Antoine's answers
Residents voice concerns at constituency meeting

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Feb 04/00) - Ivan Simons wants to know when resource exploration will come to the rest of the region.

Simons put the question to Nahendeh MLA Jim Antoine's at his first constituency meeting in Fort Simpson on Monday evening.

The answer, according to Antoine, hinges on the Deh Cho First Nations' self-government negotiations. The length of time needed to get a deal done is unknown, but the Dogribs needed four years to reach an agreement-in-principle, Antoine noted.

"I'd like to see it go as quickly as possible, (but) these things take a long time," he said of the negotiations process. "We're (the GNWT) a third party at the table between the Deh Cho and the federal government ... we will encourage the negotiations process."

Another constituent, Jim Villeneuve, asked if the Liard River ferry will ever return to an "on demand" schedule.

"We could look at it," Antoine replied, adding that cutbacks to ferry service in the NWT last year resulted in a savings of roughly $30,000 for the GNWT.

Upon hearing that, Villeneuve responded, "That's not very much money for the amount of inconvenience it causes."

The topic then shifted to government hiring practices. At next week's MLA caucus meeting in Fort Providence, Antoine said he's planning to suggest that the territorial government hire more community-minded people as Nunavut is trying to do, rather than highly-trained, technical people. That could result in a mentoring program, which would give local people experience even if they are not quite qualified for the position, he said.

Kevin McLellan, who works with RWED, told Antoine that most government departments have been cutback to the point where entry-level positions don't exist anymore. If those positions were to be re-established, the idea might work, McLellan acknowledged.

Finally, Antoine said another issue he plans to pursue -- which was brought to his attention during the election campaign in December -- is to have Fort Simpson's government departments become more autonomous.

Currently, Municipal and Community Affairs along with Public Works and Services have to go through Fort Smith while the Housing Corporation often answers to Hay River, he said. He hopes to regionalize the departments further to change that.