Editorial page

Monday, May 01, 2000

Kakfwi fanning the flames

Good journalism, bad politics.

That's the best way to describe Premier Stephen Kakfwi's comments to the Slave River Journal's veteran 'cub' reporter (and publisher) Don Jaque.

Kakfwi came out swinging at Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger, Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Floyd Roland and Yellowknife Frame Lake MLA Charles Dent for attacking the cabinet in the most recent legislative session.

There's no doubt the three badgered the cabinet over a range of issues, from the delay of the Aurora College construction in Inuvik to increases to the executive budget and an audit for the department of renewable resources and economic development, to name a few.

Kakfwi, who has laboured long and hard to get to the top and is proud of his government, objects on the grounds that constant criticism is not in the spirit of consensus. Further, Kakfwi implied in the Slave River Journal interview criticism could backfire on an MLA, hurting worthy projects in his riding.

This ugly unspoken aspect of consensus government is not new. But passing notes threatening revenge has brought other ministers down.

What is new is having such a knowledgeable and effective group of ordinary MLAs sitting across from cabinet. It should be no surprise that the most effective at testing the government's mettle -- Miltenberger, Dent and Roland -- are ex-ministers. They know the history, they know the questions to ask, they know where to look for the answers.

While Kakfwi claims confrontation is foreign to consensus, so must be the secret decision-making process in cabinet and the exclusive control over money and power.

Democracy, which both consensus and parliamentary governments serve, requires vigorous debate.

Kakfwi seems to have forgotten that in the heat of an interview. He will be reminded in the next session that attempting to stamp out the fires of democracy only fans the flames of opposition.

Just the facts

To demystify the process communities are undergoing towards self-government, the Department of Indian and Northern Development (DIAND) has initiated an information program called Plain Talk.

The program will detail updated information via their Web site and a series of 19 fact sheets which address frequently asked questions.

Aboriginal groups in the NWT have the unique opportunity to pursue a form of government tailored to the needs of each individual group. But along with that, will come a great deal of confusion for the general public.

Hopefully, through DIAND's public information campaign, people will become better educated and therefore better prepared to understand the issues as the Dene travel the winding historic road to self-determination.

Dental decay

While we're scrambling to recruit and retain doctors and nurses, the dental health community is left to decay.

Last December, the government decided to exclude foreign dentists from practising in Canada through the National Dentists Examining Board tests.

Excluding foreign dentists from working in Canada was not a wise move, especially at a time when health care professionals are seeking the better pay, lower taxes and warmer weather offered in the U.S.

When you need a root canal in a big hurry, nobody really cares what language the dentist speaks, as long as he can fix the pain.

Right direction

Anyone can grab a rifle, head out on the land and make a kill.

A truly successful hunt takes planning, skill and knowledge of the land and one's prey.

Likewise, business success requires a set of skills that goes beyond community knowledge and good intentions. One has to know how a business works, how to build it from the ground up and understand the costs involved.

That's why the election of Peter Tatty, a successful Keewatin businessman, is move in the right direction for Sakku Investments Corp. He will add business acumen to the board that could be a step toward improving the organization's fortunes.

Now it's a matter of building the business from a strong new foundation.

Facing challenge

Last week's recipient of the Literacy Learner's Award, Bobby Suwarak, provixdes inspiration to us all.

Having lost his hearing at the age of five, Suwarak had no more than five days of formal education in his home community of Baker Lake when he entered the Afternoon Literacy Drop-in program at Iqaluit's Arctic College.

In five months, Suwarak has learned to read and write, and improved his math skills.

Communicating through a sign language developed by his family and his friend and interpreter David Kautaq, Suwarak has certainly beat the odds.

He is living proof that anything is possible once you put your mind to it.

Postal rag and other charming habits

Let's face it.

At some time or another in our lives as consumers and customers, we've all been less than friendly to those people who work for us in the public service sector.

Every single one of us has, at some point, been stretched to the limit by our own motivating factors and hit that taut spot in our tempers where our inner devils forced us to lash out and be rude.

Even the most polite of reporters and editors is guilty of the injustice.

While it's not a particularly attractive trait we possess as human beings, it is an understandable one.

But, and this is a really big but, we need to think of the poison we pass on if we do not ask forgiveness for our social blunders from the clerks, waitresses, tellers and postal clerks we snap at.

Put it this way.

How many times did you turn into Linda Blair -- the actress who played Satan in the Exorcist -- while the bank machines in the Iqaluit branch of the Royal Bank were down?

We surely couldn't have been the only ones.

Now ask yourselves this. How many of you have gone back to the RBC since, pleaded fiendish possession, thanked the tellers for their patience and doughnuts and commiserated over the nasty satellites that took away the modern conveniences in the first place?

Better yet, how many people have been rude to the cashiers at NorthMart on a Friday at 5 p.m. or been impatient with the staff at Canada Post during the dreaded Christmas rush?

When we pass on our feelings of malcontent, they're picked up by our friends in customer service, likely passed to other staff and, eventually, they make their way back to the customers.

If it feels like this is a lesson in manners and polite conduct, maybe it is. But if we all watched our p's and q's and said please and thank you and apologized when apologies were due, our hamlets and towns would be a much nicer place to live.

Water worries

While we are blessed with a good portion of the world's fresh water here in the North, we still need to take care in selecting a good watering hole.

A pristine lake or stream may look inviting to a thirsty hiker, but unboiled water can prove to be a serious health hazard.

Taking five minutes to boil wild water can save a month of dehydration and other problems that could become a real danger to someone miles from medical help.

The community-based water systems have proven to be a reliable and healthy source for our drinking water.

But as they've learned in Fort McPherson, chlorine, however reliable, is not a fool-proof method of water treatment.