Editorial page

Monday, December 20, 1999

Ottawa's contempt for the North

Western Arctic MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew summed it up best: "I think we've been treated with contempt."

Blondin-Andrew was referring to Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bob Nault's decision not to move DIAND jobs to the North.

For the last year, there has been much discussion about DIAND relocating some jobs in the North.

In fact, a study conducted by the business consulting firm KPMG found that there was considerable resistance among DIAND employees in the south to being moved North.

It seems as though Nault's response to the study was to appease his employees rather than improve the delivery of services to the North.

After all, how can DIAND's Northern Oil and Gas Directorate make informed decisions on the developments in the Deh Cho from Hull, PQ?

Premier Jim Antoine echoed Blondin-Andrew's sentiments, saying "It is no longer acceptable to have decisions about Northern resources being made in Hull."

Whatever ground Blondin-Andrew may have lost in Ottawa by disagreeing with her cabinet colleagues will no doubt be more than compensated for by support from her constituents for her stand.

Nault's position on the jobs also throws into sharp relief the relationship between the NWT and the federal government.

We obviously cannot rely on either good will or common sense to govern the decisions that Ottawa makes when it comes to Northern affairs.

Whoever assumes the role of premier in the next session of the legislature is going to have to be prepared to get tough with the federal government.

With deficits looming and the only reasonable source of revenue coming from natural resource income, the battle with the feds has just begun.

We know where the feds stand. Now what are we going to do about it?

Safe gun owners

The changes in gun laws seem to be taken in stride by most Northerners and from the point of view of the chief firearms officer, the NWT will be a safer place because of the new legislation.

Every year we suffer needless injuries and sometimes deaths from the unsafe handling of firearms.

Until the new legislation, the NWT was one of the few jurisdictions where no training was required for a hunting license or gun ownership.

It is hoped through the new licensing, we'll have educated gun owners and avoid tragic accidents.

Let's see some numbers, Tagak

Manitok Thompson's recent decision to build 100 new social housing units in Nunavut has come under fire from some concerned Nunavummiut.

It doesn't go far enough said some, while others accused her of wasting the $15 million she managed to scrape together.

Tagak Curley is one of those concerned residents.

The president of the privatized Nunavut Construction Corporation said Thompson should have approached the private sector with the money she had in order to stretch the dollars and cents a little further.

"I think it's shameful," said Curley, accusing the minister of not developing any sort of housing strategy.

He went on to chastise her for not considering P3 projects or build-leaseback arrangements.

Curley has a point. Had Thompson gone to the private sector, we might very well see more than 50 duplexes constructed across the territory next summer and fewer families would continue to wait for public housing.

But, Curley's criticism raises an interesting point.

As a member of the so-called private sector, hasn't it become Curley's responsibility to chase business opportunities?

His decision to take his firm to the private realm was met with much applause last year and touted as a good move for an Inuit-owned corporation.

That means, however, it necessarily falls to Curley to get out there and hustle for contracts.

Why didn't he take the reins and approach Thompson and her task force with some facts and numbers and a concrete proposal outlining what he could do with that $15 million?

News/North would like to suggest that Curley put his money where his mouth is. It's a dog-eat-dog world in the private sector and rather than spending his time criticizing the government for not handing over business on a silver platter, his time might be better spent rolling up his sleeves and getting down to work.

Golden years

Valuing the wisdom of elders is a time-honored tradition in the North. Elders know the land, the animals and know people. In the South, mostly in the cities, such wisdom is often put out to pasture, also called retirement.

These urban elders have a wealth of experience too, either in business, building, managing people or money or all of the above.

An organization called the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) is harnessing this elder power by arranging for retired professionals to come North to help with new or ongoing projects and community based business ventures.

Any individual or organization, business or community government, should consider the benefits of such tried and true expertise and contact CESO's Edmonton office.

There is simply no substitute for experience.