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Control for control's sake
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 7, 2014

Plans for one couple to open a brew pub in Yellowknife and recent discussion over the liquor laws governing bars and pubs has brought attention back to the bizarre restrictions on sales, advertising and hours of operation imposed upon alcohol-related businesses.

The Northwest Territories has some of the strictest liquor sale and advertising laws in the country, including bars and pubs being forced to close on Sundays.

Over the past 10 years, retailers have been allowed to open if they choose but bars and pubs whose primary sales are in liquor and beer have been forced to keep their doors shut.

Bar and pub owners have rightfully complained about the lopsided rules over advertising. Liquor stores can advertise special product prices, but bars cannot make any mention of either product or prices.

For example, the Yellowknife Racquet Club and Kingpin Bowling Centre can open on Sunday and sell liquor but Sam's Monkey Tree Pub cannot, all because the latter is a different classification than the former two.

Equally strange is the open for 10 Sundays a year provision. Why only 10? Why not 20, 30, or all 52?

Could not bars and pubs to earn more revenue and hire more staff to work the extra hours?

As more people move to the territory and Yellowknife for jobs, they should be given a variety of options to go somewhere to enjoy a drink and social time with friends and family besides a handful of restaurants or their own homes.

Now, Miranda Stevens and Fletcher Stevens have applied to open a brew pub in Old Town. So far, they say the biggest concern their potential neighbours have voiced has been parking. But the idea of a brew pub, which will be the only one in the city, has been welcomed.

The popularity of microbreweries has taken off across North America as entrepreneurs produce their own brands and give people a local option for their beer and spirits choices.

While admittedly not as healthy as Northern-grown vegetables, it's far better to have a locally produced option for a major consumer item such as beer

We will be following the Stevens as they pursue their venture and monitor the hurdles they face to open a brew pub. Yellowknife MLAs should do the same. They are the best ones to ensure sanity prevails with modern legislation governing liquor laws.

One of the primary goals of the GNWT and Yellowknife government should be to encourage economic growth.

Hanging on to draconian liquor laws will only serve to inhibit local consumer spending, fail to enhance tourism and discourage potential entrepreneurs.

Frank talk about the health system
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, February 6, 2013

It's refreshing and almost surprising to hear politicians be blunt when something they are responsible for overseeing isn't functioning the way it should.

Glen Abernethy, the minister of health and social services, was very upfront with Fort Simpson residents who attended a community meeting on Jan. 30. Abernethy, who's only been in the position for three months, spoke frankly about the issues the health and social services system in the territory, which is based on regional authorities, has. He agreed with residents at the meeting that there are barriers in the system that are stopping people from getting the seamless, timely and efficient care they need.

When speaking about the medical travel system, Abernethy went as far as to use the word crazy multiple times to describe its current state. He was also upfront about what that means for the territory.

"It's costing a fortune," he said.

In admitting the current system's faults, Abernethy wasn't just pandering to the crowd and placating them by agreeing with most of the comments and questions that they made. He was able to back up his comments with information about the work that the department is currently doing to make changes to the system that will hopefully remove the barriers to care and create efficiencies that will make the system sustainable, which more or less means affordable.

People in the Deh Cho, as well as the rest of the territory, should follow the progress of these proposed changes closely. The territory's health system is, after all, something that every resident has to use sooner or later.

Many people seem to have stories about how the system has let them down, but also how things have, on occasion, gone right. It's important that those stories are shared with the proper people with the regional authorities so mistakes can be learned from and policies to prevent them from happening again can be included in the changes that are underway.

Ideally, Abernethy's openness will extend throughout the process of changing the system.

He did talk about some of the consultation that will be taking place in relation to the upcoming changes.

Residents have to ensure that their voices are heard during that process. It is in everyone's interest to create the best system possible.

Hopefully one that no longer has parts that can be described as crazy.

Get out of the way of progress
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, February 6, 2013

I was very interested last week to peruse the Canadian Federation of Independent Business's 2014 report on red tape in Canada.

Interestingly, the NWT was given a failing grade on the issue amongst the participating jurisdictions, including the federal government. Only Nunavut wasn't ranked in the report.

The NWT had the only failing grade in the report, and its position declined from a D- in 2013.

I'm not at all surprised at that. The NWT, in my opinion, has a real problem with not only red tape, but a serious lack of transparency and openness that goes beyond the GNWT.

I'm not so certain, though, that it's the result of anything particularly deliberate in nature. I think, instead, it's the result of inefficiencies and a territory-wide political culture of indifference to how things are done. Just trying to get those things done trumps any concept that we should be doing them better.

That's understandable, to a certain extent. The NWT has neither the breadth of political experience of the provinces, or likely even the Yukon, to fall back on. Instead, it's still suffering from some rather severe growing pains on this front.

However, this is an issue that all of our political representatives and political classes need to start grappling with. As business people might say, it's time the government got out of the way of progress.

That's a little harsh, but there is no sustainable excuse for our political representatives to continue to be a roadblock to simple, efficient government.

It's time to develop an acceptable professional standard for government business and activities that better balances the protection of the public interest against competing interests, such as resource extraction and economic development.

That doesn't mean bending over backwards to accommodate such interests. It does mean providing a fair process with a minimum of bureaucratic bafflegab and complications.

I sent the report to several local politicians and government representatives, including Mayor Floyd Roland, senior administrative officer Grant Hood, MLA Alfred Moses and Peter Clarkson, the top-ranking government bureaucrat in the area.

Only Clarkson responded in a timely fashion. Not surprisingly, he didn't want to comment on the report. As an unelected government representative, that's likely appropriate.

His response, though undoubtedly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, inadvertently put his finger on the problem of NWT government efficiency and lack of transparency.

"Nope ... my lips are sealed," he stated in an e-mail. "Looks like a political area of response."

Thanks, Mr. Clarkson for defining the problem so concisely. Too many lips are sealed and there is too much "passing of the buck."

Maybe the NWT can try for a passing grade in 2015. As they say, hope springs eternal.

To Asia with love
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The sudden mini-deluge of Chinese tourists to Yellowknife is no mere happy accident, but a lucky occurrence nonetheless that should be cultivated carefully.

The state of Aurora tourism to the North appeared grim following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The number of Japanese visitors plummeted by 65 per cent that winter, which took years to recover. Now, not only are the Japanese coming back, but also Chinese visitors are starting to come - a potentially much larger and lucrative market.

The number of Chinese visitors is still comparatively small - about 300 this winter in a market that brought more than 6,700 aurora visitors in 2011-2012 - yet, considering that it is the most populous country on the planet, there is no reason to believe it will remain this small for long.

The key comes in preparing for it. Yellowknife's strength is its superior northern lights, highly prized in many Asian cultures. The city's cold, mostly cloudless winter nights means more opportunities to view them. The city's weaknesses are its lack of tourism infrastructure, and the distance and cost of coming here.

Yellowknife Tours Ltd. operator Angela Law has a card up her sleeve. Because her family speaks Mandarin and Cantonese she can more easily access the Chinese market and guide Chinese tourists in their native tongue when they arrive. This makes visitors more comfortable when so far away from home, she said.

The fact that the Red Apple restaurant was one of the stops for a Hong Kong tour group here during the lunar New Year's celebrations suggests she has the right idea, but as history has demonstrated following Sept. 11, 2001, success can be a fickle thing.

Tourists of all kinds have complained about the lack of signage and poor customer service in town. These are areas that still require improvement. A few signs around downtown and Old Town directing visitors in Japanese and some of the Chinese dialects would be a nice addition to the city and help make these visitors feel welcome.

Yellowknife is a diverse community except for its economy, which relies heavily on mining and government. Local governments and tourism operators will have to work hard to grow its still mostly untapped tourism potential.

Crowdfunding a win for artists and admirers
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Leela Gilday, Yellowknife's own multi-award-winning singer-songwriter, and her peers, such as Tanya Tagaq, are a long way away from the days of depending on tyrannical record labels and capricious talent scouts to get their groove out.

In fact, thanks to the Internet and social networks, the only limits to their success - depending on your definition of success - is their stamina and their talent.

The new wave of artists, of whatever genre, is turning to crowdfunding, or crowdsource fundraising, which calls on fans to help fund their projects. In 2010, $89 million was raised through this ingenious technique. In 2013, the industry was predicted to generate $5.1 billion in fan-sourced funds. Everyone's doing it, reaching out through Internet sites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter - there were more than 450 platforms as of 2012. Even big-name artists, such as filmmaker Spike Lee or performer Amanda Palmer, are taking advantage.

This method of artist survival - let's face it, not everyone is Spike Lee working on a passion project - goes way back to the days when painters, bards and wits depended on the kindness of affluent patrons for food and board.

But, with crowdfunding, anyone can support the passion projects of the creatives they believe in, no need for millions. A donation to a project can yield a copy of the CD, or tickets to a performance. The variations are endless and virtually limitless, as limitless as the imagination.

Gilday, for example, is offering an advanced signed copy, voice lessons and personal house concerts - there's one left of those. So far she has raised more $10,000 toward the estimated budget of $39,526.37, which will be devoted to production and manufacturing, including studio time and professional fees.

Everyone wins with this exciting process of art-making, without lining the pockets of middlemen.

Taking it regional
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News -Wednesday, February 5, 2014

While there's been much attention focused on Northern artists during the past year, and rightly so, millions of people across Canada and the United States have been doing some glorious musical dinosaur hunting during the same period.

And they've been reaping hefty rewards.

There is a magical window still open that every Northern resident who travels south, at all, during the year, should try to look through before it closes forever.

This window not only provides a multi-generational view into the most prolific era of musical progression, it is, for all intensive purposes, the first and last of its kind.

Once shut, there will never be another like it for as long as music is played.

Every generation has its own music, or, at least, musical stylings.

But a number of the true pioneers of the evolution of such genres as rock without the roll, hardrock, heavy metal, country rock and electric rhythm and blues are on the road for one last kick, or two, at the musical can.

Although missing an original member here or there with some groups, such musical royalty as the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, AC/DC, the Eagles, Moody Blues, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Waters and Carlos Santana and, yes, even Kiss, can still be seen in concert.

But time is running out!

Even the granddaddy of every kid who ever fell in love with a power chord or thunderous riff, Black Sabbath, can't go on forever, even if their 2013 studio release, 13, put the vast majority of today's metal artists to shame.

Anyone who attends a concert, or purchases a "live" blu-ray or dvd by one of these groups, is immediately struck by the range of age in attendance, from pre-pubescence teenyboppers to granddads and grandmoms.

Today's youth is discovering the music of these legends through the collections of parents and grandparents, and the remastering of classic disks with modern technology.

The music has never sounded better, especially when an original master tape is used for the remastering process or studio wizards such as Steve Hoffman are at the controls.

This multi-generational love affair also stems from the fact these bands influenced the vast majority of every group that followed.

The Clash released the first "world music" album before the term truly existed when Sandinista! hit store shelves in 1980.

And there's another bonus for those who decide to catch one of these legends while they're still viable.

Their concert sound is tighter today than it ever was because the vast majority of them are clean and sober.

Even the Eagles' Joe Walsh now knows when he's in Australia, which is more than he can say for his first few visits to the continent.

Everyone, from music aficionados to casual listener, should make the effort to peer through this musical window before the blinds close forever.

And oh the coincidence for Kivalliqmiut wondering where to start, with Black Sabbath hitting The Peg on April 16.

Don't be paranoid about going into the void during this age of reason to enjoy the shining of a heavy-metal legend.

There'll be plenty your own age there just for the thrill of it all!

An important message
NWT News/North - Monday, February 3, 2014

Many media outlets across Canada have blasted Neil Young for his recent treaties tour. Most, if not all, of the attacks are baseless and have only one goal -- to detract from the celebrity's real message.

Young is using his influence to help strengthen the voice of aboriginal people whose treaties - which have been recognized and upheld by federal courts -- have been ignored by industry and government.

There is no denying industry and government support of industry have been trampling the rights of aboriginal people across the nation.

The purpose of the tour was not anti-development or climate change awareness. He is supporting aboriginal people's rightful claim to land that is being taken from them for uses to which they are opposed.

While the Northern territories are working to ensure those rights are protected through benefit agreements, land claims and consultation between industry and communities, we still have a long way to go.

The recent decision by the Yukon government to ignore recommendations from the Peel Watershed Working Group - comprised of both NWT and Yukon aboriginal groups - and open most of the environmentally and traditionally sensitive area to development is evidence of that.

The federal government's devolution bill, which includes changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act to create a single review board, is also a direct attack on treaty land rights. Until all the territory's land claims are settled and each of those settlements includes surface and subsurface rights, it is vital the territory retain a strong voice in every region when dealing with proposed developments.

NWT aboriginal groups have emphatically stated that the review process is not broken and are mostly supportive of the current process - more than enough reason to leave it be.

Norman Snowshoe, vice-president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, in response to the Yukon's modified Peel Watershed plan, hit the nail on the head. Continuing to disregard the land claims process and the land rights of aboriginal people will not create the developer confidence territorial, provincial and federal governments are seeking.

In the end, these tactics will foster a confrontational relationship whereby, Snowshoe suggests, aboriginal groups will be forced to take legal action to ensure their interests are heard. There is nothing like a lengthy court battle to create a quagmire of potential development. Simply the suggestion of such opposition might be enough to scare off potential developers and stagnate an economy - the exact opposite of what our misguided governments are trying to accomplish.

For the most part, aboriginal groups are not anti-development. They are, however, more mindful of environmental impacts and have a much better sense of balance and sustainability when considering the types and placement of development on their land compared to their political counterparts at virtually every other level of government.

Failures to protect the environment by industry and government, proven by Alberta's Obed Coal mine spill, which sent a plume of contaminated water all the way to the NWT and the concern of a similar spill from oil sands projects, which would destroy the watershed stretching for hundreds of miles, demonstrate the need for a more sustainable and co-operative approach to land use.

While touring with Young, Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus reiterated that courts have upheld the fact that aboriginal land rights were never given away with the treaty agreements nor legislated away through the Indian Act.

Those court rulings give aboriginal groups solid legal ground to stand on if they choose to fight development they believe will not be in their best interest, whether that be financially, environmentally or culturally.

Ottawa seems intent on pushing blindly forward with development aimed at exploitation of resources. In the process the federal government is exploiting the people who should have the final say.

If it chooses to continue on this path of non-co-operation and disrespect, the environment it will create might become unpalatable for any developer to consider working with.

More muscle, less fat
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 3, 2014

A recent cash injection for long-term sports development has considerable potential for adding muscle to Nunavut's sports programs, but will it?

Fourteen years after the Canadian Sport Policy was unveiled in Iqaluit, the federal and territorial government announced more than $1 million in new money on Jan. 21 to give the program a fresh mandate for the next two years.

What it should mean is that more Nunavummiut will have access to more sports opportunities.

Achieving fitness through frequent exercise is not as easy as it sounds. Many communities lack the necessary facilities or proper equipment. It is so easy for young people in isolated Northern communities to get bored and turn to unhealthy activities as a result.

Getting them involved in sport combats boredom in a healthy, productive way.

Bal Gosal, the federal minister of State for Sport, told Nunavut News/North that parents and children need to know what physical activity really means, emphasizing the need for physical literacy.

"How to do it right and how to gain valuable lessons from it, that is what's important," Gosal said. "It's good for people to get involved in sport and physical activity because that's the core part of it. But the literacy of it, understanding it, is what's so important."

The funding agreement, split 50/50 between the governments of Canada and Nunavut, means the money will be made available to support a wide range of "physical literacy" programs to be delivered by existing territorial sport organizations and municipal recreation departments.

There are two problems with the funding as we see it. The first is the concept of "physical literacy."

Such a term may fly in meeting rooms at conventions in the south which bring academics and recreation directors together, but what does it mean to the kids in Resolute Bay or Kugluktuk?

The second problem is that the money is going to be filtered through the government of Nunavut's own sport and recreation division. Mindful of the layers of bureaucracy involved, not to mention paperwork, we wonder how this money will ever reach into the homes of those children who need it most?

Our hope is that money will be funneled in a large part to the grassroots organizations in the communities, where young people thirst for a chance to practice their abilities, experience competition, learn sportsmanship, develop a good attitude towards others and generally feel good as a result of pushing the body to its limits.

Any child who embraces the opportunity to become involved in sport may well inoculate themselves against suicidal tendencies and the temptation to make unhealthy choices.

And as the child ages, a routine involving physical activity is natural and sustained, a healthy return on a long-term investment.

The challenge now will be to avoid adding this money to that fat of government and instead put more muscle into community sports.

Are the bureaucrats up to that challenge?

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