Editorial page

Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Bargaining to the bitter end

The weak of heart should be advised, stay out of a poker game with John Todd.

The gritty finance minister has been in a protracted showdown with the Union of Northern Workers over the issue of pay equity.

While the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal starts preliminary hearings this week to rule on the principle of pay equity, Todd announced with thinly disguised satisfaction that more than 2,100 workers have agreed to settle with the GNWT.

At stake are two issues: the principle of pay equity and the price tag of the settlement for past grievances.

In other jurisdictions, steep settlements have been awarded in pay equity decisions. It is worth the GNWT's money to fight this all the way to the end because of the potential payout awaiting the plaintiffs should they win. On the other hand, the union has a lot of principle at stake. They too are in for the long haul, confident that their principles will be upheld.

A shrewd judge of human nature, Todd has gambled that a cash settlement in the hand is worth two in front of the courts. Anybody who is backing the union to get the cash is probably in for a long wait.

Todd understands all too well that cash is a very persuasive bargaining tool. By making an offer to union workers individually, the finance minister has breached union solidarity with an end run around the union's flank.

Long-suffering union bargainers could not be blamed for a growing sense of abandonment as the rank and file lines up for the buyout.

On the other hand, who wouldn't accept a cash windfall?

The pay equity saga has been a game of high stakes poker at its best. As it creeps to a conclusion, the best solution manageable seems to be taking shape, the legal establishment of the principle of pay equity at a price the GNWT can handle. That's what bargaining is all about.

Democratic rights

Last week's Supreme Court ruling by Justice Mark De Weerdt should clinch it.

Yellowknifers, as already pointed out in the electoral boundaries commission, are not being effectively represented in the legislative assembly according to Canadian law.

De Weerdt's judgement that the disparity in current NWT ridings contravenes Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cannot be ignored by our legislators.

So why is the Western NWT Aboriginal Summit now responding to the ruling by saying members will be consulting their legal counsel and reviewing their options. What options?

The only viable option was ignored earlier -- negotiation. It may be worth trying now.

The right thing

Congratulations to city aldermen who voted to pay the extra $10,000 requested by the Yellowknife Property Owners Association, a group of Yellowknifers who financed the legal battle to end secrecy at city council.

Ald. Cheryl Best, who made the motion for the payment, observed that many of the new aldermen on council were voted in on their election promises to open up city hall and she was quite correct.

As for Ald. Kevin O'Reilly and Peggy Near who said the city can't afford it, their logic rings hollow considering how easily they coughed up the cash to send themselves and four other aldermen to a summer meeting in Halifax, a sum that will probably come close to $20,000.

Keewatin must also benefit from trade agreements
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Out and about the community this past week during the Manitoba Trade Delegation's visit to the Keewatin, there were two prevalent trains of thought. One was of hope and optimism, the other of doubt and caution.

Either way, there is little choice at this time but to adopt a wait-and-see attitude while rolling up our sleeves to work diligently at attracting more attention from Manitoba's buyers than sellers. And that's the point of the delegates' visit.

The official voice during the visit, and one few in the business community wanted to contradict, was one of optimism that inroads were being made to attract more business for Keewatin industry from our Manitoba partners.

Everyone knows the huge amounts of dollars funnelled annually from the Keewatin into Manitoba and the official voice made it clear that this visit, and its predecessor, was aimed at making our trading relationship with Manitoba more balanced.

We all, of course, hope this was indeed the case and the Keewatin's future economic base will be further strengthened and built upon by these efforts. However, away from the popping flash bulbs, handshaking and back slapping, there was another quiet voice being heard -- one shaded with more than a little doubt.

That doubt centred on Manitoba's sincerity in reciprocating any noticeable amount of trade dollars. These, at this time, quiet little voices raised legitimate concerns that the delegation was only interested in selling more of their goods and services to the Keewatin, not in ascertaining what the Keewatin has to offer them.

One line, even those on the record were not hesitant to use, was that trade between the two regions has to become more of a two-way street and this is a platform our business, municipal and territorial leaders cannot back down from.

With our new territory set to launch in just a few short weeks, we are now firmly in control of our own economic destinies and our leaders must work hard to quickly establish an equitable and balanced trade relationship with all our financial partners or be willing to pay a steep price down the road.

Yes, we need to buy outside our region, but we also have much to offer in return and have to get more for our money than simply the goods we purchase for. This is how true business partnerships are formed.

To those who organized both the Kivalliq Trade Mission and the return visit from Manitoba must go a tip of the hat for a job well done and a point well made. We remain hopeful that while we wait to see the results, our leaders will continue to work diligently on fostering a productive partnership with Manitoba which benefits our region as much as it does theirs.