Editorial page

Monday, December 6, 1999

Power shifts to competition

The Northwest Territories Power Corp. is fighting for customers and scrambling to keep competitive in the North.

The corporation is not the only game in town any more. The Nunavut government is tendering out for companies to supply the territory's power while more recently, Fort Simpson dumped the corporation in favour of a yet-to-be-named supplier.

Power Corp. president Leon Courneya said he doesn't see a trend in communities shopping their kilowatt dollars around. But we have to wonder if other cash-strapped communities won't be following suit.

What's good for Fort Simpson could also be just as good for Yellowknife or Hay River.

Should NTPC lose the bid to supply Nunavut's power, both NWT Minister Charles Dent and Courneya are predicting higher costs to customers.

Any business owner can tell you when you start to lose customers, the last thing you do is raise prices.

If the Power Corp. wants to keep the customers it has, it will have to sharpen its capacity to respond to their needs, and no doubt one of those needs will be lower costs.

One thing is certain --the monopoly has ended for NTPC.

The evolution of business and industry has turned in favour of the buyer -- as eventually happens when monopolies fail to satisfy customer needs.

Nunavut government minister Ed Picco and Fort Simpson Mayor Prevost have let the free-market genie out of the bottle and with the introduction of competition eventually the people of the North will benefit.

If the Power Corp. hopes to survive, they'd better become as lean and mean as their southern competitors or face market extinction.

Building the dreams of women

International statistics show that women are second class citizens.

This means they regularly feed their families before they feed themselves. Many go to bed hungry at night. They commonly sacrifice their own education to make ends meet for their kin.

More often than not, women are refused promotions and denied access to the same advancements their male counterparts are accustomed to.

These are very real experiences that millions of women worldwide have seen and felt firsthand.

But, while the economic picture is somewhat bleak, in Nunavut at least, a new program has been developed that is actively trying to change the status quo.

Called the Dream Builders program, the Iqaluit-based 24-week course teaches women math and English skills, brings their computer literacy up to speed and shows them the ropes of the workplace.

To ensure they have the opportunity to put their new-found traits to the test before re-entering the working world, Dream Builders also enables women to complete a three-week practicum in the workforce.

The clincher to the good news -- and perhaps the reason why the new program is such a success -- is that the women are provided with a salary and financial support for up to two of their children while they're hitting the books.

The Baffin's Kakivak Association is footing that bill.

As we've seen before in Canada's newest territory, women often withdraw themselves from their goals and their education because they have mouths to feed and bills to pay.

Thanks to the crucial funds contributed by Kakivak however, the participants are staying in the program and making plans for their future.

Rhoda Kilabuk is one of those women.

Frustrated by her lack of education and inability to get promoted, Kilabuk signed on for Dream Builders. Just three months later, she's got a whole new skill set and she's planning her next move.

If similar programs were designed for women in other Nunavut communities, and in other global communities, we could very well take a giant step towards changing the second class status of women.

Nuts and bolts

Essential to any government and developing territory is a strong, well-developed trades program.

Without skilled workers with expertise and the ability to oversee infrastructure maintenance and essential services, people could not live.

That is why Kugluktuk's successful efforts to run a program that will certify 12 students, two of whom are women, as journey carpenters is inspiring. Each community should have a program that develops a skilled workforce, eliminating downtime, and the need to have southern or Iqaluit-based "experts" flown in.

The GN must realize the necessity of establishing more programs, offering everyone the chance to learn a trade, a measure that will only help this territory thrive.

A good start

The Norman Wells Metis have recently notified the town they intend to pursue self-government negotiations.

Built mostly on the strength of Imperial Oil dollars and employees from the south, the Wells has come to be known as "a white man's town" -- one of the few communities where the non-aboriginals outnumber the aboriginals.

This makes the Wells something of an oddity, a place outside the norm for self-determined communities. But as our new governments evolve, we'll be tailoring each to fit the specific needs of the people who live there; making each distinct and the government at the Wells will be no different.

They're already off to a good start with the mayor and the Metis agreeing on a government to serve all the people.