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A limited Sunday call for alcohol
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 14, 2014

Yellowknifers cannot eat, drink and be merry on most Sundays of the year, thanks to the territory's outdated liquor laws.

OK, they can be merry if they want to be, but it won't be in any of Yellowknife's bars or pubs which are considered Class A establishments, thus restricted to being open just 10 Sundays a year.

Yellowknifers can drink if they visit the bowling alley or eat in licensed restaurants that aren't touched by the wrath of this age-old, Christian holiday-based legislation. Yellowknifer reported last week that Class B establishments, where the sale of alcohol is considered incidental to the business, don't have the same impositions.

To sum it up, bars and pubs are needlessly suffering the echo of rules that in today's society simply don't make sense.

It's like the territory is clinging to a rule that is simultaneously being disguised and broken. While restaurants that open Sundays out of their own free will are likely raking in the liquor profits, the current legislation puts up a wall against other business owners within the community from doing the same.

As banning all liquor sales on Sunday will not happen, it is time to move the other way and even the playing field among businesses.

Jamie Koe with the Department of Finance told Yellowknifer the law gives enforcement entities like the RCMP and liquor inspectors a day off. While not wanting to overburden these entities - or taxpayers with the extra shifts required - business owners' bottom lines should not have to suffer. A compromise that stipulates limited hours on a Sunday is in order.

Koe further argued that it gives "a break from drinking for regular drinkers."

As Sunday is far from being a dry day in Yellowknife, this imposed day off to regular drinkers will simply not be this, as they have plenty of alternative options.

It's time to catch Yellowknife up with the rest of the country and let some of the alcohol flow in the city's bars on Sunday.

Budget good, new debt bad
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 14, 2014

The recent territorial budget appears to paint a comforting picture of a tightly run fiscal ship yet we have to point out a flaw in the reported surplus and at least one big red flag.

To clarify, the $200-million surplus is only an operating surplus, not money left over when all the bills are paid. No, there is no surplus, only money to cover most of the GNWT's 2014-15 capital budget deficit of $223 million. The remaining $23 million will be added to the GNWT's debt.

That brings us to the big red flag - the intention to ask the federal government to lift the GNWT's debt ceiling by $1 billion.

Territorial government debt now stands at $624.5 million and is estimated to rise to $658.3 million by the end of this fiscal year. The good news is that almost half of that debt is being paid down by customers of the NWT Power Corporation and customers for the trucked goods coming over the Deh Cho Bridge, in other words out of the wallets of regular people in the NWT.

If that doesn't sound like good news, perhaps knowing the rest is simply government short-term loans will make you feel better.

Readers might remember the debt ceiling was raised in 2012 to $800 million from $575 million.

What's the extra $1 billion for? To expand the territorial electrical transmission grid and build a 300-km road between Norman Wells and Wrigley.

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley's valid observations about the potential flaws of a business plan for the expanded power grid were met with only vague answers.

As for the proposed highway, Wrigley's population is 133, Tulita's is 567 and Norman Wells' is 761. How solid can that business case be?

The budget itself, surplus or not, inspires confidence in the GNWT's financial management. The idea of raising the debt ceiling by $1 billion for the reasons stated does not.

Peering into the Deh Cho's future
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, February 13, 2013

Should the Dehcho Process ever be finished and come into effect it will create a wide array of changes in the region, not the least of which will be how the Deh Cho is governed.

First Nations' chiefs and Metis presidents took a closer look at the possible format for both the regional and community governments during the recent Dehcho First Nations leadership meeting in Fort Providence. The biggest changes will take place in Fort Simpson and Fort Providence, which currently have municipal, First Nation and Metis governments that have different responsibilities and powers.

Under the proposed plans, the Dehcho Process would create a region where each community only has one government, which would look after and represent all of the people. There would also be a regional government.

The smaller communities would see fewer changes. Their governments would look almost exactly as they do now, except it's proposed that there would be some council seats that eligible residents, who don't have to be Dehcho citizens, could run for. Of course there are so few non-Dene long-term residents in the smaller communities in the region that it's possible the governments could run for years, without a non-Dene or Metis person filling a seat.

The interesting part in all of this will be how it unfolds. A new chapter in the Deh Cho's history will be written before residents' very eyes.

For example, it's still not clear how the chiefs, grand chiefs and other councillors or representatives will be chosen. Dehcho First Nations wants to retain the cultural process of deciding leadership and the territorial and federal governments are apparent okay with that as long as the process is democratic. That means elections, like the ones commonly used now, may not be the process that is chosen.

Who will be the first grand chief for the regional government and who will be the first eligible resident, not a Dehcho citizen, to be elected in each of the smaller communities?

The questions get even more interesting the farther into the future things progress. The rolling draft for the agreement in principal for the Dehcho Process outlines the maximum number of councillors per community government depending on population size all the way up to 16 for 20,000 or more.

What if a community gets that big, but the majority of the population is no longer Dene or Metis, will the rest of the residents remain content with a system that means they can never be the chief?

The Dehcho Process may not be implemented for a number of years, but when it is the residents of the region will be exploring uncharted grounds together.

The peel campaign
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, February 13, 2013

The Protect the Peel Campaign has been dominating the public eye for the last two weeks, and that's with good reason.

There have been protest marches, multiple discussions and news stories, and even a youth conference discussing the issue in some detail.

That buzz all centres around the Yukon government's puzzling (to say the least) decision to ignore a recommendation by its own five-year commission to protect 80 per cent of the watershed from natural resource development.

Instead, it wants to open 71 per cent of the area to development. That's a breathtaking about-face that seems designed to inflame public opposition.

Even at this early stage, that decision can only be called an epic fail. It's ruined the government's credibility, and not only on environmental matters. As Inuvik resident Ruth Wright said, it looks as if the government couldn't resist the lure of potential development money.

It never ceases to amaze me, though, as to how governments can pull this kind of stunt, and how they can so blithely ignore the recommendations of their own people after God knows how much money has been spent on the commission and studies. That cannot, should not and will not be ignored.

It's time for political types to learn from the mistakes of the south. A relatively pristine watershed like the Peel River is a highly-endangered species of its own these days, and that's because time after time governments and business interests have ignored the mistakes of their predecessors in favour of expediency and the blind pursuit of short- and mid-term profits.

Many places to the south of the NWT are an environmental mess because those lessons were not learned or implemented in favour of pursuing the almighty dollar.

This is a case where southerners can partner with aboriginal populations and with the non-aboriginals born and raised here in a cause where all parties can bring their knowledge to form a formidable force. When it comes to development issues such as this, a wise course of action might be to ask the interested and concerned southerners in the NWT and the Yukon about what they've experienced in the south, recruit their assistance and tap into that knowledge.

Many of these people have something to offer, and their contributions shouldn't be dismissed on the simplistic basis of "we don't want outsiders telling us what to do." Sometimes, that might be a valid sentiment, but in this case it isn't.

However, as Jordan Peterson of the Gwich'in Tribal Council told a group of local youth attending a conference Feb. 1, there's also an obligation to learn about the issues, and not simply blindly oppose the Yukon decision on the basis that it's "bad." It might well be, but that's not a sufficient grounding on which to have an intelligent discussion or to deflect the inevitable criticisms of the pro-development faction.

Let's have that discussion, and at least force the Yukon government to better justify why it is ignoring the groundwork it laid, in a rational manner.

Victims over and over again
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dempster family members, in the world of criminal justice, are secondary victims that continue to be victimized.

A year after 15-year-old Cody Dempster was found dead by a downtown dumpster on May 3, 2011, RCMP announced it suspected foul play. This announcement at least offered hope that the case would soon be solved and the perpetrators brought to justice.

But now, even though the family and Dempster's best friend claim to know what happened to him - that some older teens spiked his drink with a fatal dose of drugs in an apparent prank and then moved his body out of their home to avoid probing questions from police - hope has faded into frustration.

Cody's brother, Ryan, says he sees the people allegedly responsible for his brother's death around town and can't understand how they've escaped justice.

For whatever reason, the police have moved this case down the pile. Until people with knowledge of Dempster's death come forward, justice for him and grieving family members will remain on the back burner.

By speaking with Yellowknifer, the Dempster family is appealing to their last hope - the public.

Information can be shared anonymously - through Crime Stoppers - information that could break the case, serve justice, and help lay to rest the daily living nightmare of this family, and help them restore their own lives.

The family needs such people to come forward so they can walk these streets knowing justice for Cody and themselves has been done, and done properly.

Report lacks credibility
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Northern business has had its share of criticism from customers and tourists alike, but a recent report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has many scratching their heads.

The territorial government scored an F in its recent red tape report card. The analyst, Amber Ruddy, explained the federation wants the GNWT to "get a better sense of what red tape means to small business and measure it" in terms or regulations business owners have to comply with, the time it takes and costs to comply with those rules. The report also cites "silly rules, paperwork and poor customer service" that private companies in the North have to endure.

While the report states a few well-known issues, it is long on criticism and short on details. The definition of "silly rules" is vague at best and does not point out what these rules are and why they are silly. It also offers no examples of the excessive paperwork.

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger says he is mystified by the low score, going as far as to ask whom the independent business federation was talking to when it was compiling its report.

The good news is Miltenberger seems to be taking cutting red tape seriously. Recent changes at the Department of Transportation by eliminating licence plate tags and going almost completely digital shows the GNWT wants to make it easier for businesses and residents to navigate government channels.

The independent business federation could carry more creditability and be a more accurate barometer for government bureaucracy if it gathered more specifics from its Northern members.

NHLers have had their day at Olympics
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's the heart of tournament season for hockey fans in the Kivalliq, and talk around Rankin Inlet is plentiful concerning local on-ice happenings, but it's got some stiff competition among puck heads with Olympic hockey starting today.

The list of star players not competing at Sochi - Henrik Sedin for Sweden, Marian Gaborik for Slovakia and Steven Stamkos for Canada to name a few - continues to grow, and so does the debate on whether the NHL should continue to allow its players to compete at the Olympics.

When it comes to the Olympics, one of my pet peeves has always been those who point to them as a prime example of how good hockey can be without fighting and intense bodychecking.

The reason this argument doesn't hold water is, really, quite simple.

Using pros at any given Olympics, there are six teams with a legitimate chance to medal in hockey, let alone win gold.

When the day comes the NHL and the NHLPA agree to contract the greatest league in the world down to six teams again, that argument will have credibility and not a day before!

But the real gist of the controversy surrounding NHL players at the Olympics is the question of is it really the best thing for the NHL?

Since the initial buzz created when NHL players were first allowed to play in the Olympics in 1998, there is no evidence their participation has helped grow the NHL or increase its exposure.

And, even that first year in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, left the NHL with a black eye when a number of Team U.S.A. players trashed their rooms in the Olympic village.

And let's not even discuss Canadian coach Marc Crawford, who let his ego run wild, leaving the greatest player in the history of the game, Wayne Gretzky, sitting on the bench during Canada's lost semifinal shootout against the Czech Republic.

Flyers owner Ed Snider expressed his disdain for NHLers at the Olympics this past week and who can blame him?

His team was on a roll after a horrid start to the season and will now have that momentum stalled for the two-week break to accommodate the Sochi Games.

And, as an aside on the women's side of the ledger, exactly how many times do we have to watch the Americans and the Canadians annihilate their competition while we wait for the growth of the game on the international level?

As much as hockey is almost a religion among millions of Canadians, let's be totally honest for a minute.

What memory almost always springs to mind when it comes to the greatest moment in Olympic hockey history?

Feb. 22, 1980, when Team U.S.A. upset the Russians 4-3 in medal play.

In the 16 years since NHLers have been allowed to participate in the Olympics, they haven't produced a moment that comes close to rivalling the American's Miracle on Ice.

In recalling what it was like to play on that team, Neil Broten said he wishes the Olympics would go back to the way it was back then.

He said, "We were just a bunch of kids who loved to play hockey."

Maybe it's time to create another miracle, of sorts, and take Olympic hockey away from the multi-millionaires and give it back to those who play just for the love of the game.

Devolution dishonored
NWT News/North - Monday, February 10, 2014

Has Premier Bob McLeod and cabinet traded the recently hard-won trust of Tlicho, Sahtu and Gwich'in people for devolution?

At a meeting last week in Yellowknife to address the devolution and regulatory system omnibus bill with the federal Special Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, McLeod said, "Whatever their views on this specific legislation, I hope everyone in the Northwest Territories supports the basic premise that decisions about the North should be made as close to home as possible."

Ironically, input over those decisions - despite the government's continued assertions to the contrary -- will be seriously diluted by the other half of the devolution bill which will dissolve regional land and water boards for the creation of a single super board.

It's not the first time cabinet crumbled when given a choice between standing up to Ottawa and the security of its devolution negotiations.

In February 2013, cabinet teamed up to help defeat a motion made by MLA Bob Bromley to

criticize the conservative government for its lack of consultation regarding changes to national environmental legislation.

The debate at that time demonstrated that criticizing Ottawa was off bounds.

Whether Ottawa has the right to create a super board in the NWT is irrelevant. What matters is three groups of people fought hard for the right to self-government and negotiated in good faith for the right to help shape decisions at the regional level. They have been abandoned by their government.

Accepting the linkage of the two distinctly different legislative bills affecting the NWT betrays the Sahtu, Tlicho and Gwich'in governments who all worked with the GNWT until they had built the trust to sign onto the devolution. The Gwich'in went so far as to drop a lawsuit that might have held up the deal. Premier McLeod's leadership was applauded.

Then, on a political whim, Bill C-15 turned devolution into Ottawa's proverbial carrot on the stick. The GNWT leadership chose to sacrifice its relations with aboriginal governments, a stark contrast to the goal the assembly began with, which was to strengthen those bonds.

While devolution is undeniably good for the NWT, what the GNWT is losing in return - regional input, trust and co-operation, not to mention political integrity - tarnishes the accomplishment.

Worse, this so-called super board is nothing more than a public relations move to placate the global, cash-starved mining industry at the expense of Northerners.

The regional boards, by all accounts, worked with industry and bolstered public confidence that development was being done to the benefit of the people affected.

It was the federally anointed, unmoving Mackenzie pipeline review board, the patronage-riddled Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board and successive name-changing, game-changing federal cabinet ministers which were all directly responsible, yet unaccountable, for stalling any projects.

Yet neither McLeod nor cabinet uttered one public word of defence. To lose after a good fight brings honor. Offering no resistance brings the opposite.

Need to reach out for opportunities
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 10, 2014

It's all about building momentum, raising awareness, getting people talking about Nunavut and doing business in the territory.

The Northern Lights 2014 Business and Cultural Showcase Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 in Ottawa achieved all that and more. About 200 exhibitors, dozens of artists, scores of business people, government officials and politicians played host to thousands of guests.

Visitors viewed unique art, explored business opportunities, heard impassioned speeches and rubbed shoulders with Inuit leaders. The event attracted people from across Canada, the United States and Europe.

There is something to be said about the huge advantage which results from meeting movers and shakers face to face. Being able to get to know people in person increases the chances of building a relationship that will pay off in the long run.

Representatives of a video game company in Pangnirtung and a marketer of art products from Gjoa Haven both considered the time spent at Northern Lights beneficial for future business opportunities, including forging partnerships with people outside the territory. Interest in the Arctic is growing by leaps and bounds, and the biannual showcase in Ottawa is growing, too.

The Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce, which co-organized the four-day biannual event, did an admirable job of creating a venue where visitors were able to gather and really absorb what Nunavut has to offer.

Trade show organizers can talk about some highlights of the event, along with the number of exhibitors and attendees the show brought out. Something that isn't immediately tangible is the benefit of putting concerted energy into setting up exhibits and answering questions.

Premier Peter Taptuna spoke about the importance of education, business opportunities and growth in the communities. He observed the amount of networking at the showcase and was optimistic that results will be seen in the coming years as business people and government develop the connections they have made into economic activity.

Nunavummiut are making efforts to expand their business opportunities within the North, too. The Kitikmeot Trade Show, which begins today in Cambridge Bay, highlights the wealth of opportunities in the Kitikmeot region and across the territory. It features exhibitor booths for businesses and government, an art market, a presentation by a youth delegation, entertainment by Nunavut musicians, a presentation on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station and numerous networking possibilities.

Last year's event drew almost 50 exhibitors and almost 200 delegates representing a cross-section of sectors, including mining and exploration, hospitality, construction, fashion, arts and crafts, aviation, government and aboriginal organizations

We are confident that spreading the word about the vast opportunities waiting in Nunavut is bound to pay dividends, now and in the future.

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