Monday, July 4, 2005
Don't worry, says Ed Picco, minister responsible for Qulliq, because subsidies and rebates will lessen the shock.
That may be true for the majority of Nunavummiut who live in government housing, but what about private businesses and homeowners?
They're left to pay the full cost.
Soon, the dream of owning a home or running a business will be out of reach because the cost of power will be too high.
Yes, it's expensive to live in Nunavut, but there's precious little investigation of alternative energy sources or encouragement of energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
It's always pay, pay, pay.
People would likely be more willing to accept this rate hike if Qulliq did more to address its ever increasing demand for money while ignoring potential efficiencies.
The full transfer of political power to the Tlicho is years away, but the new government has passed an important milestone with its first election.
In the words of Mabel Bohnet, the lone woman elected among the 13 new councillors: "We are in charge of our own destiny."
The most positive sign was the turnout; 85 per cent of the eligible voters cast their ballots in the June 20 election.
The election of a non-aboriginal to council shows Dogrib ancestry is only one factor in getting votes. Individual merit is a factor in the eyes of voters as well.
The Tlicho Agreement that established the new government set aside 39,000 square kilometers in the North Slave territory for about 3,500 largely aboriginal residents.
For the next decade or so, however, key services such as health and education will continue to be administered by the federal and territorial governments.
The Tlicho government inherits significant challenges of unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence, plus a full menu of more basic demands such as better roads. Some are skeptical of the new council's ability to bring real change. One new councillor, Michael Botermans, said the next four years are critical, and that the council cannot afford any mistakes.
Mistakes will be made, that is certain. The new Tlicho government is, after all, a human endeavour. The key is to learn and move forward.
Even with the smoking ban, alcohol sales throughout the NWT continue to rise.
More people are drinking at home than in bars these days, and total sales increased by about $700,000 from 2003-2004. Booze sales are up $7 million since 2000, a sure sign of a strong economy and lots of people working and drinking.
The Liquor Commission profit last year was $20,853,000. The government spent $2.6 million on alcohol and drug programs in 2004-2005.
There's nothing wrong with a drink or two at the end of the day or with friends around the kitchen table on a Friday night, but too many people drink to excess.
It's time the government took some of the revenue from liquor sales and dedicated it to improving treatment and education programs.
The move would be an important sign that government is prepared to help NWT residents cope with alcohol addiction and not just profit from it.
Eli Kavik and Vince Ningark have a lot on their plates.
Kavik is responsible for recreation in Sanikiluaq while Ningark has the same role in Kugaaruk.
Both are new to their jobs, and they bring enthusiasm, energy, commitment and ideas to their Nunavut communities.
Kavik has a long list of work to do as his community hasn't had a recreation co-ordinator in two years. He has plans for activities, trips to organize and kids to keep occupied.
Ningark already has his eye on a ball diamond in his community.
He hopes it's in place by the summer.
These two are just an example of how one person, armed with purpose and imagination, can make a big difference in the daily life of a community.
Last week, a man in Rankin Inlet offered to take me on a trip to a cabin he was building about a mile out of town.
"But we'll have to go by Honda," he said.
I had never driven an ATV, but how difficult could it be?
The next morning I learned the mile out of town was across the ice to Thompson Island.
Having never been on the sea ice, and remembering the warm temperatures the Kivalliq had been experiencing during the past week, I began to reconsider. But the man convinced me there was no reason to be afraid.
And after a 100-metre ATV practise run, our group of three drove down to the shoreline - front and back ends loaded with huge pink bundles of insulation for the cabin.
Up close, the hundreds of puddles dotting the bay made it look like a bowl of blueberry swirl ice cream. I uncomfortably stepped over small streams with what looked like cracks underneath them.
All I could think about was falling through the ice while desperately wrapping my arms around a puffy bag of insulation, assuming it would float.
Some of you may laugh, but I refused to get on the four-wheeler.
"You're a journalist," the man told me. "To write about something you have to know more than just the facts. You have to experience it."
Those last two sentences struck me deep inside. Though driven by a desire to experience things, I often have nothing more than "the facts" when it comes to writing about Nunavut.
"And I had to learn last year," the man's 13-year-old son said.
Strong points made, I climbed onto the machine.
Soon we were weaving our way across the ice, at times driving through water nearly a foot deep. I was scared.
Sometimes two sloping banks of melting snow and ice would form a small ravine filled with water. On the way through, the machine would dip sharply as the camera around my neck smacked against the odometer. Soon after, a splash of water would cause the engine to smoke and make a repeated clacking sound.
Staring straight ahead for about the first half-mile, I eventually relaxed my grip and looked up to feel the warmth of a sun sitting high in a nearly cloudless light-blue sky.
As we neared the shore, I began to realize this simple task was one of the most amazing things I had ever done. If there is even one reader who thinks my actions reckless, I ask no one to mimic me.
Instead, I would like all Kivillimmiut to understand how I felt standing on the edge of the ice.
Though entering the unknown can be intimidating, it should not stop you from doing something important. For me, learning to better understand what I write about is important. Your reasons will likely be different.
But trusting the unknown becomes easier when you find someone - like the boy - who has successfully travelled the same route.
Orange juice sure tastes good in the morning. Or maybe you like grapefruit? Whatever your preference, without trade between nations those wonderful citrus drinks would be missing from our breakfast tables here in Canada.
I suppose we could get by with just apple juice and other domestically produced items but our choices would be significantly limited and many of us 'chained to the desk' would have to retrain ourselves for a career tilling fields or manufacturing car parts.
But these fantasies of stopping globalization - the ever increasing integration of nations' economies, fuelled by human innovation and technological progress - are simply that: fantasy.
Often people concerned about the state of our planet with respect to international strife, poverty, climate change, cultural imperialism and other nastiness like to throw the blame at globalization.
To the capitalist, globalization is perhaps a friend. To the conservationist, perhaps a foe. Regardless, my guess is that significant numbers from both camps enjoy orange juice or a cup of Columbian coffee with their morning toast.
So what does it all mean? For this region, with the hopes of many pinned on getting the pipeline built, globalization is what makes it all possible, as it does nearly every business transaction in the territory, from grocery store purchases to prescriptions to satellite TV. Some of these deals are good, some detrimental.
In the case of the pipeline deal, it remains to be seen whether it will be good or bad but those on both sides are setting up camp and preparing to make their case.
For intervenors in the Joint Review Panel hearings, this process has already begun with a conference in Yellowknife to see if there's enough information regarding environmental impacts to proceed with hearings. Word coming out of these talks is that not enough information is yet available.
Meanwhile, groups like the Arctic Indigenous Youth Alliance are soliciting support for their anti-pipeline cause through visits to communities up and down the Mackenzie Valley, such as the ones in Inuvik last week.
Just as some suggest pipeline proponents are not providing enough information for intervenors in the hearings to make their case, the same could be said for the alliance with respect to its "information" sessions.
For example, the youth alliance's Ingamo Hall power point presentation indicated that only 50 "pipeline jobs" would be available for NWT residents after construction. Those would be for operation, maintenance and upkeep one would imagine. The argument being that proponents and supporters are misleading people with promises of jobs and prosperity.
Unfortunately, this "50 jobs only" tidbit is a half-truth at best. Besides the spinoff from locally-owned and staffed companies who will get lucrative contracts to aid in the pipeline's construction, consider what a community could do with a healthy portion of the revenues once the gas starts flowing.
Maybe the cash could provide for more aboriginal language instruction and improved education in general. Or perhaps funds could be made available to better promote traditional arts and crafts in world markets. The possibilities are endless.
The irony is that while globalization may have caused a situation that demands the first spending option, it handily provides a vehicle for the latter one. Funny that.
The Deh Cho is blessed with some of the most attractive rivers and incredible scenery anywhere in the world.
Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, one example of thousands, was so enchanted by the Nahanni River that he had to canoe its waters himself.
Not everyone is ready to take on such an adventure on his own. That's where river guides or "outfitters" come into the picture.
There have been a few Deh Cho residents who have helped tourists navigate the river, professionally speaking, but too few.
A program (featured on page 2 of this edition of the Drum) is under way to give some Fort Simpson youth the ability to make safe voyages on local rivers, which can be swift and dangerous.
These young men and women could not only escort adventurers but also pass along the history and culture of the region to visitors.
This week's photo feature - which is not tied in to the river guide training - is based on a school rafting trip down the Nahanni.
There was no certification process involved in that expedition, but it's the sort of journey that may spark interest in a new generation of river guides.
Imagine the excitement felt by a teenager not only experiencing the river for the first time, but envisioning himself being able to make a career of piloting a boat, raft or canoe on the water.
The tourism industry isn't going to instantly employ 200 people the way a mine can - although no mine has yet employed more than a handful of Deh Cho residents for very long.
Yet the opportunity posed by river guiding has already captivated a few young people.
That's where it begins. Where it goes from there is up to them, but for the ones who have seen the three years worth of programs through to the end, that bodes well for the future.
Well deserved accolades
June is a month to recognize the achievements of our hard-working students.
Graduates have been saluted. Plaques have been bestowed upon academic and athletic award winners.
In a number of speeches and reflections by the students, a recurring theme is the importance of family. The need for support from home cannot be understated.
They usually thank their teachers, but so often they have mentioned how mom and dad, or even auntie and uncle, were there to offer advice and give a gentle nudge in the right direction when necessary.
We have every reason to be proud of those who have risen to meet the challenge in class.
But we cannot forget those who remain on the fringes - some of whom have dropped out of school but could be earning a diploma in a year or two with some loving encouragement.
Incorrect information appeared in last week's News/North, ("Fire eating for Canada," June 27). The event that took place in Deline on Canada Day is called a fire feeding ceremony. News/North regrets any confusion caused by the error.