Editorial page

Friday, October 15, 1999

Hindsight fine, foresight better

City Hall is improving.

Judging from Councillor Ben McDonald's statement on why the NWT Power Corp. did not get a chance to bid on the city's power franchise, he is developing a sense of hindsight. "We probably should've done it on a tender basis," he said.

We appreciate McDonald's frankness but we believe he might have had the foresight to vote for a public tender had the option been given to council. Administration didn't have that one on their list.

Mayor Dave Lovell's opinion was that if the Power Corp. was "that desperate to tender on it," they should pay the city's evaluation costs which he estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Obviously Lovell and administration made up their minds to save some money and didn't ask councillors what they thought. Money saving ideas are welcome, but what did they save us by not tendering?

In 1997 the Power Corp., in a bid to take over power distribution from Northland, claimed they could save Yellowknifers between 3.5 and 6.5 per cent a year. That's at least $600,000. Even a one per cent saving of $175,000 would have paid for the evaluation costs Lovell mentioned. Incidentally, the Power Corp. also said they would help cover those costs if allowed to bid.

Of course, we'll never know what savings Northland Utilities may have offered to compete with the Power Corp. That's what the tender process is for.

In hindsight, in saving some tens of thousands of dollars, city hall ignored an opportunity to save Yellowknifers hundreds of thousands on their power bills over the next 10 years.

Time to work on foresight.

Open the door

Master diamond cutter Peter Finnemore, who has immigrated to our part of the world to work at Sirius Diamonds, has a problem.

His problem is that Immigration Canada won't permit his adult children to either attend university or work in this country should they choose to join their father here.

Finnemore's children are 19 and 20 years old.

If Immigration Canada is going to be an impediment to the development of the secondary diamond industry, then the GNWT better start throwing its weight around. It could start by appealing to Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew to use her influence as a member of cabinet to ensure that adequate visas are forthcoming.

We need these skilled immigrants to develop a Northern diamond industry. And we need Immigration Canada's co-operation.

Fishy charges

You've got to wonder what exactly goes on in the minds of the people at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

On one hand, they give Giant mine a water licence after they expressed concern about "subsequent potential for water quality degradation" from the mine's effluent into Back Bay.

On the other hand, they charge the Yellowknives Dene for the destruction of fish habitat after the band built up the shoreline with gravel.

The DFO seems to have a peculiar sense of priority. While the Yellowknives Dene's right to do what they want to the shoreline may be debated, the fact remains that their actions pale beside the impact that Giant Mine has had on Back Bay. The DFO's own report to the water licence board makes that clear.

No wonder people are skeptical.

Chipping in
Editorial Comment
Daniel MacIsaac
Inuvik Drum

From what I saw of the Delta Daze festival, Inuvik residents and businesses really came through with their support for the cause.

Of course, there was a lot of fun to be had at all the events. While I'm sure the casino might be busy whatever the occasion, gaming for a good cause no doubt served as added inspiration.

The Lions did their part by organizing the busy weekend and raising funds that will enable them to carry on serving the community throughout the year.

It is wonderful so many businesses get involved and provide sponsorship and prizes for contests such as the prince and princess title. I can only imagine they have many reasons; additional publicity certainly doesn't hurt but they also see the need to support the community that creates their business and their livelihood. Whatever the motivation, their support helped make Delta Daze the success we all enjoyed.

Political scientists frequently mention the term civil society when discussing the characteristics of a healthy system. They are referring to organizations separate from government that individuals themselves create -- whether to conduct business, share interests, learn languages, celebrate traditions or simply play sports. They help keep a society going, people communicating and towns functioning.

I spent a great deal of time in Eastern Europe, where for decades many nations lacked a civil society and surrendered control to the Soviet state. Only since 1989 have they begun to reconstruct the sort of community organizations that we have consistently maintained and enjoyed in Inuvik.

Of course the town and the RCMP did their part as well, but once again, congratulations to the Lions Club, the Cub Scouts and all the businesses and volunteers who chipped in for Delta Daze.

Facing off

I am really impressed with the variety and level of amateur sport in Inuvik. I've heard, of course, that youth are encouraged to get involved in sports as a way to keep them out of trouble and to foster skills such as leadership that competition promotes. Aside from the official reasons, however, it simply adds up to a lot of good, clean fun and offers a welcome way to survive the increasingly cold and dark days around us.

I've lived in a lot of places, but Inuvik is one of the most sport-minded towns I've ever seen. Naturally, like everything else in a community of 3,200, this level of athletic activity demands hours of organizational and volunteer time. The winter leagues are already up and running, thanks to town staff and giving individuals. They may not always receive a steady stream of gratitude for their efforts, but the pay-off comes in the form of a busy arena and full gymnasiums just about every day of the week.

Loud and clear
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Some people are gifted with the ability to get a message across. They just have some sort of inexplicable aura about them, very influential types.

Usually, people associate this with celebrity status. Professional athletes captivate the imaginations of young minds. They can deliver resounding messages to youth. Such was the case with members of the Harlem Comedy Kings in Fort Simpson this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons the tall, skilled and nimble basketball players were scheduled to spend some time addressing students about healthy lifestyles.

Being a celebrity certainly isn't a pre-requisite to delivering a powerful message that youth are willing to pay attention to, although it helps. In high school, I can vividly recall two presentations, neither by a famous individual.

The first was by our driver's education instructor. She didn't have to say much really, she let the video Mechanized Death do the talking for her. It was approximately 45 minutes of gruesome footage of car accidents, most caused by reckless driving and intoxicated drivers. Some people didn't eat their lunches that day. My unbridled enthusiasm to climb behind the wheel and get my licence was shattered, just like the windshields of the cars in the video and the bones of the drivers and passengers. I still shudder when I think about it.

The other presentation was made by a guy by the name of Norbert. It's one of those names you just can't forget, especially after hearing him speak. A stout, balding, personable, emergency medical technician, Norbert came equipped with a slide show and plenty of personal stories of attending to accident scenes and putting people, including friends and acquaintances, in body bags. It was a moving hour about the perils of drinking and driving. In Fort Liard next week, it won't be professional athletes who will be delivering the message, but a social worker and two Fort Smith teens. Teenagers can usually relate to others their age, it makes good sense. If the message doesn't come off sounding like preaching there's a good chance it will hit home.

That's a chance worth taking.

Which way to go?

A Dene Nation leadership meeting is scheduled to be held in Yellowknife later this month. There will inevitably be some talk of the Territorial elections to be held in December.

I recall speaking with someone who said some Dene politicians once aimed to occupy as many seats in the legislature as possible in order to ensure aboriginal issues and concerns were not overlooked. Now, with so many regions having achieved land claims and striving for self-government, the role of the GNWT is being called into question.

What interest would Dene Nation members have in being elected to the GNWT if the balance of power is shifting? MLAs Sam Gargan, Jim Antoine and Stephen Kakfwi have all stated their intention to run again. Maybe they foresee the transition of power taking at least four more years.

One mistake shouldn't kill a program
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Those calling for the abolition of the Nunavut Youth Abroad program (NYAP) should stop and take a look at the bigger picture before being so willing to end such a valuable program to our territory's youth.

Yes, the program had an unfortunate incident with one youth having to be sent home early after succumbing to the temptations of alcohol.

And, yes, we always hate to see unfortunate incidents like this happen and wish they wouldn't.

Unfortunately, things like this do happen, but they have to be kept in their proper perspective.

The Kivalliq District Education Authority's assistant director of programs, Chris DaSilva, says a lot was learned from the unfortunate mishap, which will serve to make the program stronger.

The program has two stages, one international and one national. Nunavut youth must complete the Canadian segment before going abroad to far off places like Swaziland.

The program has enormous benefits to our youth in preparing them for their futures and introducing them to different cultures.

It also provides valuable work experience for these youth and instills a real sense of value for teamwork.

One youth being sent home represents roughly four per cent of the total program, now in its second year.

Even the prestigious Canada World Youth program has an attrition rate equal, if not higher, than four per cent.

We can't punish all our youth and deny future participants the benefits of this program because of the bad judgment exhibited by one individual.

In fact, the NYAP is one of the few programs in which Nunavut's Department of Education showed an ability to look towards the future and appreciate the positive influence this program can potentially have on our leaders of tomorrow.

The department is to be applauded for its efforts in helping to fund the program and should not allow continued support to be jeopardized by this one incident.

As unfortunate as it may be, youth sometimes err in their judgment and we must be pragmatic in addressing these situations.

All we can do is our best in helping to guide their development and try to offer them quality opportunities for that development.

The NYAP is just the type of opportunity many of our territory's youth can take advantage of to help cement their futures.

To end this program due to one isolated incident would be a sin far greater than the bad judgment exhibited by a single student.

It would also do nothing to help other students avoid choosing the same ill-advised path.