Editorial page

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

It's too early for fishing trips

In a moment that mimicked high drama in the legislative assembly, House Speaker Tony Whitford cast the deciding vote against a motion to audit the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development.

The motion was put forward by Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Floyd Roland.

Cabinet members all voted against the motion as did regular members, Deh Cho MLA Michael McLeod and Yellowknife Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee.

Voting for it were the rest of the regular members, leaving the speaker to break the tie.

The argument against an independent audit was that the timing was bad: RWED is in the middle of sorting out pressing issues such as resource revenue sharing, the secondary diamond industry and developments in oil and gas exploration.

MLAs backing the audit argued that those were exactly the reasons an audit should be conducted.

While nobody raised any specific complaints about the department, the very nature of the unlikely amalgamation of responsibilities that constitutes RWED makes it a subject of concern.

One can't help but wonder if programs that encourage economic development don't collide with policies designed to enhance the future of wildlife.

Taxpayers have every right to know that their money is being productively spent by government. However, conducting an audit would no doubt bring RWED to a shuddering halt while resources were diverted from the work at hand to producing reports for auditors. As we saw with a recent federal audit, many useful and necessary programs were put on hold while the investigators investigated.

While public accountability is one of the principles of parliamentary democracy, an audit should not be wielded as a threat by an opposition, official or otherwise, on a forensic fishing trip. When there is a good reason to suspect malfeasance, audit the hell out of RWED. In the meantime, let them get on with their jobs.

Hat's off

We're tipping our muskrat hats to the regular MLAs who forced the government to trim $160,000 from cabinet's supplementary operating budget.

Led by former finance minister Charles Dent, the regular members sent a clear message to the leadership that cuts have got to be made beginning from the top down.

In times of fiscal restraint, our leaders must lead by example and show the taxpayers they are doing all they can to trim from their departments.

When cutting tens of millions from other areas, $160,000 is nice gesture to show at least some of our MLAs are showing restraint.

Doing their bit

It's no surprise that two of the three Northerners chosen for an Outstanding Volunteer Service Award are Yellowknife residents Meryl Falconer and Cappy Elkin. They join Hay River's Grace Mitts with this year's top honours.

Falconer's efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer in the NWT have proven so successful that the NWT Breast Cancer Health/Breast Cancer Action Group - a group she helped found - is now helping hundreds of women come to grips with the terrifying reality of breast cancer.

Elkin was chosen for her years of dedicated community service, including helping set up the Stanton Regional Hospital Foundation.

Efforts such as Falconer's and Elkin's not only provide tremendous help to our community, but serve as inspiration for the countless other city volunteers who are doing their bit.