Editorial page

Monday, January 29, 2001

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Time to spread the power pain

It's no fun when you get a bill in the mail. It's even worse when that bill keeps going up, as is the case with energy costs around the North.

Residents in communities served by diesel-powered generators get a double whammy because not only do they have to pay the increasing cost of heating oil or propane, but the added cost of electricity as well.

That's thanks to a 6.5 cent "rate rider" being charged on customers in diesel-dependent communities for every kilowatt hour of electricity they consume over 700 kilowatt hours a month.

That's helping to build up a NWT Power Corp. fund that's supposed to cushion the impact of dramatic price hikes.

Meanwhile, people lucky enough to live in communities that get power from hydro sources -- which incidentally are home a large portion of the NWT's population -- are relatively immune to this hit to the pocketbook.

A review of power generation and distribution has suggested a single rate for diesel communities and one for hydro powered-towns.

It's a step in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough.

A single power rate for the entire territory would make even more sense, spreading the cost of powering our homes and businesses across the entire population.

The government should also look to Ottawa for help. While well-to-do provinces like Alberta and B.C. are giving their residents a rebate to cushion the cost of energy, Northerners who face the harshest winters and the highest costs in Canada must scratch for every dime.

Meanwhile, millions head south each year to pump up federal coffers.

Price of the payout

While Dogrib communities were setting up to handle hundreds of band members collecting their $500 cash payout from Diavik Mines, the RCMP were setting up for some bad spirits.

The cops went bottle collecting Jan. 17 for anything exceeding Rae's monthly alcohol restriction of 750 mL of spirits and 24 beer at a checkpoint near the Rae turnoff on Highway 3.

That happened to be the same day over 2,000 Dogrib received their windfall.

We know the police were just doing their job and may have felt some folks would be dizzied by the dollars and bought more than their share of booze.

But this will not be the last time aboriginals will be getting cash payouts from companies doing business in the North. It would be a sad truth if checkpoints have to be set up every time pay day rolls around.

Cold comfort

The homeless in Hay River are once more out in the cold.

Residents of Vale Island united in their opposition to a shelter that briefly housed three men.

Home owners cited potential damage to property values and the possibility that the homeless might be dangerous. They were angry too that they were not consulted.

They need not have worried. The swift dispatch of a stop work order slammed the door on the shelter.

One Vale Island resident suggested that some other location might be found. But in a place so small the homeless would surely be a threat no matter where they sheltered.

Time to act, not study

Sustainable Development Minister Olayuk Akesuk must take swift action on the M'Clintock Channel polar bear issue.

The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board decided recently to reduce the harvest quota from 32 bears to 12 in that management zone.

A total moratorium follows in 2002.

While that decision came only after research indicated the population was far smaller than estimated, the economic impact on hunters from Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak and Cambridge Bay will be far-reaching.

Akesuk said his department will come up with a solution, but he said they need to review their options before doing so.

The government, first the Government of the Northwest Territories and now the Government of Nunavut, has reviewed, studied, investigated and analyzed the channel's bear population for the last three years. They have suspected the population was in trouble for even longer than that.

Why is it only now that the government has started to work on finding solutions?

Notorious for sloughing off their responsibility for the people they govern -- we need only to look at the decades of problems Gjoa Haven residents have gone through with their water supply -- the government must not be allowed to evade or avoid this problem.

Today, at this very moment, the economic, cultural and dietary repercussions of the reduction and moratorium are resonating through the three affected communities.

Residents must put an end to this tomfoolery.

If Akesuk has not announced a viable, realistic solution within three months, Nunavummiut must force him to act. They should phone the minister and department officials. Pick up the receiver and dial Premier Paul Okalik's number. A steady stream of calls to any MLA or cabinet minister could do the trick.

Such an onslaught might just generate some answers and it sure as heck will tie up the government's lines and time.

Educators have the right idea

Language is much more than words woven together into sentences.

It is a door to understanding culture. When a language begins to die, so does the culture.

Nunavut's teachers and leaders are working to make sure that doesn't happen.

They can't do it alone.

The recent language week shed colour on the importance of Inuktitut and its link to the survival of Inuit culture. So did an education leadership conference that wrapped up in Iqaluit last week.

The first step is to ensure school curriculum better reflects the territory's residents. That's happening. Now the government must ensure what's said on paper makes it into practise in the classroom.

Everyone agrees that can happen easily -- by bringing elders into schools.

Education Minister Peter Kilabuk likes the idea but says the government has no money to do that and is looking to Inuit organizations for support.

If government and Inuit groups are truly committed to preserving language and culture, they will find the money.