Wednesday, April 1, 1998
Time to choke the mule

They just don't seem to get it. Not the mayor of this town, not the so-called Yellowknife Diamond Task Force.

The diamond industry is a closed shop. It doesn't like people coming in because profits depend on secrecy and iron-fisted control of product.

If a significant percentage of the rough diamonds does not remain in the North, two things will happen. Secondary industry will have no reason to come to Yellowknife and the government will have no idea of the true value of the diamonds coming from the Barren Lands.

The only one who seems to understand what kind of game it is, and who is determined to protect Northern interests, is NWT Finance Minister John Todd. He knows we have to play hardball as other diamond producing countries have done.

Look at the way BHP plays. Last week, BHP spokesperson Graham Nicholls dismissed the territorial government's plans to buy 10 per cent of Ekati's rough diamond production. His contempt for the notion of Northern benefits is obvious. The truth is, the diamonds would be bought at market value, so we can only conclude that BHP wants to keep Northerners out. They said as much by insisting they would only sell to qualified Canadian companies. That means they intend to sell to the South and only as much as they want to.

When Todd first announced the plan to buy rough diamonds, Mayor Dave Lovell was in Europe. Lovell is on record as saying the plan gave a tremendous boost to the profile of the task force's visit, putting them on European television and in the newspapers. Here was a Canadian upstart demanding a piece of the pie, which they know from experience is the only way to do it. They wanted to come to Yellowknife.

Those in the industry know there is no risk buying rough because diamond retailing is controlled by De Beers, which will buy most of the diamonds BHP produces and will manipulate supply to ensure solid prices. De Beers plays so hard it is not even allowed to operate in the United States.

The mayor seems to forget Todd's role and says he doesn't care where the rough gems for a secondary industry come from as long as they come. Task Force spokesperson Julia Mott says much the same. They naively believe the battle is won.

This battle has just begun and both the mayor and the task force members had better wake up to that fact. We need a city aggressively recruiting diamond processing companies and a business community ready to service the new industry at a level equal to southern competitors.

Todd had better get out his big stick, the mule-choking taxation.

BHP has abandoned good business practices for the sake of keeping their friends happy. They must be shown that in the North, partnership is the only way to go.

Keep on trucking

As this year's ice-road season winds down, traffic along the Ingraham Trail will no doubt increase as transport companies work around the clock to get the last shipments of fuel, building supplies, equipment and food out to the mine sites.

Residents who live along the trail are no stranger to these trucks and hopefully they all know the drill by now -- slow down and heed these vehicles -- because, despite the inconvenience they may cause, we route is vital part of the North's industrial network.

Besides, before you know it, we will all be faced with the onslaught of tourists, summer cottagers and speed-happy teenagers who, as residents also know, love to take to the trail.

Smoking sting

At first glance, Health Canada's plan to crack down on vendors who don't seem to understand that it's illegal to sell cigarettes to minors might seems a bit odd. After all, they are practically advertising their intentions to launch another sting operation in the coming weeks.

But if you consider that the goal is to prevent the sale of tobacco products to youth, then the mere possibility of a crackdown should be enough to do the job. It is the same strategy police use to discourage speeding on the highway -- the knowledge that radar traps are used is often scary enough to convince speeders to slow down.

And of course, we at Yellowknifer are more than happy to co-operate with this exercise in market terrorism. At little fear could go a long way.

Editorial comment
Spring is in the air
Jennifer Prichett
Kivalliq News

Birds may not be singing, not a flower is in sight, but a Northern spring is surely on the way.

It's amazing what difference sunlight can make to people's moods and the overall feeling in any given place. So it's not surprising that the longer days are lifting the solemn faces of people who have had to endure a long winter.

Faces no longer covered like bandits, people who walk past you on the street are suddenly recognizable. You see people who haven't been outside it seems in months.

Spring is a time of excitement for people everywhere in the Keewatin. And the positive mood is seen everywhere you go.

At the post office one day it seemed everyone was in a good mood and one of the workers said, "Everyone is so happy spring is coming." But outside, the wind was still blowing and the landscape was white.

What was she talking about? She was referring to the prevailing mood and the sense that people are looking to the future as something bright and welcome.

People in the South would think it crazy to be excited about a rise in the barometer that is still lower than their coldest days, but Northerners look forward to May as much as people in the South look to spring. The two are very different, but the pleasure evoked in people is the same.

Many people have said that spring is the favorite time of the year. Here's why: Spring is a time of activity for Northerners -- a time for hunting caribou and seal, as well as fishing.

It's the Northern way. Northerners try to make the best of things and accept life as it is -- perhaps more so than southerners.

Life is more difficult, but more is appreciated at the same time. And in a world where many people focus on the negative, who says taking pleasure in such a simple thing isn't significant? It makes life meaningful.

The North is a place where one appreciates the more subtle qualities of the sun and the heat it emits. Let's just say, that the heat felt from the sun indoors has to be enough until June or July, when it finally begins to warm up. So people make the most of the returning light and the way the sun makes one feel.

So next time the lengthy winter causes some discomfort, remember spring really is on the way and there's so much to look forward to.