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Aurora World settlement should be public information
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Transparency builds public confidence. With that truth in mind, Yellowknife residents deserve an opportunity to scrutinize an out-of-court-settlement that recently concluded a long-standing investment dispute between the government-owned NWT Business Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC), and Daryl Dolynny and his business partners.

Dolynny was named in a Dec. 16, 2008 statement of claim by BDIC, in which it sought a $100,000 loan guarantee after the Aurora World partners defaulted on $1.1 million in debt in 2007. Until now, much of the dispute has unfolded like a soap opera in the public eye.

Dolynny and his partners - Alex Arychuk, Grant Beck and the NWT Metis Development Corporation - countered in their 2008 statement of defence that they were assured by BDIC representatives that the loan guarantee "was a mere formality and enforcement of the guarantee would not be aggressively pursued."

A day after Dolynny was elected MLA of the Range Lake riding in last year's territorial election, the MLA-elect exchanged e-mails with Pawan Chugh, CEO of the BDIC, in which Dolynny proposed helping the government rid itself of a "very expensive problem" by handing over information about BDIC employee Bill Turner, whom the politician accused of leaking confidential information to the media, prior to the election, about the government loan to Aurora World.

Turner had filed a challenge against the government's hiring policy last spring.

"As I see it, Mr. Turner has an affirmative action grievance against BDIC and the GNWT that if successful ... could have disastrous financial and HR implications," Dolynny stated in one of the e-mails.

Although Dolynny's unsavoury e-mail deal was immediately rejected in writing by Chugh, BDIC minister Bob McLeod referred to Dolynny's attempted manipulation as a "not unusual" proposal, indicating McLeod did not take the matter as seriously as the press and much of the public did.

Now that a confidential deal involving the repayment of public funds - just how much remains unknown - has been struck behind closed doors, both the BDIC and Dolynny should feel motivated, if not obligated, to reveal the out-of-court settlement to the public. Then, everyone would be free to move on with confidence.

Too little, too late, councillor
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When in doubt, speak up.

That's what city councillor Paul Falvo, and all of his counterparts, should have done much earlier in the city's three-year process of developing its $22-million water treatment plant. Instead, the councillor is only now requesting a legal review of the GNWT's requirement to build the plant.

Falvo, who is a mayoral candidate in this year's municipal election, said the project is too expensive for the city to shoulder itself. Last month, council approved the city borrowing $20 million - some of it earmarked for the water treatment plant - and Falvo voted in its favour.

This is not a "better late than never" situation. It was in 2009 that the GNWT adopted the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality as regulations, which force municipalities to filter their drinking water supply.

However, the management of drinking water is a shared responsibility among all levels of government. Although the GNWT funds more than 20 per cent of the city's budget, some financial assistance from the government should go hand-in-hand with its insistence that a new water treatment plant must be constructed.

Since its inception, the project has never been proven as a fundamental necessity, just a politically required one. City administration even touted Yellowknife drinking water as the best around. The GNWT is forcing the city to install the infrastructure to meet federal guidelines, but council's job is to question the projects, scrutinize the rules and fight for assistance if such a major project is being imposed with little justification. Our drinking water is of stellar quality and has been for decades.

Now the city is bound to the project and any fleeting glances in the rear-view mirror are, at this point, too little, too late.

Setting the bar on profits
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Only time will tell if Coral Harbour's call for a May 25 boycott of shopping at the Northern store if prices don't come down will spread to other Kivalliq communities.

It's a brave move by the community and protest organizer Simeon Dion, but it remains to be seen if other communities have the same conviction to support the cause.

Regardless of how the call pans out, a number of issues were made clear, again, by the protest in Coral.

No matter what the North West Co., feds, or Arctic Cooperatives have to say, the majority of Kivalliqmiut still believe food-and-necessity prices are far too high in our communities and the Nutrition North program is not a fair tradeoff for consumers.

Many people still don't truly understand how the program works and, rightly or wrongly, don't trust big corporations to treat consumers fairly. The need to make profits has been transcended by pure greed in their eyes.

The stores and the feds have plenty of numbers to support the program, but they're not truly reflective of the situation.

I spoke to an Inuk man this past week who works in Rankin Inlet, rotating three weeks in and three weeks out. His company has an account at the Northern store and he recently spent $80 on less than one bag of items. He was so upset by how little he got for the money, he doesn't want to ever spend money there again.

Dion being upset with how high the Northern store sets prices on the food local shoppers "are accustomed to," speaks volumes toward one area of misunderstanding with the Nutrition North program.

The program is paternal by its very nature in that the feds have taken the stance they will tell us what we should be eating, and, if we don't eat what they've decided we should, we'll pay a lot more for other choices.

Most disturbing about that stance is the fact all the cheaper giant tomatoes, green lettuce, potatoes and apples in the world won't help a single mom or lowincome family augment their country food to feed their family.

When they're trying to stretch $300 over two weeks, you'll still find them reaching for bags of mystery meat chicken strips and Kraft Dinner to feed their family.

The companies will defy anyone to produce receipts to show where their products have doubled in cost to substantiate claims of doubled groceryandnecessity bills.

They keep the focus on their products, rather than comparing the cost to buying from a southern retailer.

A short while back, a person in Baker Lake sent me an invoice from a retailer using the Nutrition North program in Winnipeg, which also included the price of the same items in their local stores.

Local prices were quite higher on Nutrition North subsidized items, even though the retailers receive the same freight subsidy.

If everything is as it should be, one must surmise the difference in price can only be attributed to profit margins set by the different companies.

Nutrition North has good intentions, but it needs more than tweaking to be anywhere near as effective as the feds want to believe it is.

And, while the North West Co. is correct that the cost of food is high in the North, does it really have to be as high as it is?

The feds have set the bar on what people should be eating, maybe it's time they set the bar on how much profit is enough for Northern retailers.

Nahanni Butte paves the way
NWT News/North - Monday, May 14, 2012

Nahanni Butte's recent resource funding agreement with Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd. demonstrates how fruitful negotiations between industry and First Nations can be in the NWT.

Aboriginal leaders have been given a bad rap by prolonged negotiations with government over land claims, resource sharing and development plans. However, that reputation should be shovelled onto the Canadian government, which is most often responsible for the delays that make developers wary of stepping foot North of 60 -- combined with the NWT's cumbersome regulatory system.

To the Government of Canada, negotiations with First Nations groups are nothing more than a process and whether that process concludes quickly or is dragged out for years is of little concern. So, as the bargaining meanders, the government is free to shuffle negotiators at will, bring reports back to numerous sub-committees and refuse to compromise because in the end, Ottawa has little to gain.

Fred Tesou, chief of the Nahanni Butte Dene Band, proved last month that First Nations leaders are not steadfastly against development nor are they unwilling to deal with industry. Tesou said Nahanni Butte needs resources -- a statement many aboriginal leaders understand -- and he credited Selwyn Chihong for being upfront in its approach with the band and the community.

Those particular negotiations can serve as an example, a message to developers and the government that First Nations are willing to deal if they are treated with respect and both parties come to the table with something to offer.

Woman's housing battle pays off
NWT News/North - Monday, May 14, 2012

How long would you fight for your rights? Many would give up well before the two-decade mark, but not Cecilia Kell. The Behchoko woman should be commended for defending not only her rights but those of all women in the NWT and Canada.

The UN recently ruled in Kell's favour following a judgment under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This ruling stemmed from her case originating in the 1990s, when her name was wrongfully removed from the title of her home by her ex-husband, a director of the Housing Authority Board at the time.

Flaws in the Canadian legal system, including cultural insensitivity and lack of supports, contributed to the drawn-out proceedings and the eventual filing with the UN.

As Sue Glowach, senior communications adviser with the GNWT Department of Justice, says, a lot has changed in the past 20 years.

More court workers are aboriginal, access to services for women is improving and cultural knowledge and sensitivity has advanced. An argument could also be made that an angry husband would unlikely be able to so easily remove his ex-wife's name from the title of their home these days.

That said, this ruling might still further improve the legal system in the NWT as it pertains to women and aboriginal women. Glowach said the GNWT, in conjunction with the Government of Canada, will review the UN recommendation and assess the need for changes stemming from the report.

Hopefully any shortfalls identified in that review will help to better safeguard women in the NWT and across the country when they are dealing with legal matters.

Getting the most out of growth
Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 14, 2012

Nunavut leading the country in economic growth for the second year in a row is excellent news, and is due mainly to Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank gold mine - but the mine's employee absenteeism issues mean the average worker is falling through the cracks and not reaping the full benefits of this growth.

Agnico-Eagle's presence has brought hundreds of millions of dollars to Nunavut businesses since 2007, and in July 2011, 38 per cent of the workforce were Inuit, receiving an average of $66,000 in salary. Other than being spent during trips south, much of that money remains in the territory. However, on average last year, 22 Kivalliq employees did not show up for work each day.

Community liaisons have now been brought on board to help people catch flights, but what hasn't been acknowledged enough is the cultural differences that may be at play.

Working at a mine is about as different from traditional culture as an industry can get - workers are confined to the mine for days or weeks, living regimented lives, whereas traditional Inuit culture has had nothing to do with the 24-hour clock and standard industry work-week.

Though culture wanes, and many are thankfully trying to keep it alive, lifestyles can take a long time to change, and change must never happen at the expense of culture. Maybe a different employment model might be something to consider - whether this means a one-week-in, three-week-out setup, or more flexibility in when shifts begin. Training opportunities for Inuit skilled trades are paramount to improving life in the territory and local labour reduces costs for Agnico-Eagle, but there might be better ways to maximize the skills, success and efficiency of Northern employees.

This mine, and the others that are gearing up, mean huge benefits to the territory. Why not maximize the benefit it will bring to the average Nunavummiuq? Jobs in mining are as important as the seal hunt, the caribou hunt, fishing or traditional arts, in terms of bringing stability to Inuit lives and putting food on Inuit tables.

A new front in the seal hunt debate
Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 14, 2012

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern has taken full advantage of what Twitter can do to get her word out to not only Iqalummiut and Nunavummiut, but to Canada and the world.

Those following her @madinuk account will have noticed her recently taking on anti-seal-hunt activists with fewer than 20 followers and political brass, such as Green Party leader Elizabeth May, with thousands.

Redfern has adamantly defended an industry that has immense traditional value and, until recently, a huge economic value for the territory.

She's been backed mostly by fellow Nunavummiut, but her words and those of others - @nuliayuk, @Teirersias, and @RadicalOmnivore, for instance - are reaching a national audience. These debates are in plain view for anyone with Internet access.

We wish them well in using modern technology to uphold a valuable and longstanding tradition.

Road to more opportunities
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 11, 2012

Competition is the engine that drives economic growth. So, it is understandable that questions are being asked after the Department of Transportation entered preliminary negotiations with the Det'on Cho Corporation for the Ingraham Trail Realignment Project without soliciting competing bids.

Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny condemns these dealings, conducted under the negotiated contracts policy, as unfair.

The policy allows untendered government contracts when they will result in benefits for businesses or residents unlikely to be achieved through competition, or where the negotiated contract would build competitive capacity for NWT businesses.

Dolynny criticizes the department for a lack of transparency as it meets with Det'on Cho, the economic development arm of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, which considers the Ingraham Trail part of its traditional lands.

However, the department's choice to potentially invoke the policy, which was also used to award a contract worth more than $3 million to Det'on Cho to work on the Dettah access road in 2009-2010, does not come as a surprise.

Discussions of benefits of the realignment project for the Yellowknives Dene have been a prominent part of the overall picture since the project was envisioned five years ago.

During the 16th legislative assembly in 2010, David Ramsay, now minister of Transportation, heralded the proposed realignment project as a beneficial opportunity for the Yellowknives Dene, long before he held a cabinet post. As minister, Ramsay is now overseeing the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Done correctly, the realignment promises to open up much-needed space for urban development, which would create future opportunities for which many Yellowknife companies should be allowed to compete.

The law has failed union tenants
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 11, 2012

As the Union of Northern Workers widens its intractable stance with four female tenants living in apartments inside the organization's headquarters on 52 Street, we find ourselves asking why the law is performing so badly in this dispute.

It has clearly failed in this case.

NWT rental officer Hal Logsdon ordered the union to provide its tenants access to their apartments through a fence on the west side of the building for a second time last week but as Logsdon himself has already pointed out, he has little power to enforce his edicts. The real power rests with the NWT Supreme Court where his first order has been languishing since Jan. 17.

As Logsdon's latest ruling concedes, if the union doesn't provide access to tenants within 21 days the applicant can hire a contractor and have it done herself, unless of course "the order is stayed."

Considering how the union has done everything in its power these last few months to keep the fence closed, including trying to have one of the complainants criminally charged for cutting a hole through it, no doubt this latest order will wind up in Supreme Court as well. That's a shame because everyone seems to agree that it's not safe for these women to have to go through the back alley to access their apartments while they say drug dealers linger in the area.

Union members should challenge union leadership on this issue.

The tenants have spoken out repeatedly, the rental officer has issued two rulings -- the fact that union leaders are fighting so hard to keep the chain link fence around its employees' vehicles intact is an acknowledgment that they too feel the area is unsafe. Now if only the courts would do something about it before someone gets hurt.

Nature's show
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, May 3, 2012

A seasonal marker has passed in many Deh Cho communities.

For those communities along either the Mackenzie or Liard rivers breakup is an important yearly milestone. No matter how long people have lived along one of the rivers, even if it is all their life, breakup holds a special draw.

The importance of break-up can be gauged by the activities that are linked to it. For days, even weeks before break-up, speculation over when and how it will happen is a major source of conversation. Some people put their money where their mouth is and enter into the break-up pools a variety of organizations run fundraisers.

As breakup draws near people move from talking to action. For many people, watching the rivers becomes a pastime and almost an obsession.

It's not uncommon in Fort Simpson to see vehicles streaming to and from the ferry crossing as residents gauge if the ice conditions have changed. When breakup actually starts, that stream of vehicles becomes a torrent as seemingly everyone goes to watch the ice move.

So what is it about breakup that draws people in?

For the more practical-minded residents, their interest is likely linked to genuine concern. If the ice jams and water levels begin to rise, a few Deh Cho communities, namely Fort Liard and Fort Simpson, risk flooding.

Some people must watch the breakup to assure themselves that everything is going smoothly or to be quickly alerted if things start to go wrong.

For other residents watching breakup is about taking in an awesome force of nature.

Even if you've seen it multiple times, there is something gripping and exciting about watching and listening as what was a flat sheet of ice buckles and cracks and slowly starts moving.

There's inherent drama in breakup as ice is forced against ice and there's a battle to see where the weak spots are and which section will falter first. No two breakups are alike. The show changes every year.

For other residents, perhaps a minority, break-up comes with a hope for excitement. Not that they want their community to flood but after a quiet winter some nail-biting moments would be nice.

Those residents will be disappointed this year. Breakup has seemingly passed Fort Liard and Fort Simpson without much to do and the ice is sweeping northwards.

Residents, however, can rest assured that the ice will be back again next year and the show will start again.

Have Harper cuts gone too far?
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, May 10, 2012

The federal government seems to be making some pretty selective cuts in the North as it tries to balance the books in Ottawa.

Parks Canada is the latest in a long list of environmental and regulatory bodies to lose part of its federal funding.

Losing eight positions within the Western Arctic Field Unit means cutting out about 20 per cent of a government agency tasked with protecting the cultural and natural heritage of the entire Canadian Western Arctic a job that will no doubt be much more difficult for the dedicated Parks Canada employees moving forward.

The kicker in this story is that the Parks Canada unit based in Inuvik had not been running a deficit they had balanced their books. However, that didn't stop them from becoming casualties of the proclaimed recession.

It's true that when money gets tight and times get tough, everyone should do their share to make ends meet. However, as Dan Frandsen, acting field unit superintendent for Parks Canada in Inuvik said, "Parks Canada is doing a fairly large share."

When one examines the recent cutbacks made in the name of austerity by the federal government, a trend starts to emerge: government-funded environmental monitoring is going the way of the dodo.

While some might consider such concerns to be unfounded or exaggerated, it should be noted there are other changes coming down the pipe from Ottawa that will change how resource development projects are done in the North and who gets a say.

The proposed energy superboard has drawn criticism from all Northern Aboriginal groups, as was displayed at a meeting held in Yellowknife in late March to discuss proposed amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

One thing the superboard and cuts to environmental monitoring have in common is they make it easier for resources to be extracted from the North.

On one hand, jobs are in short supply up here and making the area more attractive to big businesses could benefit many people in the short term.

But what about the long term? Reducing the amount of public consultation and environmental oversight will do more than cut the red tape that may or may not be preventing companies from doing business in the North it could alienate the people who live here and pillage our natural resources until there is nothing left for the future.

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