Monday, March 3, 1997

Taking a chance on VLTs

Before anyone loses their cool over the prospect of an invasion of video lottery terminals, let's just get one thing clear: gambling is nothing new in the North.

Almost every culture around the world has found ways to wager personal possessions or services against the laws of probability. One could even say that if prostitution is the proverbial oldest profession, then gambling is the oldest diversion.

Gambling comes in many forms, sanctioned and otherwise. Church-hall bingo is the most common in the North, but there's also poker and dozens of other card games commonly played for money in from the Mackenzie Delta to Baffin Island. Sport North, meanwhile, subsists largely on Lotto 6/49 proceeds.

And yet a groundswell of opposition is building (SOMEWHERE) against video lottery terminals, which haven't made it to the North yet, but are about as inevitable as the sunrise.

Entire communities are rallying against them, as did Rocky Mountain House, Alta., last week when residents voted heavily against them.

While it is true that the addictive attraction of VLTs has been likened to crack cocaine, it is just as true that well-regulated gambling can provide millions of dollars in government revenue.

Our government is no different. When faced with a constituency that demands both generous social spending and lighter tax burden, it's hard to blame politicians for eyeing non-tax income from gambling.

We can't stop gambling, so why not take control of at least some of the action? In return, a share of government revenues derived from VLTs should pay for addiction counselling and other support services.

The alternative is to ignore the problem and hope against hope that it goes away. It won't. (3/3/97)

Gender parity

Traditionally, informed debate means that both sides of the argument are presented.

So it remains a mystery why the power brokers at the Nunavut Leaders Summit last month didn't invite Pauktuutit, the Inuit women's organization, to the discussion in Cambridge Bay.

Martha Flaherty, the president of Paukuutit, has every right to wonder why.

To reach a consensus will require including everybody in the process. The Nunavut Leaders Summit should keep that in mind next time they refer to the people of Nunavut. ( 3/3/97 )

Crime wave

Calling what's going on in Colville Lake a "crime wave" may be exaggerating the seriousness of the situation. But there's every reason to believe that if something isn't done soon, things could get a lot worse.

At least two shootings have resulted in charges over the past few months and assaults are not unknown.

The RCMP says Colville is too small and remote to support a police presence, but can we not find the resources to hire at least a special constable with limited powers? Like the doctors say, an ounce of prevention.... ( 3/3/97 )