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Low-hanging trash
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 3, 2013

If the city were to poll residents living in single-family households, they would probably find overwhelming support for its efforts to reduce the amount of garbage going into the landfill.

The problem is, beyond this group, the city has few ideas about how to cut down on the enormous pile of waste being created by all the other trash contributors in Yellowknife.

The latest trial balloon floated by city councillor Rebecca Alty targeting homeowners yet again with curbside garbage restrictions is further proof of that.

Alty, who chairs the city's Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee, wants homeowners to separate organic waste from other household garbage, which would be picked up at the curb on alternating weeks. Compostable waste is taken away one week. The rest of the garbage is picked up the next.

By itself, there is nothing wrong with this proposal. This is common practise in many communities down south, including in the neighbouring capital of Whitehorse, Yukon.

"Just getting curbside pickup would be substantial," said Alty, while adding that 20 per cent of trash entering the landfill is made up of organic waste. Alas, Alty ought to know this latest scheme will hardly make a dent in the amount of trash getting landfilled at the dump.

The city's 2007 Solid Waste Composition Study found that the lion's share of trash going into the landfill - 59 per cent of it - comes from multi-family unit apartment buildings, condominiums and the small commercial sector. Thirty-eight per cent of this sector's trash, it should be added, was made up of paper, such as cardboard, boxboard and newspapers - the very stuff single-family households spend hours sorting and dumping into centrally-located blue bins to keep their weekly garbage output under the two-bag limit mandated by the city.

The composition study found single-family dwellings produced only 19 per cent of the trash. No doubt this percentage has shrunk considerably since the writing of this study, which was authored before city council lowered the weekly curbside garbage limit to two 77-litre bags. To add insult to injury, the city's long-promised curbside recycling program remains a faraway dream.

A city survey in 2006 found a majority of residents were willing to pay an extra $6 a month on their solid waste levies for curbside recycling pickup. But we are no closer to having a program today than we were back then. Nonetheless, the lack of a curbside recycling program hasn't stopped council from raising the solid waste levy by $5.50 (since 2006) to $16.50 a month now.

When council first put a limit on curbside trash in 2006 - to three bags - it also created tipping fees that reward apartment and commercial building owners for diverting recyclables from the trash stream. Sorted recyclables cost a reduced rate of $30 a tonne, down from $99 a tonne for unsorted trash.

The problem for apartment building owners, and even the owners of condominiums, is the difficulty that comes with trying to enforce communal responsibility. Homeowners manage their waste because it will cost them more and be more of an inconvenience to get rid of it if they don't. But how do apartment owners get their tenants to sort their trash?

If trash costs $99 a tonne to throw away, landlords will simply pass the costs on to tenants and likely not think twice about dumping unsorted trash. Increase that amount to $500 a tonne and there would certainly be a little more contemplation on what to do about it. It would be an unpalatable rate for both landlords and tenants.

The first necessary step for condominiums and apartment building owners is to make sure tenants can recycle and divert organic waste easily with all the necessary bags and bins available to them. Next comes education on the benefits of recycling and how it is necessary to keep rental costs and condominium fees down.

Single-family households are certainly part of the trash equation, but council must consider the city's main trash contributors to be effective. Otherwise, council will yet again be picking at the well-plucked, low-hanging fruit while doing little to keep trash out of the landfill, which is the main goal.

Appreciating art
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, May 2, 2013

So often people take for granted things they have easy access to.

That's why it would be a wonderful experience for people from the Deh Cho to be able to see the Aurora Boreawesomer exhibition that is on display at Gallery 101 in Ottawa. The exhibition is part of the much larger Northern Scene Festival that is taking place from April 25 to May 4.

More than 200 people went through the gallery on April 26 during the exhibition's opening day. They had the opportunity to see a variety of artwork from 20 artists who are from the Deh Cho or have been inspired by the region.

By going to the gallery, Deh Cho residents would likely gain a new appreciation for the artistic talent that abounds in the region. Most residents only get to see bits of the talent at a time. They may see a painting a local resident did or visit an exhibition at the OSC Gallery in Fort Simpson.

Right now at Gallery 101, however, artwork from across the Deh Cho is on display. In one location, people have the chance to see a cross section of the work that is being produced in the region.

What is also important about Aurora Boreawesomer is the variety of artwork that has been selected. There is everything from contemporary paintings and photographs to traditional items including a spruce root basket, a moosehide doll, moose hair tufting and moccasins.

When people see a painting, even if they don't necessarily like it, they generally recognize it as art and the person who painted it as an artist. The same is not necessarily true for traditional items such birchbark baskets and moccasins.

When Deh Cho residents see items like those, they may acknowledge that they are nice to look at, but lifelong familiarity with such creations has usually taken away some of the awe that comes from seeing them for the first time. Visitors to Gallery 101 are seeing traditional items from the Deh Cho displayed as works of art.

Aurora Boreawesomer is bringing both contemporary and traditional artwork from the Deh Cho to a broader audience. It is a boost that many of the region's artists need.

The exhibition can also serve as a reminder to Deh Cho residents of how much talent there is in the region and how people who create things such as moccasins are artists in their own right and that their creations, even though they are meant to be worn or used, are as much art as a painting hanging on a gallery wall.

The great Arctic debate
Editorial Comment by T. Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, May 2, 2013

I love semantic debates and arguments. One of the best things about them is the passion they stir.

That's why I've been listening with considerable amusement to the Gordian knots being woven locally by people who get bent out of shape debating whether Inuvik is in the Arctic or not.

On the face of it, it's a silly kind of question. Since we're well inside the Arctic Circle, it seems obvious that we're in the Arctic.

Not so fast, others say. The Arctic Circle is an artificial designation imposed to track where the polar night and the midnight sun occur, but there are other definitions of Arctic, they note. You can define it by wildlife and climate and topography, they say.

Let's not get started on the midnight sun argument either. That will initiate the argument about whether cities like Yellowknife can say they experience the midnight sun. The answer to that one is a definitive "no," by the way. Yellowknife experiences what the Russians call "white nights" rather than the midnight sun, but that's a term that's never caught on in Canada. The midnight sun refers to latitudes where the sun doesn't set for at least one day a year.

Specifically, some people argue that the true Arctic lies in the Arctic island archipelago, or at least above the tree line where one finds tundra. To them, the essence of the Arctic is what many people think of as barren-ground, windswept wasteland.

On that basis, many parts of Nunavut, including Iqaluit, should be called Arctic because they have the climate and terrain. However, those regions don't fall within the Arctic Circle.

I don't know about you, but at this point my brain begins to shrivel at all of the semantic hair-splitting and logical lambada going on.

There is no one authoritative and accepted definition, obviously, of what Arctic means or where one finds it. The only reason we debate it is because the term itself is loaded with meaning and has an almost mystical cachet. It means something, in fact a great deal, to many people, including marketers, and that's why there's such fervent interest in it. It's as if being in the Arctic is something you have to earn.

My solution is a simple one. I like to think of Inuvik as a very pleasant Arctic oasis, where one can go from creature comforts to bush country in less than 30 minutes.

Not to mention that I've sent far too many social media posts out bragging that I'm in the Arctic to retract now. So I say Inuvik is in the Arctic, whether any of you like it or not.

Yellowknife workers lose out
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Northern living allowance for territorial government employees increased for workers in the town of Hay River on April 1 but is unchanged for their counterparts in Yellowknife, where costs are arguably higher.

Collective agreement negotiations between the Union of Northern Workers members and the GNWT aside, the living allowance is supposed to be based on what the GNWT calls a "basket of goods," which takes into account such cost-of-living factors as services, food, transportation, recreation, clothing, footwear and other goods.

The living allowance for the 2,295 employees in Yellowknife remains unchanged for 2013/2014 at $3,450 while it increased for the 272 GNWT workers in Hay River to $5,410 from $5,187.

Range Lake MLA Darryl Dolynny is one politician who is questioning the method the government uses to calculate the amounts, calling it "archaic and irrelevant.

"We need a new formula that introduces commodity-based variances and regional balance," he stated in an e-mail to Yellowknifer.

Dolynny correctly points out that the cost of many goods and services are less expensive in Hay River, such as the price of gasoline and the price of utilities used to heat and power homes. The price of electricity in Yellowknife is set to increase by seven per cent each year for the next three years, then five per cent in the fourth year for a total of 26 per cent.

Could the opening of the Deh Cho Bridge have something to do with this? The federal government reportedly is reviewing Yellowknife's status as an isolated outpost because the bridge provides a fixed link to southern Canada. The result could be a reduction in the Northern living allowance for federal government employees.

Although changes to the living allowance directly affect government employees, it will have a ripple effect in the private sector. Yellowknife is an expensive city in which to live, regardless of a person's employer.

More politicians need to make some noise about this issue and demand there be fairness in the equation.

Make every day Earth Day
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Earth Week is a misnomer.

In Yellowknife, an educational "week" of environmental-awareness programming kicked off on Earth Day, April 22. Today, nine days later, it is still going strong, with more Earth Week events scheduled to continue at various venues through until Saturday.

Earth Day, which has blossomed into Earth Week in many communities since the idea sprouted in the United States in 1970, now represents a global grassroots effort to inspire individuals, families, schools, churches, small businesses and other community groups to work together to live in harmony with the environment 365 days a year.

For most people, it's next to impossible to change the world when it comes to environmental sustainability. However, it's possible for anyone to help change practices in one's home, neighbourhood, school, workplace and community. Earth Week is a great opportunity to start.

Earth Week events in Yellowknife, organized by Ecology North and its volunteers, offer insight into the ways such environmental change can grow year-round. For example, residents can learn how to establish backyard composting systems during an upcoming workshop on Saturday. Previous events have introduced participants to home-based chicken coops and how to repair and maintain bicycles.

In addition to sharing skills, Earth Week helps bring people together with events such as tonight's tea talk at The Peace Building at 7 p.m., a green folk event at the Mackenzie Lounge on Friday evening and a coffee house on Saturday night.

When people come together with the common goal of making our community more sustainable, meaningful long-term change is possible.

Another kick in hockey butt
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 1, 2013

While most of the Kivalliq hockey talk this past week has focused on a possible Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs matchup - before the standings put the Leafs up against Boston -- in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, other elements have been at work to remind us just how removed from the NHL the average fan has become.

The Maple Leafs are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, and it's been a long nine years for fans of the Maple Laughs (yours truly included).

Leafs fans have endured one losing season after another, the debacle of the John Ferguson Jr. era as team general manager (GM), and hung our heads in shame as guardians of our passion, such as Cliff Fletcher, pronounce, "Draft, smaft," before selling our future on veteran players on the last legs of their career.

It's been a trying decade, indeed.

But Toronto is back in the playoffs and all is right with the hockey world again.

GM Dave Nonis, giddy with excitement, sent an open letter to Leafs fans to thank them, on behalf of the entire hockey club, for their continued loyalty and support.

He referred to Leafs fans as the most passionate and dedicated in all of hockey, and called them, "valued members of our team."

So, other than those kind words, how did the Maple Leafs thank their fans for the past nine years of futility, as well as continuously laying down their money to support a club that hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 196667?

Why, by raising ticket prices for the first round by an astounding 75 per cent.

While Leafs fans were chomping on that bit of news, concern was raised by the media (are ya shocked) over the risks involved with six outdoor games being played in the NHL this coming year.

Hockey Night In Canada's Elliotte Friedman was good enough to point out the final two games scheduled for March 1 and 2, featuring Pittsburgh at Chicago and Ottawa vs. Vancouver, are just six and seven days respectively after the Sochi Olympics.

That, apparently, is a little too risky for the top players involved.


Today's hockey players are supposed to be the most physically fit in history, with many boasting a mere six per cent body fat in their chiselled physiques.

Is that merely eye candy for the masses, being able to skate out onto the ice looking like, as one female fan put it, "they were all dipped in a bucket of yummy?"

The pace of the Olympics hockey schedule is a walk in the park compared to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And, surely, a week is more than enough time to adjust to any time differences and the notorious jet lag.

Heck, that's even enough time to have their hair properly styled for the pre-game skate, should one of their travel days be unusually windy. Once again, average hockey fans are being played like a cheap violin.

They sit at home wondering what it would be like to see an NHL playoff game, if they could ever afford to skip a couple of mortgage payments to attend one. And, they scratch their heads over the risk involved in playing two hockey games at least a week apart.

Today's world is run by money and lawyers and it's about time the world's greatest hockey league reflected that.

Bring on the Corporate Hockey League (sigh).

Admit the problem
NWT News/North - Monday, April 29, 2013

The pages of last week's News/North were steeped in stories involving alcohol and its associated social problems. A chief took issue with the Hamlet of Fort Resolution hosting a dance where alcohol was served; a new report came out pointing a finger at alcohol as a leading cause of mental health related hospitalizations in the territory; and an MLA publicly apologized for missing meetings due to excessive drinking and has committed to getting help.

A common foundation in the stories is the admittance that alcohol can lead to trouble, and that too much of it creates unmanageable situations.

The facts are clear. The 2010 NWT Addictions Report stated 43 per cent of residents surveyed said they consume five or more drinks on one occasion and 64 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds reported consuming five or more drinks on one occasion. About 23 per cent of drinkers acknowledged that their drinking was harmful to aspects in their life such as social life, marriage, friendships or physical health. The most recent report put out by the Department of Health and Social Services states alcohol heavily contributes to hospitalizations due to physical and mental health problems.

Alcohol abuse made up 89 per cent of substance abuse hospitalizations. Also, excessive and long-term abuse of alcohol is a leading cause of liver damage, physical injury from falls, stomach issues and mental health issues among adults, the report states.

Every hospitalization costs the department money and many of these hospitalizations are preventable. Addiction to alcohol is a disease that needs the person to first realize there is a problem and to take the proper steps to deal with the problem. A supportive environment facilitates the healing journey.

This was a reason why Chief Louis Balsillie of Deninu Ku'e First Nation objected to a wet dance that was hosted by the Hamlet of Fort Resolution last month during its spring carnival. It was the first wet dance held by the council in more than 10 years and went off without any major incidents. However, Balsillie insisted the community, where there are residents attempting to stop drinking, is not ready for events offering the temptation to drink.

It is almost impossible for those combating alcoholism to cut themselves off from the world around them, where alcohol is present in restaurants, bars, friends' houses, and organized celebrations. While it was important for Balsillie to voice his concerns, the council gave the community a chance to prove it could handle a dance where beer was served.

How someone who has suffered from alcohol abuse behaves around the substance says a lot about where they are on their healing journey. Likewise, when someone slips, they can ignore the issue, or they can face it head on.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche has shouldered the burden of his struggle with alcohol and publicly apologized for an episode of excessive drinking in Inuvik earlier this month that made him miss a day-and-a-half of committee meetings. Menicoche has faced his problem, acknowledged it and has not hid it from the people who voted him in, nor the rest of the territory.

It is commendable that he has acted so quickly, not hiding from the issue, and he did not pretend there was nothing wrong with what took place in Inuvik. He has also taken it a step further and announced he will take responsibility for his actions and is actively researching treatment. For a territory plagued with alcohol abuse, watching a person so publicly take the proactive steps to conquer this issue is something that will hopefully sink in and give others the nudge to do the same.

Two decades of growth
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 29, 2013

It has been 20 years since the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement was signed. In that time, the territory has been established and, according to the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics, the population of the region has grown by almost 10,000.

Nunavummiut have also made strides in their dealings with companies seeking to tap Nunavut's resource-rich land. The beneficiary corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., received its first royalty cheque in 2011 - $2.3 million from Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd.'s Meadowbank gold project - and the outlook for the industry is good. The Nunavut Impact Review Board has successfully reviewed a $4-billion to $6-billion project, in the Baffinland iron ore mine, and came out with a robust package of recommendations to maintain as much environmental integrity as possible, which was acceptable to both sides - though the project is going back to the review stage due to its scaling back. As well, through impact and benefit agreements, job training and Inuit employment targets are part of doing business in Nunavut.

The preservation and promotion of Inuit languages has been a major focus for the territory, though more work must be done to elevate it to the station French enjoys in Quebec. If Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun are to become sustainable into the future they must gain equal footing with English as the language of business throughout government.

Although gains have been made to reach the employment goal under Article 23 of the Nunavut Land Claims Act -- 85 per cent Inuit employment within the territorial and federal governments -- Inuit must not give up the fight. Towards a Representative Public Service, a report released in September 2012, stated only 50 per cent of government employees are Inuit, a 35 per cent shortfall that is taking money away from Inuit families. Of the 50 per cent who are employed, many are not filling the upper echelon of public service positions. Only 17 and 25 per cent of senior and middle managers, respectively, are Inuit. This speaks to the need to improve training and education.

The territory's first steps have been made and now is time to build on the momentum. Congratulations, Nunavummiut, on 20 years of growth.

Ahead of the rest
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 29, 2013

In returning the $0.25 bag levy to the communities from which they were garnered, the North West Company has set an example for green corporate citizenship.

Governments around Canada, including that of the NWT, have introduced mandatory bag taxes that grocers had to adhere to. The proceeds from the NWT's go to a territorial green projects fund.

In Nunavut, with no such territorial legislation, the North West Company and Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. have introduced their own levies. The North West Company has taken the best route in reinvesting that money in green projects by giving it back to schools and hamlet governments for green projects developed in communities by community members.

A government-run program of the same nature would inevitably be fraught with bureaucratic red tape.

Good on North West Company for being proactive on this issue, and for developing an easy program that is giving back to communities and which has reduced the amount of plastic bags issued to customers by 67 per cent.

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