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Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Bottle deposit delay embarrassing

Litterbugs would be performing a public service if they were to toss their pop cans and juice bottles on the front step of the legislature.

Perhaps that would wake the MLAs up to the fact that 25 million containers go into landfills or end up on the ground in the NWT bush and alongside NWT roads every year.

The mountain of discarded containers isn't real to our politicians. To them, getting a recycling program into place isn't a priority but appearing to be working on it is.

The idea is simple: charge a deposit on pop and juice containers and people get their money back when they bring them to a recycling depot.

The minister responsible, Yellowknife South MLA Brendan Bell, should be embarrassed. His department - Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development - after more than four years of talking and planning, can't put together a simple program that's been in place across the country for years.

Yukon has had a program running since 1992.

In October 2004, Minister Bell expressed confidence the bottle deposit program wouldn't be going over budget. He's going to hit that goal.

He also said he didn't think the program would be up and running in all communities by the target date of April 1, 2005. Here Minister Bell exceeded his goal because it's not going to be up and running in any community.

"We don't want it to be just something that rolls out in Fort Simpson or Norman Wells or Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith," Bell told Yellowknifer.

Why not? If you throw in Inuvik, those larger communities represent 70 percent of the NWT population.

It is the worst bureaucratic logic that concludes accomplishing 70 percent of a goal is not worth doing. Bell's administration has obviously bamboozled him into thinking the program won't fly until Colville Lake is ready to go.

The government's target date of April 1, 2005, is going to come and go. Now Bell is saying, and we can't call it a commitment or a promise, the bottle deposit program may begin this fall.

We hope at some point the regular MLAs will notice the government's appalling failure and hold cabinet accountable.

Until then, millions of containers will be tossed away each and every month. That's likely enough to soon bury the legislature. We say: Get busy litterbugs!

Ignoring program not a healthy decision

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

There is great cause for celebration in Repulse Bay these days over coaches Ian Gordon and Mike McMillan winning the prestigious Local Hockey Leaders award.

However, there are also feelings of resentment lurking beneath all those smiles - and rightly so.

How bizarre that it took a panel of southerners to acknowledge an effective Kivalliq program that our own government chooses to ignore.

Bizarre, that is, in the sense that we still have too many people controlling purse strings who refuse to acknowledge the individual and community growth that often accompanies sports programs.

Long before they received national recognition, the coaches, who also teach at Tusarvik school, had submitted funding proposals right here in their own region.

Each proposal tried to access $7,000 in funding. One from Brighter Futures and the other from the Building Healthy Communities program.

The proposals landed on a desk in Rankin Inlet, where they were turned down flat. Not a dime.

From what we've managed to ascertain, the proposals were denied because the money was to be used to take the Repulse hockey team to a Manitoba tournament.

The exact same thing the $10,000 that comes with the Local Hockey Leaders win is to be used for.

The short response to their proposals was that the money is to be used inside the community, not outside of it.

That reasoning hits an all-time low in nearsightedness.

The teachers' proposal had the overwhelming support of their community.

In fact, the entire hockey team wore their jerseys to accompany their coaches when the two pitched their proposals to hamlet council.

Not only were the proposals approved, a number of community leaders rose to speak about the benefits to the community they've seen as a result of the hockey program.

But let's add a bit more irony to the tale.

At the time the proposals were rejected, there was still $35,000 in available funding for use in Repulse that was perilously close to being transferred to another hamlet so it could be used before the end of the fiscal year.

While listing travel expenses may have given the government the out it needed to deny a sports program the money, the proposals also clearly illustrated the benefits being realized by the youth and the community through the hockey program.

The program is enabling these youth to build self-confidence and raise self-esteem, develop a sense of responsibility to their school and community through teamwork, and learn how to set goals and achieve them.

To tell these coaches they aren't helping to build a healthy community or provide a brighter future for these kids is a slap in the face to every Kivalliq volunteer who devotes countless hours of their time to improving the quality of life for our youth.

And, no matter what the guardians of the purse strings may say - the youth in the Repulse program are definitely working their way towards a brighter future in a healthier community!

Road to riches or ruin?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

If the mood at Monday evening's Mackenzie Gas Project regulatory review process meeting was any indication of what the Joint Review Panel can expect later this year, it's safe to say there will be a myriad of social and environmental impact concerns voiced.

Billed as an "information session" to let people know what stage the review process is at, several attending the meeting wasted no time in bringing social and environmental issues to the forefront of the discussion.

Not to downplay the significance of such concerns, these meetings are becoming little more than re-runs of previous gatherings.

They tend to go something like this: speakers finish their presentations (whether about the technical aspects of the project or, in the case of Monday's meeting, the review process), the floor opens to questions.

If the questions aren't about previous industrial exploits ravaging the landscape, they are voicing worries about the downside of a boom economy piling more social ills on top of the ones already affecting the region.

"I wish people would quit complaining about all the problems that will happen if the pipeline comes," a local resident complained to me one night at a local watering hole.

"It will bring jobs and money here so what's so bad about that?"

Not so bad, if you're the one with the job and the money.

Too bad this person wasn't at Monday evening's meeting.

Then, perhaps, there could have been some real debate about the pros and cons of the proposed mega-project.

Instead, representatives from the National Energy Board, Joint Review Panel and Northern Gas Project Secretariat politely thanked people for airing their concerns and invited them to present them at the Joint Review Panel hearings, tentatively set to kick off in late-summer or early-fall.

Regardless of whether or not the pipeline gets the go-ahead, the coming public hearings will be a good thing.

Media attention - from the North and the South - will be focused on the hearings. Without a doubt, the ghost of the Berger Inquiry will be a presence, not unlike Monday evening when it was evoked in the context of social problems then and now, which are apparently still much the same.

As the Joint Review Panel's assessment is to be incorporated into the body of evidence the National Energy Board's body will examine before making a final decision on the project, the big question is will potential economic prosperity - for this region and the nation - trump environmental and social concerns?

And can there be a middle ground?

As the official from the energy board admitted Monday, this independent federal body can make conditions on any certificate it gives the proponents regarding environmental standards to uphold in any pipeline construction.

However, the NEB is not equipped with any policy to attach or enforce social impact conditions on such a certificate.

This, we are told, is in the hands of the territorial government. Hopefully, somebody down there in Yellowknife is listening.

Back in the bush

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh cho Drum

After a lengthy hiatus since my last excursion into the bush with Willy Sake, I was overdue for another trip out on the land.

I had never been on a trap-line. Luckily, Philip Bonnetrouge offered to take me along.

Back when I met Willy Sake near the edge of the highway in the fall of 2003, I was somewhat ill prepared. One of the first questions he asked was whether I had gumboots or "rubber boots" with me. Of course I was wearing only hiking boots and wound up with soaking feet by day's end, but it was an otherwise excellent experience.

This time, I thought I was properly outfitted. I had my parka, Sorel boots, ski pants, mitts, toque and a face mask. It wasn't long before Philip asked me if I had goggles. What? Goggles?

Fortunately, he had an extra set and lent them to me. Although the trails are well cleared, there are still some small branches that could easily take out an eye, especially if you're standing on the back of the sled being towed by the snowmobile, as I was.

That was a four-hour, very jarring return trip that I won't soon forget. The only thing to hold on to was the rounded wooden handle. I didn't have a death grip on it, I swear, but my fingers were getting pretty darn stiff and cramped as we went along. The other thing that became painfully obvious was that the handle was about groin height, making it very hazardous when some of the bigger bumps were encountered.

Philip was very cognizant of my overall predicament. He thoughtfully checked over his shoulder every minute or two as he operated the snowmobile. He drove slower than usual to reduce the chances that I'd be left behind in a heap.

I actually made it all the way to the trap line without getting thrown from the sled. On the trip back, however, I got dumped into the pillowy snow twice - none the worse for wear.

It was a -10C afternoon. With the windchill from the ride, it must have been closer to -25C. My face mask was quickly frosting from the warmth of my breath.

But Philip was absolutely right, it is beautiful country. We spotted lynx, caribou and marten tracks in the snow and admired the trees cloaked in puffs of white.

The trails are marked with all kinds of coloured, ribbon-like tape, mostly orange, which marks the spots where traps have been set.

At first I was a little dismayed that we returned empty handed. It would have been nice for Philip to have brought back some marten pelts to peddle - and I would have gladly shot some marten pictures - but it wasn't meant to be. It's just like when a fisherman spends a day on the lake and returns without even having had a bite on his line. It happens!

It was a worthwhile outing nonetheless. A big mahsi to Philip for being willing to let me slow him down.

It's now time to head south to visit family until the end of March, so my next bush adventure will have to wait. In the meantime, Andrew Raven has returned to assume the editorial duties here at the Drum as he did last year.