Editorial page

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

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Biting off more than we can chew

How many of us pulled a chair up to the dining table piled high with tempting treats this weekend?

And how many ate until we were bloated? The Thanksgiving turkey was succulent, the sweet potato delicious ... and why not take a second helping of pie?

Most of us aren't normally gluttons, but it's difficult to turn away from the bountiful table.

This can be the case with city council. They have committed to a phased $10-million twin-pad arena and have gladly accepted $1 million from the military for a gymnasium. Now they're looking at least $400,000 for improvements to the library.

A list of intervenors in a Oct. 3 story headlined "Power Bills could rise" was misleading. Only Northland Utilities, Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Simpson are "active intervenors" in the NWT Power Corporation's general rate application. Fort Smith, the NWT and Yellowknife chambers of commerce, GNWT energy secretariat, South Slave Metis Tribal Council, Inuvik, and Miramar Mining Corporation have asked to be kept updated on the application. Yellowknifer regrets the error.

Statements in Yellowknifer attributing comments about staffing negotiations with the territorial government to RCMP Supt. Terry Elliott are incorrect. Supt. Elliott did not speak to Yellowknifer about those negotiations. Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by this mistake.

Some councillors want a totally new facility.

It's all good until it comes time to pay the piper.

In its 2001 community services budget, the city expected to bring in $1,180,000 in revenue. The department's expenditures for library, two arenas, pool, parks and administration totalled some $3,257,000. That left Yellowknife taxpayers to pay the rest: $2,077,000.

We need to replace Gerry Murphy Arena. It's clear Yellowknife needs three arenas.

Building a bigger, better library sounds great, too.

The more important question is, what kind of library can we afford?

Maintain it, upgrade it as you would any other building, but within reason. Street level access to a second-floor facility? Get a bigger, better sign.

Move the library to a new building within five years? The present location may be impractical, but the cost of moving may be more than taxpayers can bear.

The city's tax base has not grown enough to pay for everything that's on council's plate.

A glutton can loosen a belt after a big meal, and then spend a few extra hours on the treadmill.

City taxpayers don't have that luxury. We will pay as long as politicians keep believing we can stomach higher and higher taxes.

Forked tongues again

Yellowknifers now know how Dene trappers must have felt in the old days. Indian Department bureaucrats often made promises the bureaucrats who replaced them professed to have no knowledge of.

It's the same story with the Giant land swap. The city paid Miramar more than $400,000 for the Giant property which would be used to build a municipal boat launch. Before the deal was signed, the federal government accepted responsibility for a cleanup that would render the property useable for a boat launch.

At the time, Councillor Kevin O'Reilly was skeptical DIAND could be counted on to follow through on their end of the deal, and it appears he was dead right.

While DIAND officials continually make comforting noises, they dance around the definitions and standards of a cleanup like a soft shoe scam artist and nothing gets done.

The best council can do is hold the federal government to the letter of the original agreement.

They must insist nothing below the standard of recreational use is acceptable for the Giant land by the lake shore.

As much as we have criticized the city's tendency to pursue flawed court cases, this is one instance we would encourage them to do so. After all, a deal is a deal, even if made with the federal government.

An ace in the hole

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

You can't fault the hamlet of Rankin Inlet for putting the needs of the community first in signing a two-payment equity lease deal with the Sakku Investment Corp.

The Sakku Investment Corp. is the business investment arm of the parent Kivalliq Inuit Association. As senior administrator Ron Roach points out, the deal should allow construction work to proceed on the health facility and give the hamlet some breathing room with its own debenture payments for the next 14 months.

What the deal also does is enable the Sakku Investment Corp. to show the people of Rankin Inlet it can play a positive role in a business project, especially with how far the hamlet has bent for the corporation.

And the hamlet has bent in the interests of the community.

The equity lease agreement was entered into about four years ago with a previous council and the price fixed at that time. In today's market, an equity lease on that property would be worth a whopping $1.8 million, or roughly a fifth what Sakku is actually paying. With such a bargain-basement price on the lease, one would think an investment firm could up the $350,000 in one lump sum.

However, with Sakku's well-documented financial problems of the past few years, the two-payment plan is understandable. At least the hamlet wouldn't give in to Sakku's original request for the payments to be made on Dec. 31, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2003.

That being said, the hamlet can't put on Superman's cape all by itself in this deal either, because council had an ace up its sleeve. The hamlet's deal with the Sakku Investment Corp. is one of relatively low risk thanks to the territorial government.

From what we hear out of the capital, Finance Minister Kelvin Ng has an escape hatch for the Rankin project built into his preliminary budget in the form of $1.5 million.

The money is a sort of an ill-health slush fund, which allows the GN to cover Sakku's investments should the government, for whatever reasons, decide to cancel the Rankin health-care-facility project.

This, of course, would include the $350,000 for the equity lease.

This little security blanket allows the hamlet to enter into the payment deal with Sakku with little or no worries of receiving payment.

It also puts a little extra pressure on Health Minister Ed Picco to actually start constructing something in the near future. And that, to us, is definitely a win-win situation.

Green thumbs make light work

Editorial Comment
Malcolm Gorrill
Inuvik Drum

Another season has come and gone for the Inuvik Community Greenhouse.

This marked the greenhouse's second season, and by all accounts it was a successful one.

The commercial area grew and sold lots of bedding plants, tomatoes and other items.

Down below, all the community plots were filled, providing plenty of people the opportunity to exercise their green thumbs, or just stroll the aisles during the summer, watching a wide variety of plants and flowers take root and spring forth.

Much was happening behind the scenes, as well. Repairs and renovations have been conducted over the year, with plans in the works for more. A perennial rock garden was put in place by the front entrance, and a mural painted.

In many ways the greenhouse is like the plants it nurtures. Some years ago the idea of such a greenhouse was planted, and many people have dug down and done what was needed to make the greenhouse develop and bloom.

Congrats to those involved for the past season, with hopes for even better things next year.

Healthy choices

Nutrition and exercise are common themes nowadays.

Recently students at Sir Alexander Mackenzie got to take part in International School Milk Day, an event designed to raise awareness of the benefits of milk, with hopes of encouraging young people to drink more.

As well, organizers are sprinting ahead with plans for a running club. People will be able to drop by when able, and run, jog or walk along, while chatting with friends and neighbours.

And oh yeah, they'll become more physically fit in the process.

Plus, this is NWT Literacy Week. This past Tuesday residents were challenged to read for 15 minutes, in an effort to have people exercise their minds and expand their horizons.

Hockey week in Inuvik

This week marks the return of the ice within the arena at the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex.

It also marks the second annual hockey school, whereby young people from Inuvik and nearby communities get to sharpen their skills and perhaps dream of becoming the next Wayne Gretzky.

Good luck to them, as well as their instructors, coaches and parents.

Many adults, meanwhile, are digging out their skates, anxious to skate laps around the rink, or perhaps play some recreational hockey.

Better business

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

The economic development conference in Fort Simpson this week is light at the end of the tunnel for some. For the cynics it's another reason to scoff. Economic development has been occurring at a minimum level in most of the Deh Cho for decades. Six years ago the Deh Cho Means Business conference was supposed to put an end to that. However, upon reviewing the conference report, it is now clear that very few of the goals have been achieve -- with some possible exceptions in Fort Liard.

How do we know that this conference will be any different? We don't.

There's promise the political climate will improve within the next year if the Deh Cho First Nations and the federal government achieve an Interim Resource Development Agreement. That would open the door to many business opportunities.

But it's also important to ensure local people are truly prepared for the onslaught of industry if and when that door opens wide. DCFN leadership has warned of the consequences of each community storming ahead with its own plans for development. It would be easy to overwhelm the limited workforce in the Deh Cho. Therefore a regional economic working group to coordinate ventures and promote cooperation makes perfect sense.

While it seems pressure is mounting to create economic development in the depressed Deh Cho region, it would be foolish to undermine the guarantees that are being sought through political negotiations. It's short-term pain for long-term gain. In the big picture, the years ahead stand to be prosperous because of it and the environment won't have been forsaken either.

Way to go, Evelyn

Every once in a while you meet someone who is extremely motivated to do something for the benefit of others. Evelyn Krutko is one of those people. I happened to be in Fort Providence to witness her spending her lunch hour swiftly and tirelessly moving from one person to the next to round up every dollar she could for the Run for the Cure. Obviously, to raise $1,868, she must have devoted several lunch hours, early mornings and evenings to her mission.

Anne Rowe did the same thing in Fort Simpson for many years for the Terry Fox Run. It wasn't uncommon for her to singlehandedly raise $2,000.

Perhaps to use the term "singlehandedly" is stretching it. No one can really raise any more than they are willing to donate themselves unless other individuals and businesses are caring enough to give. That benevolence unquestionably exists in Fort Providence and in Fort Simpson, where another $790 was scraped together. It might be cliche, but every dollar counts. People like Evelyn Krutko and Anne Rowe realize that.