Editorial page

Monday, March 29, 1999

Constitutional chaos

The name of the game has always been Let's Make a Deal. However, as the debate over the number of ridings becomes mired in confrontation, hope for a compromise is slipping away.

Premier Jim Antoine, seeking to cool an inflamed argument, has proposed a five month tour of the communities to collect opinions on the subject. Other than imposing a time out, the tour has little point.

The MLAs made it clear how the rest of the territories felt about giving Yellowknife more seats when they voted to reject the Electoral Boundaries Commission's report.

We don't need more conferring. We need a deal. The impasse between the Aboriginal Summit and people who support the court's ruling

threatens to throw the NWT into constitutional chaos.

The process of self-government should not be affected by the number of seats in the legislature. In theory, as self-government evolves, the responsibilities of the legislative assembly will evolve as well.

It is in trying to cling to power that the legislature becomes an impediment to the fulfilment of local government. While the scope of government in the territories changes, the Canadian constitution is in place to guarantee that nobody's rights are ignored, overlooked or disregarded.

With that in mind, the legislature should save us some money and redraw the electoral boundaries. But at the same time, the GNWT must start working towards the effective transition to self-government, preparing itself for the eventual dissolution of some powers.

More seats if needs be, but not at the expense of self-government, that's the deal.

Voters are skeptical because the movement on self-government has been too slow. Making progress would go a long way to allaying those doubts.

People know that when it comes to government, you don't listen to what they say, you listen to what they do.

South Slave sets example

When it comes to chasing after secondary diamond industry, Hay River takes a back seat to no one.

Continuing their lobbying last January, Hay River mayor Jack Rowe and town administrator Charlie Scarborough, along with RWED Minister Stephen Kakfwi and Deputy Minister Joe Handley, met with Davy Lapa of Overseas Diamonds, a company based in Antwerp.

Overseas is interested in operating a diamond manufacturing facility in Hay River. This is in addition to Ice Diamonds of North Dakota which has already expressed similar interest.

A welcome feature of Hay River's thinking is to bring Fort Smith into the picture, using Aurora College as a training resource. This is the kind of partnership that is essential for the North and should serve as an example for entrepreneurial minds of North of Great Slave Lake.

Worth taking note

People from the Western Arctic who suffered abuse at residential schools may want to take note of a story in last week's paper.

It concerned victims from Chesterfield Inlet who were entering into negotiations with the government to try to find another way to resolve compensation disputes rather than through the court system. Settlement cases often take years, so it is years before complainants see any money. Then often much of it ends up in the hands of lawyers.

It is clear the survivors from Chesterfield Inlet want a quick solution. Who can blame them? The sooner the settlement is reached, the sooner the healing can begin.

Media monster

For most of the world, Nunavut has long been a land of mystery. But on the eve of division, Canada's newest territory is about to become the focus of attention from around the globe.

Over the last century, there have been moments when the land now known as Nunavut caught the eye of the media. Books by adventurers and movies by well-meaning but grossly uninformed filmmakers have enjoyed passing fame.

This week cameras and microphones from around the globe will be aimed at Nunavut. The media, like a starved monster, will devour everything in sight to pass along to its readers and viewers.

However, the global media machine is fickle. Once fed, it will turn its attention elsewhere. We might as well enjoy it while it lasts, as long as we remember that next week it is someone else's turn.

It's time to ante up

It's time for the Government of Nunavut to put its money where its mouth is.

For months now -- years even -- we've been hearing that the new government will be more accessible to the people. If that is the case, it's time to listen to people as they demand more money for health.

The new Minister of Health for the Government of Nunavut, Ed Picco, certainly has his hands full. Not only will he have to work with the 19 MLAs on following through with the promise of bringing in a more accessible government, but he's got to find a way to bring and keep more trained health-care professionals working in Nunavut.

In all three regions, we see our health workers making do with minimal resources. For example, employees in the Baffin region are predicting yet another possible nursing shortage next month. Picco needs to step in immediately and figure out a way to end these constant, near crises.

As for the Baffin Regional Health and Social Services Board, they're struggling to do their part to improve the situation. They've reorganized their corporate structure and their responsibilities and become more aggressive, both in the delivery of health care and in their recruiting practices.

Two nursing positions have been converted into respiratory therapists, thereby alleviating even more of the pressure that's piled daily on our health-care providers and alternative forms of housing are being sought. And officials remain confident that with the ratification of the union's collection agreement, the nurses' package will become even more attractive.

But it is however, still not enough. Southern provinces are currently dumping millions of dollars into their own aggressive recruiting efforts and in the North, we're finding ourselves competing for that same pool of nurses.

Unless Picco and the rest of the government look closely at the constant struggle of our health-care providers and ante up with much-needed health-care dollars, Nunavut might very well find itself unable to provide adequate health services to its residents.