Unity on pipeline
Political bodies, chamber forge agreement to combine efforts

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (May 05/00) - The leaders of Fort Simpson's three political bodies and the chamber of commerce signed a resolution last week to work together in support of the construction of a Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.

Duncan Canvin, Fort Simpson chamber president, said the atmosphere during the two-hour meeting on Wednesday was conciliatory.

"I was really impressed. Everybody mutually agreed that something has to be done," he said. "If it's not done now it won't be done for another 100 years."

He said the parties have formed a working group and will meet again later this week to discuss specific initiatives. Officials from pipeline companies have visited other communities in the NWT and it would be beneficial to have them come to Fort Simpson as well, said Canvin.

"They could do presentations not only to the committee but to the public as well," he said.

Liidlii Kue Chief Rita Cli said it's imperative the pipeline and industry representatives visit Fort Simpson and to have public reaction throughout the process. "Why don't they come to our turf? That's what I want to see happen," she said. "Let's have a public meeting. There might be things that we as elected leaders are overlooking that Joe public could turn around and say, 'Look, you're forgetting this.' They should have the option to ask the companies questions too."

Long-term jobs are also integral development, she said. While there are many temporary construction jobs during the building of a pipeline, the few that remain when it becomes operational require a high degree of training, she said.

"I'd like to look at not three to six jobs, but 100 to 150 permanent jobs if at all possible. Even if it means asking them, 'Would you think of having a (gas) plant here?'"

"Everybody's pot is running dry. We have to start looking at ways to invest in our own backyard. This is how I'd like to approach it, so that the kids would reap in the royalties and benefit from this pipeline."

At the same time, the environmental risks have to be weighed in such decisions, she added.

"Just about every day someone comes into my office and talks about we want to get the mighty dollar, but are we in favour of polluting?" she said. "So we're trying to cover all bases."

As for the agreement signed last week, Cli warned the Fort Simpson union is a fragile one.

"Don't they dare step on our toes or we'll walk away from them. Just like I did at the tri-council," she said.