Editorial page

Monday, June 26, 2000

Extraordinary MLAs and Team NWT

The Ordinary MLAs. They've got to be a thing of the past. We need Extraordinary MLAs.

Traditionally, those MLAs most successful in opposing the government stood out. Now it must be the ones who do the best research, raise the best arguments, suggest the best compromises.

They must deal with the facts, such as there is no other funding source than the federal government and they have us in a box. If the territorial government cuts positions to meet budget cuts, it loses funding with every person leaving the NWT. Of every dollar the territorial government makes in new revenue, it must give the federal government 80 cents.

The Extraordinary MLAs urge the cabinet to use common sense and exploit global opportunities such as diamonds and natural gas for the good of ourselves and all Canadians.

Common sense dictates we cannot curb social programs until we curb the problems small communities deal with due to high unemployment and a history of poor access to education - two causes of crippling stress on ordinary people.

Health, education and community pride are critical investments and government must continue to find the money. A $12 million deficit is conservative considering the young population.

Resource royalties must bring new money for roads and ports. That will mean employment, encourage competition and cut transportation costs, all of which will create more economic opportunities.

Keeping in mind the facts, the Extraordinary MLAs must question misdirected policy, pursue problems, press for clarification, the goal being to make government programs more effective.

Consensus allows each MLA to speak on the issues with an equal voice. Whoever does right by the people consistently will emerge a stronger leader.

The strategy among the Extraordinary MLAs should be to do their best for Team NWT.

Funding dentists

Those pearly whites being bared by the North's dentists aren't because they're smiling and happy.

No, dentists, like other health professionals, are gritting their teeth while dealing with the decay of years of financial neglect and changes to licensing regulations which makes it harder for foreign dentists to practice in Canada.

From Inuvik to Hay River, Cambridge Bay to Rankin to Iqaluit, a shortage of dentists and burgeoning red tape over Non-Insured Health Benefits paid by the federal government are contributing to the problem of recruiting and retaining dentists.

Teeth are important to overall health and the federal and territorial governments must work together to ensure this part of our health care system is healthy.

Foot your own bill

People on adventure expeditions in Nunavut should be required by legislation to put up the money beforehand for search and rescue.

It's a different matter if a resident of the territory experiences snowmobile trouble while out hunting or if caught by sudden bad weather.

But when modern day explorers -- some of who are not even residents of Canada -- have to be rescued while attempting to ski to the North Pole, it seriously taxes the government's already limited funds.

The Government of Nunavut, the federal government and ultimately the taxpayer, currently pick up the tab for rescues. If bond regulations were put into place, people would be forced to take financial responsibility for themselves.

Government should take steps to make such regulations a reality.

Dene Nation's destiny

National Chief Bill Erasmus thinks the Dene Nation's destiny lies in replacing the GNWT.

"Things are changing," he added at a recent meeting in Aklavik.

They certainly are. The drive for self-government is in high gear across the North.

The agreement to allow a pipeline to run down the Mackenzie Valley, the natural gas discoveries in the Deh Cho, exploration agreements between the Inuvialuit and oil companies, are all changing the economy, and First Nations are among the leaders.

They are doing this in pursuit of their own goals, which include employment and prosperity. The Dene Nation stopped speaking for them long ago.

They are speaking, and acting, for themselves.

Firearms act begs the question...

The federal government's firearms act begs the question of will the legislation actually discourage or prevent criminal use of guns?

If you ask the average gun owner, the answer is usually no. If anything, they may tell you it will make criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

The decision to have all gun owners in the country obtain licences and register their guns in the next three years -- as a means of improving public safety -- is at issue on many levels in Nunavut.

First, the Firearms Act is in direct conflict with the Nunavut Land Claims agreement.

Article 5 in the land claim clearly outlines Inuits' right to harvest and hunt without licence, permit or fees.

The federal government's signature is on that agreement.

By that rationale, the government is breaking the law by ignoring the agreement they signed in 1993.

Consequently, NTI, supported by the Government of Nunavut, is taking legal action in order to protect their rights.

Second, the act doesn't only affect the Inuit. Local gunsmith Dick Smith told News\North the act is slowly putting small firearms shops out of business.

When the push for the new law began a year and a half ago, he sold only 25 guns, the year before sales peaked at 72.

The legislation discourages people from taking up target shooting, sport hunting or hunting for food.

Or perhaps it just shifts business to private, soon-to-be-illegal sales, creating a black market and making criminals of people who wouldn't normally break the law.

It takes very few firearms to meet the demand for misuse and a person who wants a gun to commit a criminal offence likely doesn't mind having to use other means to obtain it.

Already millions of dollars over budget, the government is spending millions more to regulate people who aren't the problem.