Editorial page
Wednesday, May 13, 1998

Towards an even playing field

NorthwesTel says it won't be able to survive the onslaught of competition and wants the federal government to slip a few million dollars Northwards to make sure telephone service doesn't suffer.

The argument is NorthwesTel, a government-regulated monopoly with an obligation to provide a fair return for its investors, will still be the only company providing local service to most of the North, and local service is a money-loser in almost every Northern community. Therefore, to make up for the loss of lucrative profits from long-distance service following the arrival long-distance competition in 2000, NorthwesTel should be subsidized.

The company has a point. It built our telephone network and it does indeed cost a lot of money to ensure everyone, from Trout Lake to Pangnirtung, can make phone calls reliably and affordably. If NorthwesTel were to lose the cash cow of long distance that allows them to serve the North, local service could disintegrate rapidly.

But before anyone cringes at the idea of a subsidy from Ottawa (that is, from our pockets), let's make sure we're talking about a fund managed by Ottawa, but coming from the competitors who are so eager to get a piece of a very lucrative pie -- Northern long-distance habits.

If Sprint, AT&T Canada and Fonorola want to make money from the North, they should be forced to share the burden of keeping the phones working.

Eventually, technology will undermine the current situation. New satellite-based networks that don't use expensive ground-based lines and microwave towers will allow competitors to offer local and long-distance service.

But that is still a few years away, and until then, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commissions should ensure nothing imperils our dialling privileges. If that means a competitors' levy, it will be a fair price to pay.


Either Yellowknife's appetite for theatre is on the rise or Ptarmigan Ptheatrics has once again proven that community-driven theatre is all the rage.

Last week's production of Guys and Dolls was so popular a seventh show was added at the last minute. Co-produced by NACC, the blockbuster was directed by Christopher Foreman.

What's so refreshing about Foreman's productions is they offer everyday people of all ages -- Foreman even created a role for eight-year-old Sienna Hart -- a chance to give the stage a try, much to the audiences delight.

Commitment comes first

Many ratepayers are asking why the city is giving the gymnastics club a $140,000 grant, a free lease and getting involved in a $400,000 mortgage commitment. There is no clear answer other than the generosity of Yellowknifers.

Those who feel their money should be spent on more practical items can take comfort that the gymnastics club raised $100,000 and will be paying the mortgage. Financial commitment or sweat equity should be a requirement for a community or sports club to get city funding. One of the many flaws with the twin-pad arena proposal was asking ratepayers to foot the total bill.

The soon-to-be open $89,000 skateboard park is a classic example of a group getting something for nothing. Worse, it's a bad lesson to be teaching kids.

Editorial comment
A new beginning
Jennifer Pritchett
Kivalliq News

The Keewatin Regional Health Board is having another look at the possibility of hiring back dental therapists for its emerging dental program.

Does this mean that the board now sees the value of the same therapists who were fired from their home communities little more than one budget ago?

Health services in the Keewatin have seen one upheaval after another over the last year and a half; are residents finally seeing the end of a long line of misguided decisions?

With the recent 30 per cent Health Canada cut to dental services, the Kivalliq Inuit Association, the feds, and the KRHB are now working together to devise a new plan for services within the region. These three parties have promised they will work together to get the best services for the people of the Keewatin. Co-operation is long overdue and desperately needed to get a dental program back on track and to improve the quality of peoples' teeth.

Dr. Jay Wortman, head of Canada's Non-insurable Health Benefits Program, said in Rankin Inlet last week that residents of the Keewatin have the worst teeth in Canada, but added that they receive the most expensive care in the country (before the cuts).

He maintains that dentists in the Keewatin receive (prior to the cuts) three times what a dentist doing the same procedure receives in Churchill, Man. At the same time, peoples' teeth in the Keewatin are almost three times as decayed as the average Canadian citizen.

Keewatin residents may well be receiving top-notch care, but the condition of peoples' teeth isn't improving. Wortman's point is clear, but services have to continue to be delivered in the region.

And both the KIA and the KHRB have assured the people that there will be no decrease in services after July 31 when Kiguti leaves.

Seems as if things have come full circle, but let's hope that the care improves and Keewatin residents don't find themselves back where they started. Let's hope the man who dealt these cuts out to the people of the Keewatin is right and service doesn't suffer.

"We're getting to the point where some change can come about," said Wortman. "I'm hoping that sometime soon, we can see some change for the better."

And if there was ever a case in point for those making decisions for the public having to listen to the people they affect, this is it. Keewatin residents cried out when the KRHB took away the therapists and now they are bringing them back.