Friday, December 29, 2006
What 2007 brings is anyone's guess, but there's plenty we can learn from the events of the past 12 months.
This year started out tragically as Yellowknife mourned two men killed in a snowmobile crash on Prelude Lake. They were the fifth and sixth people to die in snow machine accidents in 2005 and the 11th and 12th in the previous five years.
So far in 2006, only two men have lost their lives in a snowmachine accident in the NWT.
Only snowmobilers themselves can stop this epidemic of death. Today's machines are fast and powerful and must be treated with the utmost respect.
City taxes went up last year, will rise in 2007 and likely for the next two years as well. This comes at a time when City Hall is looking at many millions of dollars in new capital spending, from an $11 million sports field house to a $13 million civic plaza, a new library, not to mention ongoing street, water and sewer repairs and upgrades.
Councillors must find the balance between improving city facilities and affordable taxes. This is especially important now that the growth that has supported increased city spending over the past few years has slowed.
The battle lines were drawn over education as Yellowknife Catholic Schools went to court to assert its constitutional rights. This could result in YCS getting a court-supported mandate to demand a new school to relieve overcrowding.
Whatever happens, Education Minister Charles Dent must make a decision on how to alleviate YCS's overcrowding problem, something he has been unable to do in two years.
We hope the new year is one of labour peace for Yellowknife. The sometimes bitter strike by workers at Ekati diamond mine dragged on for three months and divided the city. Some union members crossed picket lines, heightening tension.
Crime and vandalism is an ongoing problem. This year saw someone burn down part of Ecole St. Joseph school. Whoever lit the fire remains on the loose.
Cocaine and alcohol abuse remain a scourge in our city as do sexual assault and domestic violence.
Police do what they can, but the real solution again lies with everyday folk who must stand up to the lawbreakers.
Of course, no year is without its special people. In March, teenaged liver transplant recipient Tessa Moss gave half the $25,000 raised to help her family to another Yellowknife family undergoing similar medical care in Edmonton.
Mayor Gord Van Tighem won a third term in office when no-one ran against him. Rapper Aaron "Godson" Hernandez completed his Northern rap trilogy with a new CD and earned special praise from Canadian Idol producers. Yellowknife-raised Dustin Milligan won a role on a U.S. television series.
Speed skater Michael Gilday broke into the World Cup circuit; we hope to see him compete for Canada at the Winter Olympics in 2010.
Most of all, we wish everyone all the best during 2007.
Indecision over building a new Yellowknife library may cost taxpayers major cash.
A survey by the city revealed that 66 per cent of Yellowknifers wanted a new library. In the same study, 66 per cent stated they were satisfied with the present library. The quandary of the public is reflected on city council.
In past councils, a vocal minority pushed for a new library, downplaying the costs. A majority of councillors, supportive of the idea yet mindful of other priorities, resisted.
At the inaugaral meeting of Friends of the Library in April 2005, of which newly elected councillor Kevin Kennedy was a main organizer, Mayor Gordon Van Tighem said a study found the present location has a useful life, based on current population projections, of 20 years.
Since 2002, the city has spent $433,000 on library renovations. The 2007 budget has $451,000 for more renovations. At the same time, council approved $75,000 for a feasibility study on a new library.
Councillor Kennedy told Yellowknifer the almost half million of tax dollars would have to be spent on the existing library whether it "is around for 50 years, 20 years, or two years."
With such logic passing council scrutiny, our New Year's prediction is that taxes will be moving sharply upward for the next few years.
Yes indeed, valued readers, it's time to send a few special gifts along to those who have caught our attention during the past year.
And, as always, there's no better place to start than at the top.
To Premier Paul Okalik, we send a stack of flash cards to make his life a little easier.
Hopefully, the cards will prove themselves to be time savers for the premier.
Okalik can simply hold up cards such as "New jail to Rankin Inlet" when he sees Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson headed his way, "And you are?" when Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo is in the mood to chat, and "1-800-LAWYER" for those rare times when NTI president Paul Kaludjak is in the House.
To Peterson, who is always complaining about not being informed, we send a subscription to Kivalliq News.
To Rankin Inlet Mayor Lorne Kusugak, we send a life-sized Canada Post doll that speaks his language.
With the push of a button, the mayor can listen to "Postage Due," "I don't know why your tracking number doesn't work," and "Six weeks from Toronto sounds right to me," spoken in Inuktitut to his heart's content.
To Community and Government Services assistant deputy minister Shawn Maley, we send a Rolodex containing every number he seems to have lost since his promotion.
Maley is allowed to share the Rolodex once a week with his director of community development, Darren Flynn.
To Arviat Mayor Johnny Mamgark, we send his original nomination papers for framing.
The papers turned up under the issues-we've-dealt-with pile following the Kivalliq mayors' meeting in Rankin, although we have no idea how they got there.
To the Northern Transportation Company Ltd., we send a book on Kivalliq winters and a brand new, and very large, ice chisel.
We've sent the chisel directly to Baker Lake to avoid any problems with shipping.
To Cumberland Resources Ltd., which owns and operates the Meadowbank gold project, we send a rare map identifying every secret fishing hole surrounding the community of Baker Lake.
We expect the holes to still be there long after the mine is gone.
To members of the Baker Lake Youth Athletics Association, we send a box of silent cheering towels with "Go Rankin" sewn on one side.
To the group in Coral Harbour who spent an evening calling in reports of strange, glowing objects in the sky, we send a box of silver helmets so no alien may get in your mind.
We've sent the helmet straps to the aliens.
To the Chesterfield Inlet Fishing Derby Committee, we send a copy of the hit movie, We Know What You Did Last Winter.
We also send a ruler with numbers on it and a story book on how deadlines work.
To Finance Minister David Simailak, we send a $2-million cheque on behalf of the territory's smokers, and those who go to work every day.
It comes with a card that reads, "You can always count on us to fix your mistakes."
May these gifts be received in the spirit for which they were intended.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
This is the time of year when people like to reflect on themselves, dig deep and work on ways to improve their lives.
I am talking, of course, of the New Year's resolution.
That little promise we all make in an effort to feel better about being ourselves.
I'm sure that some of you make resolutions that only last as long as the party, or maybe a few weeks into January.
I've heard lots of them, such as how badly someone wants to quit smoking or drinking pop.
It's always good to keep motivating yourself, so I hope you stick to your guns and make a reasonable resolution.
I haven't really given much thought to what I will pledge on New Year's Eve.
Maybe I'll cut down on video games. Maybe not.
All I know is that, looking back at the last year in Inuvik, we did pretty good.
We elected a strong, honest town council and a new mayor with the promise of keeping transparency in council, and a vow to keep the interest of the public in mind and to make good decisions.
Community gatherings were at an all-time high, with the music festival, the Gwich'in gathering, the arts festival and the strongly-inspiring residential school gathering as well.
I saw this past year as a great one for strengthening the community as a whole. I met a lot of new people with my new career choice. I've been on the Drum beat since April.
Believe me, if you think there is a lack of activity in town, you're just lazy.
With the good must come the bad, of course. It seemed like we had a break-in every week.
The RCMP were busy throughout the summer months, chasing little crooks.
When the smoke clears on 2006 and we find ourselves looking January in the face, we should be ready for the next step.
An important gathering is brewing for the region, with the caribou summit happening in late January.
Being a strong community takes effort from all of us, and I can tell you all that we did okay. You deserve to relax over the next few weeks.
So, cheers to you Inuvik, let's keep the momentum going into 2007 and maybe we'll even get some substantial news on this fantasy pipeline I've been writing so much about.
With Christmas just around the corner it's the time of year when hope, optimism and good will towards your fellow man (or woman) is supposed to reign.
While this can be difficult if you still have gifts left to purchase and wrap or large Christmas dinners to plan there seems to be a fair bit of optimism appearing recently in the events affecting the Deh Cho.
The award for highest recent optimism levels goes to Jim Prentice, the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
Prentice was recorded as saying that he hoped Dehcho First Nations would accept the federal government's land claims offer at meetings in Edmonton this week.
While it never hurts to hope, this is certainly a case where there seems to be little hard evidence to pin the hope upon. It was only a few weeks ago when Deh Cho leaders, after much debate, decided to allow negotiators to even talk about land selection.
It's wishful thinking to imagine that enough has happened since the special assembly held from Nov. 28 to 30 for a deal to be signed. Prentice might have been hoping for a signed deal as a stocking stuffer, but he's just going to have to wait at least a while longer.
High hopes were also recently displayed by the members of the 2860 Royal Army Cadet Corp Fort Simpson who participated in the Northern Region Cadet Biathlon Championship in Whitehorse.
Hard work and determination paid off for the six cadets who all had positive experiences and brought back six medals between them.
Hopes will continue to remain high for Brandon Norris, Jordin Snider and Josh Baton who have been chosen as members of the Northern regional team that will compete in the National Cadet Biathlon Championships in March in Whitehorse. Charlene Deneyoua is also an alternate for that team.
Having a goal is important, but through training and preparation the cadets have taken the steps needed to make a dream become reality.
Florence Brown just made one of her dreams come true by launching her first book.
While Brown had dabbled in writing before as a tool for language teaching, this was her first attempt at creating a whole children's book. Brown is hopeful that by recording elders' stories she can help keep their knowledge alive.
Although this step will help to achieve the goal, Brown isn't content with just one book under her belt. She's aiming high with the goal of producing a story from each of the larger families in Fort Simpson. This is an example of someone working to achieve something they believe in.
While stories of hope can probably be found in all Deh Cho communities this time of year, it's Trout Lake will be finishing the year off with a final note of optimism.
The marriage of Rebecca Jumbo and Robert Murdock on Dec. 30 will help send the year off on the right foot and hopefully act as a example for the things to come in 2007.
The article titled "YK loses to Inuvik despite NHL players" in Yellowknifer's Dec. 20 sports section should have read that Inuvik defeated Yellowknife 8-2, and Tom Williams is from Inuvik.
If you spot an error in Yellowknifer, call 873-4031 and ask to speak to an editor, or e-mail editorial@ nnsl.com. Well get a correction or clarification in as soon as we can.