Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The recent interim withdrawal agreement between the territorial government and the Akaitcho Dene First Nations sets aside 1,034 hectares of land for the Yellowknives. It's one step toward an eventual land claim settlement that will put the First Nations on equal footing with other levels of government and provide certainty over development and resources throughout the region.
In exchange, the city will get title to about 600 hectares of land. That includes Tin Can Hill for future residential development, and land near Kam Lake to expand the industrial park and where a road will eventually link up to the highway.
The agreement takes the land dispute out of the courts and provides the city certainty on where it can grow.
However, this deal has much more potential than just easing the present land crunch.
It should be the start of a new relationship between the Yellowknives and the city. With land of their own, Yellowknives Dene stand to be major players in the future of this city.
While land selections were made for cultural, social and spiritual reasons, it also gives the Yellowknives an economic base upon which to build.
The First Nation could work hand-in-hand with the city to develop new residential areas. That would create wealth for the Yellowknives and take pressure off City Hall which is now struggling to find places for new homes.
Big yellow caution flags should be flying high after word the NWT Power Corporation wants to re-organize so it can borrow big bucks to fund hydro-electric development.
That new power could be sold to barrenland diamond mines or sent south into the grid, generating millions in revenue for NTPC.
The move is necessary because the territorial government, which underwrites the $116 million combined debt of the power corporation and NWT Energy Corp., is just $80 million from its debt ceiling.
When between $250 million and $300 million is needed to boost Taltson hydro capacity alone, it's clear the power corporation can't undertake the work within its current structure.
The proposed $600 million Great Bear hydro development project floundered when the federal government wouldn't come through with $3 million for environmental work.
Politicians and bureaucrats must proceed carefully because even with re-organization, it seems likely taxpayers will be on the hook as the ultimate guarantors of any new debt. As well, who would provide oversight and control over the new entity?
If the new company loses money, what happens to the power corporation's ability to keep the lights on in Yellowknife, Hay River or Deline? The corporation's ultimate responsibility is to generate power for NWT residents.
Great Slave MLA Bill Braden's call for an independent review of the proposal is a sensible thing to do.
People across the Kivalliq gathered this past week to pay their respects to those who have sacrificed to keep this great nation free.
With the threat of terrorism a constant companion today, Remembrance Day ceremonies have been somewhat rejuvenated of late.
Fewer and fewer empty seats are visible when communities come together on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Some scribes like to use impressive-sounding and somewhat foreboding words such as phenomenon to describe this change of events, but that is hardly the case.
When one looks at it objectively, our country's new-found respect for the men and women of our Canadian Forces is quite logical.
The malaise that appeared to surround Remembrance Day by the dawn of a new millennium was the result of a country unthreatened.
With the demise of the Cold War, Canadians were comfortable with our nation's position on the global landscape.
There were no real wars we had to concern ourselves with any more.
Most of the fighting being done by our Canadian Forces was for modern equipment, a better pay scale, a military structure they could actually understand and an end to the rash of base closures across the country.
Slowly, but surely, that came to an end and places such as Cyprus, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan suddenly seemed much closer to home.
The last threads of our security blanket were ripped away forever on the fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Canadians, for the most part, no longer take their freedom and safety for granted.
This, in itself, has contributed to the resurgence of respect surrounding most Remembrance Day ceremonies.
And, it has also brought about a higher level of awareness concerning our Canadian Forces members involved in UN or NATO peacekeeping missions abroad.
Many now realize that while it will always be important to remember the fallen heroes of the past, our men and women of today's Canadian Forces are no less deserving of that same respect.
Every year, the number of Canadians who die trying to keep peace on foreign soil continues to rise.
All too often in the past, their sacrifices were lost in the war of words over whether they should have been there to begin with.
Canada is highly regarded on the international stage for its ability to remain a middle-power country that does not wish to extend its borders at the cost of others.
Yet, we live in a time when those same borders must be protected, and sometimes that protection begins in places difficult to pronounce.
Thankfully, most in our country now realize it is just as important to honour those who bar the doors of oppression today, as it is to remember those who defeated freedom's enemies of the past.
They pay a huge price for one day's worth of respect!
I want to start this week off by congratulating the newly elected town council and our new Mayor Derek Lindsay on starting their term this week.
They certainly had their hands full on Monday night with a large group of presenters and interested public attending their regular council meeting.
After hearing presentations about new libraries, the dangers of the sex industry and some pressure about the community capacity building fund, I was happy to see the group of councillors take it all in stride.
The new council and mayor have been put in charge of one of the more desirable communities in the North.
A full recreation complex complete with skating rink, curling ice, pool, squash courts, fitness centre, a brand new college, two new schools on the way, a planned concrete skatepark, fully gravelled walking trails and numerous playgrounds are only some of the benefits of living in Inuvik.
Wow, Inuvik has it really good. After nearly a decade of planning and building towards our dreams, we have done pretty well for ourselves. Now all we need is a pipeline to run through the land, so we can start paying for all these frills and goodies.
Mayor Lindsay has been given the engineer's hat and is now in front of a train that is moving at the speed of sound.
I'm not sure what our debts are, or who we really owe at this point. All I know is that I can live comfortably.
Maybe we should be concerned with more than just improving the quality of life. I'm happy that we have a mayor that wants to keep improving the basics, like our roads.
I am confident that our new town council will bring our fine community out of debt. Or at least, cut it down a bit.
All I hear about these days is how we should prepare for an influx of people and a larger population in town.
One presenter on Monday night said we could expect almost 1,500 new people coming into Inuvik in the next five years.
Maybe there will be a day when I wake up and see a booming town, where the streets are flooded with strangers and industry workers filling our bars.
I don't think we will see any real development in the pipeline for a while yet, so I will stay confident that my parking space on main street is safe for now.
It probably happens everywhere, but living in the North seems to make people more aware of just how vulnerable they are to the whims of nature.
The quick closure of the ferries for Fort Simpson and Wrigley is a perfect example. I was one of those people who was caught a bit off guard when the final day came on Thursday.
Judging by past precedent and by the amount of ice flowing past Fort Simpson, I knew the ferries couldn't have long to go, so on Wednesday, Nov. 1, I drove aboard the MV Lafferty and headed off to visit Fort Liard. My reasoning for the trip was that I needed to get to at least one community before being stuck for close to a month in Fort Simpson.
I hadn't planned on staying overnight but it became a necessity so it was Thursday morning before I hit the road again for the journey home.
Getting closer to Fort Simpson, I did what most people do, which is judge which ferry I was likely to make -- given my current position, relative speed, road conditions and determination. It's the popular game of deciding exactly how fast you have to go to be able to drive onto the ferry instead of arriving to find it half way across the river.
I aimed for the 1:30 p.m. ferry. I never imagined that I might miss not only the 1:30 ferry but all ferries until the service started to run again in the spring.
Arriving at precisely 1:32 p.m., according to my truck's clock, I expected to the find the ferry waiting and drive on. Instead I found one other vehicle waiting at the stop sign and the ferry at the other side. No problem I thought and settled down to wait. I was still waiting at 3:45 p.m. when the ferry finally started to move again after having the rock removed from its rudder system.
I, and probably everyone else in the other vehicles who arrived behind me, spent a lot of time watching the river fill up with ice before my eyes and wondered if I would have to find a different means of crossing. The people in the line up of 43 vehicles on the other side probably had similar thoughts about what they would do if their vehicles didn't make it across.
The lesson to be learned by all involved is that you never can tell what will happen when the weather and Mother Nature are involved. There is always something unexpected that will keep you on your toes and it is better to err on the side of caution.
Air travel is a way of life for many residents of small communities in the North. For those communities such as Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake that don't have year-round road access, the ability to take planes is doubly important. Residents of the North should be able to feel safe in the knowledge that when they are boarding planes, they are in the hands of pilots who know how to deal with northern conditions.Gravel airstrips are found in many communities and snow and ice are simply winter realities.
Southern-based airlines who want to fly to the North need to take an example from the recent plane crash in Trout Lake to ensure that something similar or worse doesn't happen in the future.