Wednesday, April 8, 1998
Confusing faith and facts

Despite the city's attempt in an brochure to persuade Yellowknife ratepayers that the proposed twin-pad arena will not affect city taxes, the truth is it will cost some $9 million to build.

And though other levels of government are kicking in some block funding, there should be no illusions about where much of that money will come from.

It will come from the pockets of the people Yellowknifer in the form of taxes. Indeed, to the claim, as the city does, that there will no impact from the project on taxes is just plain wrong.

When ratepayers vote next Wednesday on whether to approve borrowing $2.8 million for the project, they should keep that in mind.

The most important question facing voters is not whether we can afford the project, because we probably can, assuming the economy doesn't go into a tailspin in the next five years.

To the credit of the authors of the brochure, the estimates of the expected growth in the city's tax base have been low-balled, meaning things would have to get much worse than even conservative predictions lay out before the cost of arena becomes a problem.

But that doesn't change the fact that, unrelated economic factors and early debt retirement aside, the arena will be an expensive undertaking. The truth is we could also use the money targeted for the arena somewhere else or even to reduce taxes.

Instead, the real question -- and this is an important distinction -- is whether a twin-pad arena and a separate gymnasium and youth centre is the best use of the money.

Good arguments can be made on both sides, and some are found elsewhere on this website.

We find the case for a new arena to be compelling, but the case for this particular project less so. Indeed, it may take a leap of faith, as Mayor Dave Lovell says, to find confidence in the project. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it not be confused with the facts.

Trump card

BHP has a big cudgel to swing. The threat to reduce exploration has an immediate impact on suppliers and expediters in this town.

Having grown up with the mining industry, Yellowknife is used to living with the fluctuations of international markets and understand their effect. However, to suggest that the city's pursuit of secondary industries taints the economic climate of investment seems a bit of a bully tactic.

The Ekati mine can generate plenty of money for everybody. The process we are going through now is sorting out the wheres and hows. And in the end remember who's got the biggest cudgel. The diamonds are ours.

Staying power

It wasn't too surprising to learn that Bill Enge was acclaimed to the post of president of Yellowknife Metis Local 66. The 39-year-old former justice department official returned to his second term of running the largest Metis local in Yellowknife last week.

While some disgruntled members broke free last year to form Local 77, their low numbers make it clear that Enge's still very much a main player. According to the Metis Health Registry, a document produced by the Metis Nation, the new Local 77 is operating with 72 members, while Local 66 remains strong with about 1,100 members.

With that many supporters under his belt, Enge's acclamation speaks for itself.

Editorial Comment
Fishing fever strikes
Arthur Milnes
Deh Cho Drum

You know you're near losing it when you get up on a Sunday morning to watch the "Complete Fisherman" on television -- and you love every minute of it.

You cheer on the fisherman -- shouting with glee when they land a small-mouth bass -- and actually begin to feel each cast and rock of the boat.

Then, you start surfing the Internet, examining any interesting fishing sites you can find.

Or, you grab any excuse to open your tackle box and show off your latest collection of lures to any fellow fisherman that drop by. (Or, you stare longingly into your tackle box while alone at night...).

All through these manifestations of fishing fever you recall each fish, cast and ripple you experienced during last summer's fishing season.

You curse the ones that got away and vow that you'll nail them this coming fishing season. If, that is, it ever gets here.

If truth be known, the above are the symptoms of fishing fever that I have been experiencing in recent weeks. And, from numerous conversations with people around town in recent days -- especially since Doug Robertson and the folks at Northern put up the fishing display a week or so ago -- I know I'm not alone.

In fact, I had three local fishermen over to the xxxDrum in scant minutes the other day when I put out a call for helping with a fishing prop for a story I was writing. There they stood, in a canoe that was parked safely on my driveway, in full fishing gear. One can only imagine the looks the trio -- and the crazy photographer -- received from the Saturday afternoon traffic on main street.

After the picture was taken, we all sat around and traded fishing stories throughout the afternoon.

For me, fishing fever has also affected my driving habits in recent weeks as the spring weather has hit. Instead of driving the truck along main street to get to my destinations, I've found myself taking the river route as often as I can.

And, more than a few times, I've stopped to stare over at Harris Creek, vowing that I'll soon be there to catch the ginormous monster pike that I lost there last summer.

As I stare and remember Moby Pike, I grin when I think of the lure I picked up in Yellowknife at Christmas. It's green with revolting stripes and the darn thing must way five pounds. This lure -- I've christened it 'Das Boat' -- is probably the ugliest lure that any person has ever created.

And, the thing is so big that it might just knock that monster pike out should it hit him while I'm trolling.

So, to make a long story short, I can't wait much longer for fishing season.

But, what is making this pre-season fishing fever bearable is simply knowing that I'm not alone.

Editorial Comment
We spoke, they listened
Ian Elliot
Inuvik Drum

Well, this community raised its voice last week and got results.

Outraged that Canada Post would take down the bulletin board in the Mackenzie Road post office to make the lobby look better and not as a temporary thing while renovations were being done, a fair number of this town's 3,000 people -- 2,000 of whom probably glanced at the post office wall to see if the board was back up earlier in the day -- said a collective "The hell with them," last Thursday afternoon.

They hit the phones to blitz Canada Post senior managers with the same polite yet insistent message: we want it back. Canada Post never saw it coming, but they figured it out pretty quickly.

By the time the sun went down on Thursday evening, the promise was made that Inuvik's information superhighway would be put back as quickly as they could get it rehung.

It was a concerted bit of grassroots action, with one person calling Canada Post and then calling two others to get them doing the same thing, and people like Councillor Vince Sharpe working his way through the upper echelons of the corporate ranks repeating the same long-distance message to people living in places where the plants are already growing and who no doubt had no idea what all the outcry was about.

To its credit, Canada Post did not dig its heels in over the issue or try to stand on a policy book. Recognizing that it was dealing with something that mattered a lot more to the people who live here than it did to them, and who were not at all shy about telling them so with typical quiet Northern understatement, they conceded the point.

It's also a reminder that for all the decisions that seem handed down to us from the South, edicts that come out of Yellowknife or Ottawa with no apparent human behind them, we don't have to blindly accept them just because they were made. When a town bands together and says in one united voice that this will not be done, it speaks well of it.

A town not willing to stand up and fight for itself is missing a lot more than just a bulletin board.

So, if you took part in last week's phone campaign because it was the right thing to do, pat yourself on the back and remember this the next time the next such decision is handed to us on what seems like a silver platter.

After all, if we don't look out for this town, who's going to?