Editorial page

Wednesday, February 02, 2000

Waste not, want not

You can bury it, burn it or ship it away, but the fact is, we create too much garbage.

Many Yellowknifers have known that for years. A public meeting last week was just the latest step along a journey that began in 1989.

Even with baling waste, shipping 200,000 kilograms of recyclables and 50,000 litres of waste oil to Edmonton each year, we bury 26,000 cubic metres of garbage every year. At the current rate, the city landfill has room enough for eight more years of waste.

The true solution is not to build a bigger landfill, or spend millions on an incinerator, but to reduce the volume of waste. We must not create so much garbage in the first place. Until industry is truly geared to recycling, it will not take back the volume of materials it creates. Reusing some items can help -- but an object was likely discarded in the first place because it was more convenient to replace than repair.

Reduction means education. We, as consumers, must understand the impact we have on the environment. Burying our garbage just leaves the problem to future generations.

Formation of a community-based committee to address the problem is an important first step. The city can also lead neighbourhood workshops on waste reduction and separating waste from recyclables.

Encouraging backyard composting and building a community compost can remove many organics from the waste stream. Civic leaders, in co-operation with the community, must also press territorial and federal government to strengthen and improve environmental stewardship programs. That could mean anything from deposits on bottles and cans to paint companies being responsible for collecting old, unused paint.

People will still need subtle encouragement to reduce waste. That will mean improved access to drop-off centres for recyclables, moderate tipping fees for dropping household garbage at the dump and even curbside bag limits.

Time to talk

We can't see anything but good coming from upcoming mediation talks over the third-party lawsuit launched by the WCB relating to 1992's deadly blast at Giant mine.

The WCB is acting on behalf of the families of the nine workers who died in the explosion. While the board has already paid widows the usual benefits and pensions allowed, it is seeking an additional $34 million for the families of the dead miners.

With a staggering number of defendants -- there's 28 in all, including everyone from the former owner of the mine, Peggy Witte, the then minister of Safety and Public Service Tony Whitford, to former workers who are now laid off from the mine -- the civil action isn't anywhere close to being resolved after five years.

Mediation is a chance to get both sides closer together towards a resolution that, regardless of the arguments of both sides, all parties clearly deserve.

If there's a will...

As a public policy planning tool, speculating the possibilities is not much good.

Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce has asked the city to see what would happen if property taxes were cut by 10 per cent.

The suggestion generated council fears about staff morale and uncertainty over job security.

It's not as bad as all that, however. The tax reduction would only mean a more manageable 4.5 per cent cut in total revenues. Instead of being alarmist, council should ask civic staff to find ways cut spending and improve efficiencies.

After all, what better way to ensure job security than to have an efficient public service whose top concern is the best use of our money?

Support not too much to ask
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

A true community is more than just a bunch of buildings thrown together for people to live in.

There must also be a prevailing sense of belonging, involvement, nurturing and caring.

All these aspects and many more play an important role in the development of a strong community.

While expansion, infrastructure, economic growth and fiscal responsibility are often the buzz words that catch the public's attention -- there is another factor every bit as important to a strong, healthy and vibrant community.

We've written about this factor -- the human component -- in this space before.

Caring for each other, helping to provide for the less fortunate and respecting our elders are all factors which make up our vaunted human component.

However, for all our talk about respecting our elders and holding them in the highest regard -- Rankin Inlet seems to be quite lacking in compassion when it comes to our seniors and, in this case, some of our physically-challenged.

Oh, we're strong in the compassion department when it comes to vocalizing our deep-seeded respect for our elders.

Many of our community and government leaders seize every opportunity to climb up on the soapbox and spout the virtues of our elders' traditional knowledge and how important they are in the success of Nunavut.

It's when we have to reach into our wallets that the shine seems to leave our elders' star just a little bit.

We are, of course, referring to Rankin's courtesy transportation van for seniors and the physically-disabled.

The service is in danger of being discontinued due to a lack of funding.

NTI succumbing to Mary Sigurdson's persistence and donating a used van aside, we can't help but wonder where our Inuit organizations are in all this.

The KRHB had to step forward to get the van on the road and a group of people from Ontario donated the money for fuel and a driver.

With the budgets being directed to our Inuit organizations, surely a percentage point or two can be used to help improve the quality of life for a number of our elders and physically- challenged.

Having seen the van's log, there is no doubt the need exists and the number of users meets any "social" or "cultural" requirements to access funding..

Helping improve the quality of life for those among us on limited income or with difficulty getting around their community may not be as glamorous as conducting a land camp or hosting a youth conference.

However, it does make a community stronger and sends a strong signal that we're willing to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to our elders.

And, above everything else, it's the right thing to do.