Editorial page

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Witte's record is well known

The return of Peggy Witte with a new name and project at Pine Point is sure to bring back bad memories.

Some Yellowknifers condemned her for the deaths in the Giant Mine blast of 1992. Whatever blame Witte deserves, knowing she has come North again will bring sadness.

After Royal Oak's bankruptcy, Yellowknife businesses were left with unpaid bills, including the ratepayers. Will they rush to extend credit with so many trustworthy companies on the scene?

There's the unpaid fine of $1.4 million handed out to Royal Oak for the tailings spill at Colomac Mine. Her return proves the failure of our justice system to uphold environmental laws.

What will prevent history repeating itself?

The underfunding of the employee pension fund by Royal Oak is still unresolved, revealing a hole in regulations that threatens all Canadian workers.

It was not all bad. Once named Mining Man of the Year, Witte was admired for her mining knowledge and willingness to take a risk.

While others walked away from money-losing mines, she bulled her way in and tried to make them profitable.

Her use of replacement workers to keep Giant Mine operational won her as many friends as she lost. Her refusal to close the mine under threat of violence rings loudly today. The threat of violence hangs over North America but we carry on our day to day lives.

Above all, Witte was playing a man's game and winning.

Remember the time she tried to take over Lac Minerals Ltd.? She failed but that was a $2.2 billion deal that shook up the global gold industry.

Then one of Royal Oak's properties was expropriated by the B.C. government. She won a hefty settlement of $167 million to help develop yet another valuable property in Kemess mine.

So under happier circumstances, Witte would be welcome in the exciting world of Northern development.

Sadly, she has proven herself neither dollar-wise nor dependable. She also lacks a basic understanding of what it means to be a good corporate citizen.

Witte insists Northerners have nothing to fear from her return.

She's right, so long as they realize they deal with her at their own risk.

Don't shovel onto streets

Snow loses its light and fluffy appeal as soon it hits the ground.

There, it accumulates into solid masses removed by people who don't want the white stuff on their property.

This is when overzealous shovellers, panicked by the endless sea of white surrounding them, lose control and dump the snow onto the streets. But shovellers need to get better grip on the problem.

Dumping snow on city streets will only increase traffic accidents.

The snowfall in October 2000 in Yellowknife was the highest it had been since 1983. In January 2001, snow levels reached record highs.

After the next snowfall, remember to confine your shovelling to your property. Snowbanks, unlike diamonds, are not forever.

The real jackpot

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We have to admit it's quite easy to adopt a sitting-on-the-fence attitude when it comes to bingo as a fundraiser in the Kivalliq.

Let's be honest. The monies raised go a long way towards supporting a number of worthwhile programs in our communities. Further complicating the matter is that so much of the money goes towards maintaining recreational facilities and supporting our local athletes.

After all, should everyone in the country be refused a beer because one per cent of our population are alcoholics?

The gambling argument is nothing new. In the South, bingo playing is overshadowed in most places by video lottery terminals.

VLTs are often referred to as the crack cocaine of the gambling world, but the similarities to bingo in the North are many when it comes to splitting up the profits.

With so many people benefiting from the proceeds, it's hard to say bingo is a bad thing simply because some people don't know when they've spent enough.

When you look at the big picture, that's a pretty fair assessment.

However, hamlets should strive diligently to ensure organizations are able to account for the money they've raised and where it's spent.

We don't have anything against exchange groups raising money to travel, but we do agree that bingos being held simply to raise prize money for things like fishing derbies is a bad idea.

If people want to kill something in hopes of winning a prize, let them pay to play.

It would also be a good idea for our hamlets to put some of the mega-bucks they're raking in towards helping those who are spending too much on their dabbers.

Maybe a timely donation once or twice a year to a local organization to distribute educational material on excessive gambling habits.

Even a paper band or stapled sheet to bingo cards asking the buyer quite simply, "Is your family doing without because you bought this card?" may give those developing a problem cause to think.

There can be no denying bingo revenues help our communities in many ways. But we must do what we can to keep any damage resulting from the game to a minimum. Giving a tiny percentage of the profits back in a way that might prevent some people from hurting their families is money well spent.

Just the gesture alone shows people that we, as a community, care. And that's hitting the jackpot every time.

Plans blossoming

Editorial Comment
Malcolm Gorrill
Inuvik Drum

Plans to make the community of Inuvik more attractive for residents and visitors alike are reaching a new plateau.

A representative from Gibbs and Brown Landscape Architects Ltd. is visiting the town to present the final draft of the Community Revitalization Plan, which sets out a vision for the community for the next five years or so.

Members of the public will be able to hear about the plan, and comment on it, during a meeting Dec. 11.

Already plans are in the works for next year to perhaps redevelop Jim Koe park, and make a new gateway entrance.

It's taken many months and lots of effort by quite a few people to get to this point.

One significant step was taken in the spring of 2000 when the newly formed Community Beautification Committee came up with a simple but effective idea to make Inuvik more attractive -- namely, clean up its litter.

Hence the spring clean up was born, and was conducted again this year.

Lots of other projects have taken place this year, including improvements to the Mackenzie River waterfront and along the Boot Lake waterfront.

It's encouraging that many more projects will likely take place each of the next few years to spruce up the town. Such improvements will benefit all.

Role of volunteers acknowledged

It's fitting that during the International Year of the Volunteer, the important role they play would be acknowledged once again.

It was recently announced that Northwest Territories Power Corp. is becoming sole corporate sponsor for MACA's NWT Outstanding Volunteer Awards program.

The move is expected to boost the program. An official with the program pointed out that for 2001 about 100 nominations were received, more than ever before, and that they can now expect even more in 2002.

Volunteers play an important role within Delta communities. Their roles can vary from serving on the board of a non-profit organization, to helping out at social functions.

It can also be something as simple as shovelling out a neighbour's driveway.

Nominations for the 2002 NWT Outstanding Volunteer Awards program don't close until Feb. 28, but now would be a good time to start thinking about people to nominate.

It's also worth remembering that a simple "thank you" is appreciated by all volunteers, any time of the year.

A lesson in finances

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

Last Tuesday's public education meeting had a sense of deja vu. Turn back the clock a few years and then Education Minister Michael Miltenberger was being grilled on the same issues -- inclusive schooling and pupil-teacher ratios.

It's hard to say when things will get better. Jake Ootes, the current minister of Education, came and went without making any promises to help Fort Simpson in particular. He's said he's trying to improve the system in general, and he kept citing the statistics to prove that the government is making headway.

Shane Thompson, chair of the Fort Simpson District Education Authority (DEA), said Fort Simpson is not seeing the benefits yet.

Thompson reminded Ootes that the regional Deh Cho pupil-teacher ratio is considerably lower than at Bompas elementary school. The regional figure encompasses communities like Kakisa, where there is one teacher and seven students, and Jean Marie River, where there are 16 students and two teachers, Thompson said. At Bompas, the pupil-teacher ratio jumps to 19.3:1. He said Bompas needs another teacher to significantly improve the pupil/teacher ratio.

Ootes said the same complaint exists at some schools in Yellowknife. Of note, one of Yellowknife's school boards has a massive deficit. The Deh Cho, on the other hand, has been fortunate (and wise) enough to be working with a substantial surplus. However, the Dehcho Education Council (DEC) has been generously doling out chunks of that surplus to help meet Fort Simpson's needs.

Let's hope the minister's course of action has a measurable impact in Fort Simpson before the Deh Cho Education Board's surplus runs dry. An ugly regional education crisis looms otherwise.

A more immediate problem may arise with student busing service. The DEA doesn't want to assume the contract from the DEC because it says the funding will be inadequate. The cost of that service will jump considerably if and when four more students from the subdivision need to use the bus. Then a second run or a second bus will be necessary. Where is that money going to come from?

Chamber watchdog

The Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce has assumed the role of consumer advocate, to some degree. By taking on issues such as gasoline prices and mail delivery, the chamber is not only working for the betterment of local business, but also for every citizen of Fort Simpson.

In some cases this might mean that local businesses are called upon to explain their practices and policies. That's fair enough.

Not in every instance will there be a wrong to be righted. Sometimes it's simply a matter of reaching a better understanding of the way things work and what variables affect goods and services. Either way, it doesn't hurt to ask questions.


A story in the Dec. 7 Yellowknifer incorrectly identified Gilly McNaughton. She is employed by Great Slave Animal Hospital and acts as a liaison between the hospital and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals. Yellowknifer apologizes for any confusion or embarrassment.