Friday, August 24, 2007
Talk of a span across the kilometre-wide river goes back to the 1970s when cost estimates for it were at $6 million. Today those estimates are at $150 million-plus and rising.
The premier is right when he says it's time to build a bridge. The question is should he be the one leading the charge?
Time is running out on Handley. By November, there will be a new premier and cabinet at the helm.
It is this government that will be saddled with the enormous cost of paying for the project.
There is plenty of opposition to the bridge from mining and transport companies who have been singled out through a $6 per tonne toll to pay for the project.
There is also a lot of head-scratching too about exactly how the bridge will benefit the territory.
Unfortunately, Handley has done a poor job articulating the benefits, which has added fuel to the fire.
Certainly, having a bridge across the Mackenzie River will end anxiety about stockpiling groceries and supplies, and travel to and from the south.
The diamond mines will be able to better anticipate their supply needs for the winter road and it's bound to make Yellowknife a more attractive place to visit for wheel-bound tourists leery of travel conditions on our highways.
There are a lot of what ifs. The only thing certain is that, if the bridge isn't built soon, the more it will cost and the more unlikely it ever will be built because of those costs.
To bring industry on board, the government needs to expand the toll to all vehicles.
Toll bridges, and there are plenty of them all across North America, tend to base their rates on the number axles per vehicle, including passenger vehicles.
Crossing P.E.I.'s 13km Confederation Bridge costs $40.75 per passenger vehicle and $6.75 for each additional axle.
The Ambassador Bridge from Windsor to Detroit charges $3.75 per car; San Fransisco's Golden Gate bridge - $5 U.S.
Toll bridges are a part of everyday life elsewhere. There is no reason why we should be the exception.
That said, it's unconscionable that we move forward with a project of this magnitude without knowing what we're really getting into first. The last cost-benefit analysis was done in 2002 when the construction estimate was $60 million.
The bridge is a top priority but it shouldn't be for Handley's government.
He had his chance and failed. Right now, it looks like a desperate attempt to build a legacy for a term in office where not much bad happened except for not much at all.
The premier should duck out of this one and pass the file onto his successor.
Maybe then, the Deh Cho Bridge will actually get built.
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, August 23, 2007
"One for all, and all for one."
That's the legendary motto of the Three Musketeers, three men who stayed together through thick and thin. It could now be used just as successfully by the communities of Jean Marie River, Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake.
These three communities have come together to sign a joint venture agreement which has launched a numbered company currently being called the Tri-Corporation until a final name can be settled on.
The original goal of the agreement and the corporation was to give the communities the means to bid for contracts relating to the Mackenzie Gas Project. The communities have realized that separately they don't have the means to secure contracts either because they don't have enough manpower or because they lack the capital to purchase or rent the necessary equipment.
The communities have now broadened their plans for the corporation to include joining together the three local stores and possible agreements with catering companies and airlines.
These communities have precisely the right idea.
The simple truth of the matter is that in the smaller communities there simply are not enough resources to tackle large projects. Between them Jean Marie River, Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake have a total population of 264 people according to 2004 statistics. The three are among the smallest communities in the area.
While 264 people is enough to create a mid-sized village by Deh Cho standards it doesn't provide a lot of people to muster together for a potential project.
Coming together to share what they have and benefit as a group is an ideal plan. If enough determination and energy is put into the relationship, the benefits will be reaped on a number of levels.
To begin with, the communities are following one of the principal Dene values - sharing. According to documents prepared by the Dehcho First Nations, the Dene shared in the use of the land and the resources of the land, food in particular. The work needed to maintain a camp was shared along with the responsibility for caring for children and protecting the health and safety of the family.
Through their joint venture agreement, the three communities are following a modernized version of this value.
By joining forces, they are helping to ensure that the work needed to support the communities and, therefore, the families they contain, can be shared by a broader base. Many hands make for light work.
Individual residents will be able to benefit from the joint venture agreement if it brings more jobs to the communities or even lowers grocery prices through a buying group.
The agreement also means that the communities are binding their fates together. What better reason is there to build co-operation between neighbours than having something valuable resting in the balance?
The communities have little to lose and possibly a lot to gain by working in tandem.
Co-operation on this level is something that we need to see more of between communities in the Deh Cho, especially if self-government becomes a reality.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
We all need educators, whether they be in a school or just someone you can learn from.
The most important trait of a successful teacher is the ability to reach out to students in a way that they understand.
I want to take this opportunity to recognize a strong teacher and friend who recently passed on.
I was in my office earlier this week, when I heard that Samuel Hearne teacher Gord Church had passed away, due to a failed liver.
With only weeks to go before school, this will be a tremendous loss for the faculty.
I knew Church, he was always a good listener and would always make an effort to help in any way he could.
It's frustrating that we have to deal with death so close to us, but this is where we pull together as a community and grow stronger.
With the help of loving, dedicated teachers like Church, we can fully move forward as a community.
I'm sure that there will be a rush of new teachers this year, all eager to see what awaits them in September.
I want those new teachers to learn from the legacy left by those educators who have passed on.
On behalf of the younger people who have gone to school and remember the teachings of those men and women, I hope all the teachers and staff at both schools never forget the important lessons being taught in and out of the classroom.
Teachers and staff in our schools carry a heavier burden than most people recognize.
The teachers in the region need to know that they are important and are deserving of our respect.
The truth is that many parents are not equipped, or are scared to teach their children.
Maybe they aren't at home, or they don't have the know-how to encourage their child.
As a community, we rely on the strength of our teachers, young and old to set a good example and to make learning as memorable as possible.
Trust is one of the backbones of any relationship.
Trusting a teacher should be paramount in the process of learning.
Once a student can trust their teacher, it makes it easier to get along and to complete the ultimate objective: graduation.
There are many youth who step out on that ledge, who want to further themselves with the aid of an older person.
If you are that older person, don't do anything to breach that trust.
Remember, education is a two-way street.
The student invests a lot of themselves to believe another adult.
It's a shame that we lose our community members who work hard to ensure the prosperity of the town, but I hope someone else will stand up and ease our loss.
To the students, when that bell rings next week and you're back in class, let your teacher know they're making a difference.
It would probably mean a lot to them.
Without a healthy relationship between the two groups, we might end up with an empty room and a lonely educator, or a room full of unanswered questions.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
There were a few who took the time to let me know I was dreaming in Technicolour after reading my views in this space almost two years ago on what the future may hold (Little island could mean big bucks).
It was about the time Canada and Denmark were posturing over who held ownership of a tiny piece of real estate sitting squarely in the middle of the Kennedy Channel in the Nares Strait, known as Hans Island.
It was, after all, only Denmark, and a few readers thought my notion of the Northwest Passage becoming a viable international shipping lane was a little far-fetched.
Besides, even if it did happen and he who owns Hans Island controls the passage, everyone knows Canada holds the rights to the Arctic.
Of course, the Americans felt a little differently, and so did the Russians.
I wonder what those readers were thinking as the Russians decided to plant a flag at the base of the North Pole recently?
Many scientists and industrialists view Arctic ice as nothing more than a formidable barrier to the incredible wealth of mineral and energy resources that rest beneath.
The Russians have openly stated they are in the process of trying to expand their 200-nautical-mile limit, which would have their mail going to the same box as Jolly Old St. Nick.
If the Russians show the Lomonosov underwater shelf is an extension of their continental border then, presto, they'd have instant claim for an economic zone that would make them neighbours at the North Pole.
It's time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his band of cohorts to get off their duffs and start staking a stronger claim to Northern turf.
Some predict the passage will be open during the summer months - instantly creating a shipping route between Europe and Asia - in as little as two decades.
The announcement of a deep-sea port at Nanisivik is a start, but, Canada has to move quickly to increase its military presence in the North and be far-more diligent in mapping the Arctic sea-bed and compiling data than it has been in the past.
Make no mistake about it, the days are gone when Canada could lay claim to the entire Arctic sea-bed. The goal now is to ensure we get our share when the bed is divided up like a large pizza, topped with energy and mineral resources instead of cheese and pepperoni.
Add on the commerce that comes with an open Northwest Passage for one-third of the year (explorers haven't been searching for five centuries because of the scenery), and it's obvious just how lucrative the future could be.
In the meantime, the feds should remember how important Inuit are to Canadian sovereignty in the North.
As Canada steps up its efforts to assert its Arctic ownership, Nunavut should be at the front of the line to start reaping the benefits.
As we said in 2005, the Canadian Forces can't assert its presence from southern computer screens.
It's time to man existing bases, get Hercules aircraft stationed in Nunavut year-round, and start pumping money into the Northern economy to protect the North.
After all, we're not just after riches, we live here.
Errors appeared in Wednesday's Yellowknifer ("Bob McLeod declares for Yellowknife South," Aug. 22) McLeod was born in Fort Providence. Also, Katelyn Fabien's name was misspelled in a photo caption. Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by these errors.