Editorial page

Monday, February 21, 2000

Quit milking the cash cow

Imagine the indignation! A billion dollars of taxpayers' money doled out by the federal government without proper controls governing how the money was spent.

That's what we have seen from opposition benches in the House of Commons in recent weeks as the governing Liberals endured attack after attack over its handling of the Transitional Job Fund.

A random audit of more than 400 projects, including several in the North, identified a number of irregularities, resulted in more in-depth audits of 37 projects, and dozens of questions from federal opposition parties.

When the federal government was struggling to get its spending under control, these kinds of questions could, and should, have resulted in a death blow to a governing party.

Today, with a ballooning budget surplus and an unassailable majority, the government seems to believe it can shrug off such concerns. To top it all off, it seems much of the money was used to fund projects in ridings held by government MPs.

It's thinking like this that led to the deficit days of the past and the enormous debt we Canadians will spend years to pay off.

This kind of spending is no longer acceptable.

If the government is going to continue to fund projects, it must do so in a non-partisan manner, with proper controls and with a greater degree of financial prudence.

Besides us taxpayers, the unfortunate victims in this scandal are the agencies who had their names and projects blackened by federal mismanagement.

To their credit, the Dogrib First Nation, one of two Northern projects involved in the second review, was able to quickly dismiss auditor's concerns thanks to their accurate bookkeeping and record-keeping practises.

It's too bad the federal government can't say the same thing.

Fuel for the mind

The injection of $3,000 to each of three Iqaluit schools is a generous and well-thought out donation by the local Rotary Club.

Principals expressed their gratitude and thanks, stating the money would go a long way in helping to feed students who come to school hungry.

And although the reasons for hungry students may vary -- slept in, no food at home -- the fact remains that they are just that, hungry.

With the extra money, the schools can ensure their students are fuelled by food, making them more energetic and alert in class.

Two schools declined the financial donation because of already successful food programs.

A call for donations

Ellen Bennett got the ball rolling.

The heir to a fortune of stuffed animals, the resident of Iqaluit turned more than 100 toy bears over to the RCMP following her mother's death.

She wanted she said, to bring comfort to the child victims of crime.

It looks as if her generous offer is going to work.

The RCMP, who were more than happy to receive the donation, plan to carry the stuffed animals in their cruisers and will have them available at the detachment.

Children, so often deeply effected by crime, will be given the toys when the officers are making their calls and performing their more unpleasant duties. It will give children something to concentrate on, something to focus on.

Bennett deserves a big pat on the back for her kind thinking.

But just as it's important to reward people for the kind acts they've already completed, it's perhaps more urgent to push other Iqaluit residents into taking the first step.

Bennett gave of her heart and handed over more than 100 stuffed animals. That's enough to last a while, but the supply will not last forever.

People need to come forward with similar offerings, whether it be more stuffed animals, other sorts of toys or just a violence-free place to spend a few safe hours while the police take care of business.

As Bennett pointed out, if her gesture manages to make things even a little less traumatic for children, in the long run, it will help society as a whole.

So, when work wraps up and the day is done, take a good long look in the closets and around the house and see what there is to donate. The RCMP is waiting for that phone call, but even more importantly, a child suffering the effects of crime needs to know someone cares.

A law ignored

The lack of government action in the case of Roberta Vaneltsi hurts Canada's image as the true North strong and free.

After a break-up in 1994, the courts awarded Vaneltsi and her common-law husband joint custody of their two children, who were to alternate between their parents on a yearly basis. After a year with their mother, the father took the children to his home in Czech Republic, refusing to return them after the year.

Vaneltsi asked the territorial and federal governments and politicians, even the United Nations, for help but more effort went into passing the buck than righting a wrong. The fact is Canadian laws have been broken and the people responsible for defending the integrity of those laws have ignored their duty.

They not only let down a mother, they let us all down.

Jobs on ice

All these years that icebergs have been floating by, it never occurred to us that they were marketable commodities.

A group of forward-thinking entrepreneurs from Newfoundland wants to "harvest" icebergs and ship them south on empty sealift barges so that brewers and distillers can use the pure water in their beverages.

The jobs that the project will create are always welcome.

The whole idea of selling icebergs makes us look around for anything else that's lying around that we could sell down south. How about a bargeful of rusty oil drums? Surely somebody down there wants them.

In the meantime, however, we have to ask ourselves, are icebergs a renewable or non-renewable resource?

Home alone

We have to admire the men and women of the RCMP who volunteer to staff the single-member posts in our small communities such as Wha Ti and Paulatuk.

Taking on the role of officer, secretary, janitor and even sometimes mechanic, must, at times, be a daunting task.

The life of an RCMP officer can be challenging enough with being transferred again and again to different locales, but these lone officers have an even tougher row to hoe.

You never know when you're going to need the help of a police officer, and we're glad to have these dedicated professionals at our service if we do need to make the call.