Friday, November 22, 1996

Looking for silver lining

The figures are more than a little daunting. But there's little to be gained from wallowing in the depressing news that came this week in the form of the NWT's first comprehensive Drug and Alcohol survey.

Instead, our legislators, community leaders, parents, teachers -- anyone with an interest in what we call home -- should do their best to find solutions in the survey's numbers.

On first glance, there does appear to be some cause for optimism.

Hard-drug use in the North is between two and five times the national rate. True. But the national rate is only one per cent, so there's at least one area for which the relatively inexpensive preventative approach still has merit.

There is also some hope to be found in the differences between drug use in the East and West.

In Nunavut, marijuana use is almost twice that of the Western Arctic. Alcohol use, meanwhile, shows the opposite trend -- the East has only two-thirds the rate of the West.

Much of that disparity can probably be blamed on economics. The simple truth is marijuana is much cheaper to ship than alcohol. This suggests that economic levers -- and from the government's point of view, that means taxes -- really can work.

With the recent confirmation that Northern lung cancer rates are significantly higher than those in the South, it would seem a prudent time, then, to revisit the issue of tobacco taxes.

And that's just for starters. Much more can be gleaned from this invaluable study. The time and money that went into it must not be wasted. (11/22/96)

Cuts hit too hard

The Project Change Training Centre for young adults with disabilities is in dire straits after funding cuts from the territorial government.

As matters stand now, the centre, which also serves the NWT, will close at the end of March. Founder Beulah Phillpot says they still haven't given up hope.

In these days of government belt-tightening, workers have been laid off and groups have to work with smaller budgets. Some people and organizations can bounce back. But there are always the vulnerable who lack the reserves or the resources needed to carry them through lean times.

Project change has helped 300 people with disabilities equip themselves for life's challenges.

These are people who, with financial support now, can be helped to be self-sufficient in the future. Or support can be withheld until such time they are on public funds for the rest of their lives.

Both they and society would be far better served with modest funding now. Project Change should not be closed down. ( 11/22/96 )