Russians tour the capital

Yellowknife ( May 31/00) - Three Russian delegates visited Yellowknife last week to compare this region with their own.

As part of a mutual goal to build a strong partnership between the two Northern cities, the Russians, from the city of Syktyvkar, were here to examine how municipal governments operate, to examine local economic conditions, and look for potential development opportunities.

Sponsored by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the visit was organized after a delegation from the Canadian Federation of Municipalities embarked on a fact-finding mission to the Komi Republic last fall.

Tatyana Tyupenko, assistant to the minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Komi Republic; Irina Garezina, head of finance for the City of Syktyvkar; and Shalygin Seroie, vice-chair of the Committee on Social and Economic Development for the City of Syktyvkar were in Yellowknife from May 21 to 24.

The three foreign delegates attended a Policy, Planning and Budget Committee meeting and Yellowknife city council meeting, toured the legislative assembly, and were guided on a city-wide tour by Mayor Dave Lovell during their stay.

During the tour of Yellowknife, Seroie said he noticed a number of differences between Syktyvkar and the city of Yellowknife, namely with the way houses are constructed.

"For us, we construct more from concrete and from bricks," Seroie said.

He explained homes in Russia are built much stronger than those constructed in Yellowknife, and they also take three to four times longer to build as well.

Seroie said he was very impressed at how the City of Yellowknife preserves historic sites in the Old Town area.

Since the Komi Republic just implemented municipal government structures two years ago, he and his fellow Russian visitors are using their experience in Yellowknife to determine how to improve their own municipal governments.

"When we go back we will try to do our best to take what we saw here and somehow improve the structures of our municipalities, but you cannot just take everything and bring it to Russia -- you should also pay attention to local conditions which exist there," said Seroie.

Thembi Kamanga-Silundika, a circumpolar analyst for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, said the voyage is one of five DIAND-sponsored initiatives between Northern Canada and northern Russia.

Kamanga-Silundika said before solid partnerships can be built between the two Northern regions, it's imperative that both understand how each others' systems work.

"It's one thing for the government centres in the south to have close relations with Russia at the federal level, but the grassroots are here in the North," she said.

The final phase of the project will be a round table conference in Moscow this fall where representatives from DIAND, Canada's Northern municipalities and Russian municipalities will gather to discuss their experiences and attempt to map out a long-term strategy for co-operation between the two regions.