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NNSL Photo/graphic

Territorial Ministers Michael McLeod, Charles Dent, Brendan Bell and Premier Joe Handley were in town earlier this week for the Beaufort Delta Regional Leaders conference. The meeting was attended by representatives from outlying communities. - Dez Loreen/NNSL photo

Premier '100%' behind pipeline

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 01/06) - Premier Joe Handley reiterated his support for the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline at the Beaufort Delta Regional Leaders' Conference, which was held Monday to Thursday at Ingamo Hall in Inuvik.

"The project has my 100% support," said Handley.

"It will be a cornerstone of our economy in the North. The pipeline is especially critical to the Mackenzie Delta region."

Handley also said that his government is reviewing their accomplishments during the past term.

"We are in the final year of our term, which means we are looking at our plan," said Handley.

Education was one of the areas which has seen heavy investment, said Handley.

"There is over $160 million put towards new schools in the Territories," explained Handley.

He also said the aboriginal high school graduation statistics have risen.

In 1995, only 34 per cent of graduating students were aboriginal, which has risen to 50 per cent in 2005.

Handley was joined by Education Minister Charles Dent, Justice Minister Brendan Bell and Municipal and Community Affairs minister Michael McLeod, who updated Beaufort Delta leaders on territorial issues.

MACA minister Michael McLeod addressed the caribou situation in the North.

McLeod said that in order to find solutions that will suit all users of the land, a summit is being planned.

"This meeting will be for all people, hunters, elders, commercial users as well," said McLeod.

McLeod said he is working with the resource management board and no date has been set yet for the caribou summit.

Education minister Dent spoke about increased funding for student support was one of the initiatives. He also touched on the improvement of schools in the North.

"Inuvik will see both of their schools replaced and a new single-student residence at Aurora College," said Dent.

Even though aboriginal graduation numbers are on the rise, Dent said he will strive to improve them until they exceed national rates.

"We have made significant strides with grads, but it's not going to be enough until our grads meet national requirements," he said.

Dent also made a commitment to re-evaluating financial assistance for those students taking classes in the North.

"We need to keep our students local," said Dent.

"We are looking to change the financial assistance to recognize the higher cost of living, specifically in Inuvik."

Dent said he hopes to have new financial aid in place by next fall's semester.

On the issue of inclusive schooling, Dent said it is important to understand that students are now being grouped by age and not by grades.

"Students who are left behind don't catch up with their peers," said Dent.

"They tend to drop out more often. Keeping those kids in school is the most important thing."