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Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Put butts on those buses

Bus ridership is at an all-time high. Costs are up, too, especially fuel.

A fare increase is on the way and we hope the city understands the delicate balance between covering costs and driving away riders.

So as council prepares to consider a new fare bylaw, let's hope they are also considering ways to boost ridership. Here are a few ideas:

Mail out bus schedules to every household so everyone knows where and when transit runs.

Increase incentives for frequent users. Instead of one free ride for every 10, try two free rides for every 15 paid. Hold a lottery. The city could give out one free monthly bus pass to one of the people who bought one.

Mail out free ride coupons. Hold an annual week-long ride-the-bus campaign during which "bus attendants" are on each bus during peak times to hand out juice and cookies.

Riding the bus is not a habit for most Yellowknifers so they have to be introduced to the service.

Looking ahead to 51

There is nothing like large crowds and happy faces to put to rest any doubts about the relevance of a community event.

Two years ago, Caribou Carnival was on the ropes. A pitiful half-day event was about all organizers could muster that year.

For a while, bad news seemed to follow the event like a storm cloud. It didn't look much better this year when news came that the carnival's president, Pat McMahon was resigning after less than four months on the job.

Yet, like last year's event, this year's carnival seemed to find a purpose again, and people genuinely enjoyed themselves.

Knowing that it's the 50th anniversary likely had something to do with this year's success. Volunteers and organizers put on a class act this year, but we can't count on sentimentality or the current group of people to return next year.

The carnival board should continue with its plan to retain a full-time co-ordinator as Folk on the Rocks does. Many of carnival's problems in recent years were because little work was done until the last frantic couple of months before the festival.

Having someone in the office to answer the phones and fund-raise during the off-season is critical to future success.

It's also important the carnival board meet by May and elect a volunteer executive to plan for 2006.

Continuity is key. It helps organizers avoid previous mistakes, and work towards better ideas instead.

Training program a positive step

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Our hat goes off to the Nunavut government this week for finally realizing it's far better to have the horse before the cart when one is trying to make some serious headway.

The government has obtained $3.2 million federal funding during the next three years for the Nunavut Fisheries Training Consortium under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership.

The project is expected to provide training for 180 individuals and sustainable jobs for upwards of 80 Inuit in Nunavut.

That number could grow by an additional 145 jobs during the duration of the program.

The GN and vested partners in the fishing industry will contribute an additional $2.4 million to the training fund.

Training in various aspects of the offshore fisheries industry will be provided through a joint initiative of the Marine Institute in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut Arctic College.

We cannot emphasize enough how much of a significant step forward this is in the development of Nunavut's offshore fishing industry.

With properly trained Inuit entering the industry, Nunavut stands to greatly improve on the approximately $9 million it receives annually in economic value from the 33 per cent of fisheries resources it controls in adjacent waters.

The annual potential of the resource is estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $80 million.

While this is all good news for a territory with a 25 per cent unemployment rate among Inuit, its most significant point is the message it sends to Ottawa that Nunavut is serious about developing its offshore fisheries industry.

While it's one thing to demand a fair share of a quota based on adjacency and then bring in a bunch of boats and fishers from another province to harvest it - training a workforce to eventually control 100 per cent of the industry is the first step in laying a solid base for the growth of the fishing industry in Nunavut.

Premier Paul Okalik and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Paul Kaludjak can stamp their feet all they want over Nunavut getting "its fair share" of various quotas in adjacent waters.

The problem they're up against is that shrimp and turbot, for example, have been fished for decades in Nunavut's adjacent waters by southern Canadians while Northerners had absolutely no interest in the industry.

Anyone with even the slightest understanding of the history of Canada's fishing industry realizes to wrest those quotas away now is a monumental task.

Goal can be achieved

But, over time, it is a goal that can be accomplished to Nunavut's satisfaction.

And, it is encouraging to see our territory moving in the proper direction by entering into this training agreement.

The more skilled workers and infrastructure (fishing vessels, processing plants, packers, shippers, etc.) we put in place, the stronger our case becomes in obtaining what we believe to be rightfully ours.

Hopefully, this step forward means the GN has finally learned: catch a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them how to fish and you feed them for lifetime!

Can man survive on gas bars alone?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

When people ponder the achievements of modern society circa 2005 -- likely in a time when fossil fuels will be scorned as much as cigarette smokers are today -- what will stand out as the hallmarks of urban planning?

For the Romans, their aqueducts kept cities in the empire from going thirsty. For us, perhaps it will be the ubiquitous gas bar -- relieving the insatiable thirst of our motorized chariots.

In some cities and towns across North America, it is nearly impossible to drive more than a few blocks without passing the florescent glow of yet another multi-pump, full-serve gas station, complete with three kinds of gasoline and 30 kinds of chocolate bars at the till. Though not recommended, it is quite possible for man to survive most anywhere on the continent with nothing more than a vehicle and a gas card.

Tired of pizza pops? Then gas up and go for a microwaveable cheeseburger.

While their plans aren't on the scale of some fuel-cathedrals found down south, The North West Company is intent on building a gas bar in the parking lot across from the north entrance of Northmart.

In an area already considered 'high traffic,' this project is certain to create even more activity on a route kids use to get to and from school.

The $500,000 project, according to a company executive, is good for consumers as it will create more competition.

Arguments against rezoning the land to accommodate construction plans include the safety factor and the point that another gas station will do nothing in the way of consumer relief for high prices at the pumps. Certainly, there may be some savings for motorists but they would most likely be negligible.

The price of french fries in Inuvik never seems to waver, despite the fact every restaurant in town serves them.

As far as this reporter could tell from the special public hearing regarding the issue, held at council chambers Monday evening, the middle ground would be for the company to provide a sidewalk for pedestrians in the event the gas bar gets the go-ahead.

One refreshing thing about living in the North is that people here seem to take special pride in the fact life in these parts is not like life in the south. However, as time goes on, this notion seems to be the ideal rather than reality, at least as far as urban sprawl is concerned.

And soon, we could have another gas station smack in the middle of town to prove the point.

Ah, but what a glorious thing it would be to have fuel pumps right next to the grocery store -- a nearly-one-stop-shopping coup.

Perhaps when the Education, Culture and Employment consultant returns to Inuvik for more focus groups about the new elementary school, a true one-stop facility could be suggested. Combine the new school with a gas bar and while we're at it, why not add a drive-through daycare? Then the town could really claim some uniqueness.

Imagine the promotional ads... "Drive through chapels? Those are so yesterday. In Inuvik, we've got drive-through day care and you can get gas, too."

Modern living. Don't you just love it?

Communication is the key

Editorial Comment
Andrew Raven
Deh cho Drum

Residents of Fort Simpson were greeted Monday morning by notices posted at various locations around the community announcing the health centre would be closed -save for emergencies and pre-booked appointments - for the next 10 days.

The restricted services began Monday morning, meaning most residents had no advanced warning of the plan.

This despite the fact a spokesperson in the Department of Health and Social Services conceded officials knew at least a week in advance they would be short staffed for Spring Break, with one nurse on vacation and another manager in Yellowknife.

"Bloody bad management" is the way councillor Bob Hanna described the situation and the Deh Cho Drum agrees.

While staff shortages will always be a problem in smaller communities - especially during peak vacation times - the Department of Health and Social Services needs to do a better job of keeping the public informed.

To simply tape notices to bulletin boards, arena entrances and the door at the post office is not nearly enough.

Health care is an essential service - not a 1992 Chevy Cavalier for sale.

The department could begin by telling village officials of any impending service restrictions.

One councillor was rightfully upset when he found out about the partial closure while getting his mail.

The Department could also print off pamphlets and hand them out door to door - a procedure that in a town of 1200 would take about an afternoon.

It could have taken out and advertisement in the newspaper or placed a notice on its homepage.

After all this in the information age - not the middles ages. There are other ways to spread the news besides nailing it to the church door.

Hockey Stars

Kudos to the National Hockey League Players Association for bringing their Goals and Dreams program to Fort Simpson this year.

With the season cancelled and no prospect of NHL hockey on the horizon, Nashville Predators forward Scott Walker, Chicago Blackhawk great Steve Larmer and NHLPA official Devon Smith could have easily skipped the trip.

Instead they gave a group of 30 young hockey players the experience of a lifetime - even if the youngsters were pre-occupied with asking Walker about his Nashville teammate Jordan Tootoo.

But perhaps the ones who enjoyed the Saturday afternoon clinic the most were the village old-timers, who suited up against Larmer, a five time 40 goal scorer and one of the top players in the league during the 1980s and early 1990s.