Monday, March 24, 1997

West lacks credible leadership

"I don't think anyone knows what the hell is going on." That single comment from an elder in Fort Simpson sums up best what is going on with the constitutional hearings.

It also nails down the greatest failing of consensus government; if there is no strong leader among the MLAs, there is no leadership for the government or the people.

Certainly the constitutional process in the Western Arctic is a shambles.

The problems are obvious and numerous.

The one region that wants nothing to do with a new western territory or its constitution, the Deh Cho, is the constituency of the Minister in charge, Jim Antoine. The harder Antoine works, the more support he loses at home.

The executive director of the working group responsible for organizing meetings, informing and consulting people is Fred Koe, whose political qualifications seem to be that he spent one term as Inuvik MLA and is a nice guy.

Koe has never shown any ability for wrestling down complex issues for the public or even effectively chairing a conference. The complaints from the communities of short or no notice of meetings and weak scheduling are disgraceful.

If Koe isn't getting the time and resources he needs to do the job, he should stand up and say so, not muddle through with lame excuses and no regard for quality control.

That leaves us with so-called Premier Don Morin, who likes to hide behind his southern press secretary with royal pronouncements of neutrality on the constitution.

That's the void of leadership stopping real progress on the constitution.

The West urgently needs leadership, the kind the East has with John Todd, Goo Arlooktoo and Manitok Thompson.

If Morin doesn't understand what the big deal is about a constitution, his cabinet colleagues should sit down and explain it to him.

One thing is for sure: Morin's boss, Minister of Northern Affairs Ron Irwin, whose contempt for consensus government is no secret, will be watching what we do on a western constitution.

To date, all we've shown him is amateur night in the Western Arctic. ( 3/24/97 )

Making the grade

Two of a school's functions are to instil in children the joy of learning and to prepare them for a productive, meaningful future.

In the adult world, people are judged on their performance. Schools must prepare children for this eventuality. That is why allowing students to progress through school without successfully completing their courses doesn't make much sense.

Here in the territories, where education is so important for our economic viability, not adequately preparing our children for their future is, in fact, to fail in our responsibility to them. ( 3/24/97 )

Hats off to Taloyoak

The Eastern Arctic community of Taloyoak has no equal this month when it comes to the community spirit department.

Some 27,000 pop can pull-tabs have been collected in hopes of trading them in for enough money to buy a new wheelchair for seven-year-old Mary Jane Ukuqtunnuaq. Then came the news that a southern philanthropist will donate a chair.

That news is good but the story would never have come out had it not been for the generous commitment and energy of the people of Taloyoak.

In other places, the delivery of the new wheelchair might be the end of that.

But Taloyoak insists that it will continue to collect the pull-tabs in anticipation of someone else's needs.

Amazing, especially when you consider that a can of pop can cost $2 there. ( 3/24/97 )