Editorial page

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

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A careful balancing act on city council

The committee set up to review how much Yellowknife city council costs us suggests we don't need two of our councillors. It also wants to simplify how the mayor and the rest of council is paid, and get rid of tax-exempt allowances.

At first glance, both proposals sound reasonable, but there are economic and philosophical dimensions to the issue that the existing council must consider carefully before making any decisions.

The issues of how much we compensate part-time councillors for their service, and the number of councillors tasked with running the city are inextricably linked. Fewer councillors means more work for those that remain. Additional workloads will lead to more generous honoraria and allowances, and justifiably so.

This is a dangerous path. Financial reward should never become the lure of public office. The best way to ensure this doesn't come about is to keep workloads relatively light by spreading duties around. And that means having enough councillors on hand.

The pay-review committee recognizes that those who work harder should be paid more. We agree with its recommendation to offer the chairs of committee extra compensation, for example. But cutting the current council from eight to six seats will accomplish little politically and save even less in real dollars.

The committee's rationale for the reduction is also open to challenge. Southern cities of comparable size may have smaller councils, but they aren't necessarily the best models.

We may need more voices on council to reflect the diverse ethnic background, neighbourhoods and interests that make our city such a unique and rewarding place to live.

Yellowknife's variety also raises the possible need to elect councillors by neighbourhood, rather than the current at-large system. But that's another topic, one that will require more intensive debate.

Tipping the scales

It's easy to turn off the water tap. Shutting down the flow of garbage isn't so simple.

Let's compare.

Residential water consumption dropped by 79 per cent between 1984 and 2000. In 1991, Yellowknifers used 3,638,505 cubic metres of water; in 2000, it was down to 2.78 million. An average person used 155 cubic metres of water last year.

Much of that can be directly tied to the fact that people pay for the water they use. Each month, city dwellers get a statement and have to pay up. Every time you turn on the shower, every drop of water down the drain is a penny out of your pocket.

Water meters are a case where the user-pay system truly works.

Garbage is something else.

Industrial and commercial wastes are easy to track, and easy to charge. Tracking individual households and individual bags of trash isn't.

The city is looking at "alternative structures ... (that would) incorporate the principles of fairness and equality based on consumption ... with the ultimate aim towards user-pay."

Yes, you can charge people who drop trash at the dump or make them buy tags for bags put out at the curb. Unfortunately, there's a point at which people find it easier to drive to some secluded spot and dump their garbage than pay an extra $2 a bag.

Garbage user fees don't necessarily return an equivalent drop in waste, either. Recycling in Yellowknife is haphazard and expensive. Packaging is a major problem.

User pay, yes. But be careful.

Kids take stage by storm

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

It's rare this space is used to "gush," but it's hard to accurately describe the impression left behind by the Missoula Children's Theatre in Rankin Inlet without gushing.

First of all, what actor-directors Michael Stoddard and Ann Chris Warren were able to accomplish with the Rankin kids in such a short period of time was nothing less than incredible.

There might not be a Tony Award being readied any time soon, but the kids put on a darn good show.

This is especially true when one considers the play was the first time the vast majority of the kids were exposed to the theatre (our apologies to organizers of the annual Christmas Concert).

But, there was more to this than just the actual play itself -- much more. The fact so many of these kids jumped at the chance to be in the play, and gave it everything they had once they were selected, shows just how willing local youth are to get involved with extracurricular activities.

That is, when they're available.

The kids were also proud to be in the play. You could see it in their laughing eyes and smiling faces.

They were, indeed, part of something special and seized the moment to show all their friends and family what they were capable of on the stage.

A special tip of the hat should also go out to the students from Alaittuq High who took part in the play.

Their help and leadership went a long way in helping the younger students get over any stage fright and do their best. Most of all, they showed the younger kids taking part in a play and expanding your horizons is, in a word, cool!

Another job well done

Since it's a week to gush, another thumbs up goes out to Rankin Inlet's Jordin Tootoo.

Jordin made such a good impression at the Nashville Predators prospects camp, he was invited to the NHL team's main camp. Tootoo had a strong camp and even suited up for one NHL exhibition tilt.

And, although Nashville lost, Tootoo handled himself quite admirably from all accounts and did not look out of place in an NHL setting.

The rugged Rankin winger is back in Brandon with the Wheat Kings for the 2001-02 season. Chances just keep getting better that this time next year we'll be watching Tootoo perform on TV at the NHL level.

Fight against cancer in Delta

Editorial Comment
Malcolm Gorrill
Inuvik Drum

The battle against cancer rages on.

This is a disease that continues to claim many lives, though certainly doctors and scientists have made a lot of strides over the last few decades in efforts to combat it more effectively.

Delta residents are taking part in this battle, raising funds for cancer research. Many communities took part recently in the 21st annual Terry Fox Run, raising funds and also paying tribute to the Marathon of Hope.

Another example would be the Cops for Cancer event held this past June in Inuvik.

It all goes to show that cancer can be beaten.

Breaking the cycle of violence

Cancer isn't the only thing which spreads sorrow within communities.

Domestic violence is an ongoing issue that often goes unnoticed.

About 40 people helped raise awareness of the issue last week in Inuvik during the Take Back the Night march. Balloons were released high into the sky to symbolize freeing those suffering from abuse. A poignant candlelight vigil was also held.

It was rightly pointed out that children learn from what they see and experience, making the need to break the cycle of domestic violence all the more important.

The event served as a reminder as well that staff at the Inuvik Transition House provide an important safe harbour for women and children throughout the region.

Changing seasons

Though the weather has been quite good as of late, there's no denying that some days there's been a distinct nip in the air. Fall has arrived, and the onset of the white stuff can't be far away now. Another sign of the changing of the seasons is that many groups and organizations are gearing up again after a summer break.

The Midnight Sun Recreation Complex was quite a busy spot last week during community registration. Adults and kids lined up to sign up for a variety of activities, ranging from girl guides to indoor soccer and, of course, the good old hockey game.

It's good that residents have such a variety of activities to take part in. However, it musn't be forgotten that these groups don't spring into being on their own.Volunteers start up these groups and keep them running. It's safe to say anyone interested in helping out would likely be welcomed with open arms by pretty much any such organization. Something to think about as the nights start getting longer.

A better understanding

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

Understanding the effects of industrial activity on the land is a vital part in deciding whether or not to permit development. With that in mind, the Acho Dene Koe are planning a workshop, scheduled for next month, to make local people more aware of the impacts seismic activity has on the land and animals.

The topic is not only germane to Canadian Forest Oil's proposed seismic project near Fort Liard, but to a potential Mackenzie Valley pipeline. As Acho Dene Koe sub-chief Jim Duntra pointed out, many elders are completely unfamiliar with industrial activity. Therefore it's only natural that they should be apprehensive about its repercussions. In some cases, their concerns are justified, in other circumstances there's really little to fear as impacts are minimal.

There's also a need to continue studying the net result of existing development. A pipeline already runs from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta. What changes, if any, have hunters and trappers observed along that corridor?


There are those who may be tempted to accuse the Liidli Kue First Nation of being opposed to development. The proof seems irrefutable, after all, as it does send letters of concern pertaining to practically all proposed projects. Chief Rita Cli maintains that the band is simply protecting itself financially if an environmental disaster should occur. If they express opposition, they have a much greater chance of being compensated, she reasoned. In addition, and this is a key point, she said the LKFN understands that most of its letters of concern will not force projects to be cancelled. On the contrary, the majority proceed, but some wind up referred to environmental assessment. That in itself inevitably leads to delays while a more thorough evaluation takes place. Occasionally an impatient company will quash a project due to regulatory hurdles, but most, while frustrated, just accept the setback.

As much as blame can be levelled at the LKFN for constantly raising objections to development, blame can equally be placed on companies that don't plan for the worst case scenario. Until the regulatory regime in the NWT is streamlined or becomes more expedient, those are the conditions everyone has to tolerate.

Team approach

As Tuesday is the "deadline" day for the Drum, it's often a frantic one. However, some of the work was done in advance this week to make time for the Enbridge mock oil spill exercise, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday. The exercise is always a major production, and a fine example of co-ordination and teamwork. Look for photos and more details in next week's edition.