Editorial page

Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Perilous journey

Judgment day is fast approaching for the Northwest Territories.

Solutions to a crippling $230 million territorial debt, mounting operating expenses and underfunded social programs are concealed under a complex quilt of regional politics.

Apologies all round

Humour is a dangerous thing, as has been proven in the last few weeks in Yellowknifer.

It all began when the Cave Blues Bar ran what was supposed to be a funny ad for a dance. City gay and lesbian leaders didn't see the humor and objected with a letter to the editor. Then, in last week's Yellowknifer, a reader wrote a letter defending the Cave. Unfortunately, some readers didn't catch the writer's sarcasm and read the letter literally which to them put the Cave and bar staff in a terrible light, much undeserved.

Yellowknifer apologizes to our readers for not making it clear what the writer of that letter meant. We also apologize to the Cave, a bar that welcomes all Yellowknifers. And we apologize to the gay and lesbian community who want nothing more and less than equal treatment.


Premier Stephen Kakfwi envisions a partnership of aboriginal governments and his own. They are to walk hand in hand into the fabled land of resource royalties and self-sufficiency, presently the exclusive domain of the federal government

This perilous journey has been attempted a number of times in the last two decades but has always failed due to fighting over land rights and political power.

While good progress on land claims has been made, less so on aboriginal self-government, there are regions left out in the cold. The Deh Cho First Nations and Akaitcho Treaty 8 are still engaged in the time-worn struggle with the federal government to establish their rights and secure their lands.

As the seat of what regional leaders consider to be a bloated bureaucracy, Yellowknife waits for the knives from every side, all poised to make cuts to jobs and centralized powers.

Besides the skills of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim Antoine and Finance Minister Joe Handley, the strongest tool the Premier possesses to forge a deal is the statement from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Minister Robert Nault that no one group can stop the move toward financial and legislative independence.

As there are eight aboriginal groups to deal with and six must agree, there is little room to manoeuvre. There is even less time. A forum to discuss a the relationships of all parties involved is scheduled for the spring. The territorial budget has been delayed until summer.

To date, the territorial government is taking no public position on how to share resource royalties or deal with the debt. By the end of the summer, we will know exactly where they all stand -- either deep in debt or on the road to building a new Northwest Territories.

Open debate shows fairness of process

In an age when there are so many worthwhile organizations looking for funding, how and whom to help becomes a truly daunting task.

That was the dilemma facing Yellowknife City Council as they had to decide how to divide $100,000 in special grants.

Councillors had to pick which of 13 agencies would get funding. In a perfect world, all would get what they need because all made strong cases for support.

Who will argue that day care doesn't need greater support? Or the fact that we need to continue work to make Yellowknife more accessible for people with disabilities? Or that St. John Ambulance doesn't play a valuable role in our city?

But when the agencies seek four-times as much in support as there is to give, one almost needs the wisdom of Solomon to decide who should get funding. In the end, nine of 13 agencies received city grants -- although $26,800 of the fund has been held in reserve for further requests in the fall.

While not everyone is pleased with the outcome, all have accepted the decision with grace. That can be partially attributed to the fact the process was undertaken in full public scrutiny.

The city's corporate services committee -- which made recommendations to council -- could have taken their deliberations behind closed doors. Instead, they acknowledged the public's right to know how and why their money is being spent and debated the grant applications in open. That way the public and the agencies -- if they chose to attend -- could understand why specific proposals were accepted and others not.

That's an important point in the grant process. If agencies came looking for funding and then council took the debate behind closed doors, there could be an appearance of unfairness.

When everything happens up front, there can be no question about why one project received a grant and another did not.

Road to tourism
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

While it still isn't time to hit the streets and start celebrating, this past week's signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Manitoba and Nunavut is a step in the right direction.

The benefits of a cheaper power source are obvious, should feasibility studies come back positive and throw the switch to begin the installation of a line to carry Manitoba power into the Kivalliq.

Even more intriguing is the long-discussed road from northern Manitoba into the region.

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer and his minister of Highways, Steve Ashton, have made a habit of saying, "If we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to figure out a way to build a road between northern Manitoba and Nunavut," when addressing the situation.

Sounds good on the surface, but most Kivalliq residents know just how many obstacles there are to overcome if we are ever to go for a weekend drive to Thompson or Churchill, Man.

Arguably, the sector with the most to gain from any such road is tourism.

With a Nunavut-wide operating budget of $1.6 million for the 1999-2000 fiscal year, there can be no denying the fact our territorial government is backing Nunavut Tourism.

Just what gain is being made for that money is another matter.

The Kivalliq received the most of the three regions for tourism development, getting a whopping $180,000 of the $417,000 spent Nunavut-wide.

With a full one-third of that being paid out in basic salary for a tourism development co-ordinator, it's time we started seeing some return on our investment.

That's where the road comes in.

Right now, Rankin Inlet and the rest of the Kivalliq would have to be classed as a vacation for the wealthy.

The problem is most of these types of tourists enjoy sunnier climates, and when they do rough it, they only do so surrounded by modern conveniences.

A road linking us with northern Manitoba would not only allow us to tap into its somewhat vibrant tourism market, but would also substantially cut the costs for would-be visitors to get here.

The road may also be enough of a positive development for those employed with Nunavut Tourism to take a more proactive approach to tourism development.

If nothing else, it would be much tougher for bus loads of tourists to sneak through our communities undetected than it seems to be for cruise ships sneaking around our region.

In either event, the road would certainly go a long way towards ensuring Nunavut Tourism's Kivalliq branch has every opportunity to justify the money being tossed in its direction.

And if that means we start to finally see some results, we're all for it.