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Wednesday, March 16, 2005
North must be defended

Nobody likes a braggart. And we're the first to admit that no one is perfect. But we expect an A-plus effort from our MLAs and cabinet ministers.

So it's disturbing to read comments like those from Charles Dent who described himself as a B-plus member of cabinet.

Dent represents Frame Lake and is in charge of two important departments: Justice and Education. Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen questioned his abilities recently over his handling of Justice department cutbacks in Hay River.

Last fall, Dent said the government could save $2.6 million by closing South Mackenzie remand centre, Dene K'onia young offender facility and a now-reversed plan to shut down court registries in Hay River and Inuvik.

Apparently other MLAs share Groenewegen's concerns because they won a Financial Management Board review of how Dent's department projected cost savings from shutting the remand centre.

Adding fuel to this fire is Dent's comment that he isn't "qualified" to judge whether questions in surveys being done by his department are biased.

Surely he reviewed the questions before they were put out to the public. He must have been involved in planning the surveys because they're part of the process to develop a 10-year strategic plan for the department of Education, Culture and Employment.

He says he's a politician, not a manager.

We have a different view. A member of cabinet is a manager, a leader who ensures bureaucrats follow directions of their political masters and makes key decisions on departmental policy.

We're sure Dent cares about his job and maybe he's just being humble. But in the cutthroat world of politics, showing any sign of weakness is a mistake.

We need a clear statement from such a key minister as Dent that he is giving an A-plus effort on behalf of his constituents and the territories.

Anything else will leave him open to questions about his effectiveness and undermine his ability to do the job.

Expand youth program carefully

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

The Kivalliq News has been a staunch supporter of the Nunavut Youth Abroad program (NYAP) since its inception in 1997.

The program helps Nunavut youth develop job skills while gaining all-important work experience.

The NYAP also exposes the students to other cultures, helps them build self-confidence and self-esteem, and increases their leadership abilities.

Since its humble beginnings, more than 100 Nunavut students have taken part in the combined Canadian and international phases of the NYAP.

Now the NYAP is looking to expand its horizons and become Northern Youth International.

The plan calls for the program to expand into the NWT this year and then look at moving into Nunavik and Labrador.

This is all being done under the banner of the program being such a success, it's time for the NYAP to share the wealth and offer the same opportunities to other Northern youth.

Sounds good in principle, but we're worried the operative word here just might be wealth - or a lack thereof.

Funding struggles

While the NYAP has always been quick to throw accolades towards its various funding sources since 1997, the program has struggled to meet its financial goals during the past few years.

The NWT may appear to the NYAP to be a much-greener pasture for raising those funds, with the name dropping of Nunavik and Labrador being more of a diversionary tactic than a concrete plan for future expansion.

Add that to the fact funding dollars are going to be even harder to come by in Nunavut for the foreseeable future, and, suddenly success alone isn't so convincing as the motivating factor in the expansion.

Expansion impact

All that being said, what's most worrisome about the plan for expansion is what may happen to Nunavut's involvement once the NWT program is up and running.

With our government's purse strings as tight as they are, Northern Youth International doesn't sound half as compelling a program to support as Nunavut Youth Abroad.

And we're also more than a little worried about the NYAP's ability to entice the necessary human resources to support such a move.

Nunavut needs NYAP

With a high school graduation rate hovering around the 21 per cent mark, the last thing Nunavut needs is to find itself in danger of losing one of its top student/youth development models.

Hopefully, NYAP executive director Chris Dasilva and his board of directors are moving in this direction cautiously and are being fuelled by optimism, not desperation.

If not, the change in acronyms concerning Nunavut's involvement with the program might go from NYAP to simply RIP!

Another raven buffet?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

Town council chambers could see some heated debate in the coming weeks as the proposed bylaw to make garbage collection a user-pay service is introduced.

Several small business owners in town have expressed their dissatisfaction with the way in which the town "sprung" its new garbage bins on ratepayers.

"Ripped off" and "misled" were common refrains and a few the Drum spoke with have stated that if they have to pay for garbage collection from the new bins, the town can have them back.

User-pay systems, especially in the case of garbage generation and collection, are very progressive. They encourage recycling which ultimately impacts the amount of garbage going into a landfill. Good for the environment and good for everybody.

However, in the case of the town's plan, there is no incentive for reducing waste for either residents or business owners as a flat rate has been proposed; $10 per household per month, with a two-bag maximum per week. For businesses, the charge could be as much $100, depending on how many enterprises are utilizing a bin.

For one business owner who had his old dumpster replaced with a new blue bin all to himself, the added fee of $100 would increase his municipal tax rate by upwards of 25 per cent. Viewing things from the town's perspective, the new garbage collection system was introduced, in part, to mitigate the amount of garbage finding its way out of the old dumpsters and on to the street.

At Monday's committee of the whole meeting, one councillor referred to the old bins as "feeding stations for ravens."

So to try and address this situation, which spawned continual complaints directed at the town about the litter problem, new "raven proof" bins were introduced and already there is a noticeable decrease in the amount of refuse blowing about town.

But with all improvements comes a price.

Very similar to the way the power corporation recoups its infrastructure expenditures and the like through a "shortfall rider" on your bill each month, the town is attempting to do the same thing by passing the "savings" of what will eventually cost $2 million, on to the ratepayer.

At Monday's meeting, where this user-pay bylaw was introduced for discussion, councillors were talking about "selling the idea to the public."

It's a tad late in the game to go selling a $2 million idea to a public that appeared to believe the new bins were an upgrade, paid for through municipal taxes. Especially in light of the fact that $850,000 has already been spent on it.

In closing the discussion at council, one member remarked that the commitment to go ahead with the new bins had been made and the time to move forward was now.

With that kind of attitude, the only winners will be the ravens. As for businesses and homeowners, the question is how much is a cleaner town worth?

Rest in peace NHL

Editorial Comment
Andrew Raven
Deh cho Drum

When the National Hockey League officially pulled the plug on the 2005 season two weeks ago, it was enough to drive die-hard puck fans to tears.

The Stanley Cup will not be awarded for the first time since 1919, when an influenza pandemic killed thousands.

Since then, the tradition has survived a Depression, a World War, near-Armageddon and 10 years of Brian Mulroney as Prime Minister.

You can spend hours arguing about who is to blame for the cancellation of the season: incompetent billionaire owners or greedy millionaire players.

For the record, this is one fan siding with the players in this dispute. What makes the owners - otherwise intelligent businessmen - spend millions of dollars on player contracts when their teams are hemorrhaging money worse than a hemophiliac running through a maze of razor wire?

Their proposed solution: a limit on the amount of money each team can spend on player salaries.

After all comrades, this whole free market system never really worked anyway, right?

As a result of this asinine quibbling, a vital part of this country's social fabric has been ripped to shreds. Not to mention my Saturday night television options are now a Disney movie or something in French.

How much of our loyalty does the National Hockey League deserve anyway?

The talent is diluted.

The officiating is abysmal. Scoring is almost non-existent.

The neutral zone trap has made talent look so 1980s you can practically hear the J. Geils Band singing in the background.

Ticket prices are ludicrous and please, a $5 hotdog? Come on.

Who needs the NHL anyway?

We can still watch curling. Taunt officials at youth basketball games. Or spill cheese slathered nachos on our pants watching indoor soccer.

Besides, there are plenty of other places to get our professional hockey fix.

I hear there are some pretty good players in the Swedish Elite League. Maybe I'll burn all of my red, white and blue Montreal Canadiens paraphernalia and stock up on Djurngarten brown and white.

Whatever we do, the most important thing is to punish the arrogant, impudent, selfish owners and players of the NHL.

If the league ever comes back, I say boycott it. There is plenty of good hockey in small towns and villages across the North to fill our Saturday nights.

Canadians do not need hockey to be functioning individuals.

Do we?

P.S. to Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey: If Alexei Kovalev will take $4.5 million a year for three years, give it to him.

He was awesome in the playoffs last year.