such ideas are.
But those old stereotypes still circulate and they still influence the way Indigenous people are treated.
That much is clear after a coroner's inquest into the 2012 death of Paul Kayuryuk in Baker Lake.
Paul died under tragic circumstances, and although his death was ruled natural causes, it was very, very preventable.
All it takes is a read through the verdict from the coroner's jury, which held its inquest in late July, to see how badly the RCMP failed Paul.
I have to include a caveat here. Many, if not most, RCMP officers genuinely care about their communities. The ones I have known or been acquainted with have all done their absolute best to fulfill their job.
Sadly, sometimes the system fails. Reading between the lines of the coroner's inquest, which is a fact-finding exercise, it becomes clear policy was not followed in Paul's case. In fact, there were many failures in this case, from the assumption Paul was intoxicated to the delay in getting him medical attention.
Testimony during the inquiry, posted to social media by Paul's niece Karen Kabloona, references foam coming from his mouth, vomiting and incontinence while he was being held in cells.
Yet it took an entire night and the following morning for him to be transferred to the health centre.
That's a harrowing thing for me, who did not know Paul personally, to hear. I can only imagine how it felt for his family.
The coroner's inquest did the one thing it could: it recommended changes. Most of those changes relate to training of RCMP officers and civilian guards, education and a tightening-up of policy.
Such training can save lives. That includes very basic, common-sense training that encourages officers to -in the words of the jury's verdict -"challenge assumptions about alcohol use and intoxication in Inuit communities."
It's sad that those myths still exist, that people might assume intoxication before they consider the possibility of a medical emergency.
Unfortunately, the road to societal progress is often built on tragedies like this. Circumstances such as Paul's force us to look at the bigger picture and see just how much work still needs to be done to root out racism wherever it is found.
Hopefully, this is a wake-up call. It's past time for us as a society to destroy those assumptions once and for all. That would be the best thing to come out of this inquest.