The world has gotten a small taste of our Northern landscape and creative talent with internationally-recognized films like Atanarjuat and Someplace Better. And there is evidence that Hollywood and other cinematic centres are hungry for more.
But it will take more than a few critical reviews to change Southern producers' reluctance to bring their crews North. The unfortunate truth is most jurisdictions in Canada offer attractive tax incentives to lure production companies to their turf.
For example, Vancouver is now a regular competitor for Los Angeles, and Toronto a frequent stand-in for New York.
If the territorial governments in the NWT and Nunavut believe that sharing arctic culture with the rest of the world is a worthy goal, then now is the time to do what it takes to bring filmmakers North.
The advantages of serving as a film location are many. Filmmakers can bring a lot of money to a small community -- several times the tax revenue lost to the incentives that drew them there in the first place.
The exposure of a popular film can also do wonders for the tourism industry. It would generate more taxes that governments can use to fund projects by local artists, musicians, actors and writers, many of whom will benefit directly from exposure to their Southern colleagues.
But both the Nunavut and NWT governments have resisted getting in the game. As a result, even Northern filmmakers have suffered.
In 2001, Dennis Allen showed his production, Someplace Better, at the Sundance Film Festival -- one of the most prestigious film festivals in North America. But Dennis Allen Productions had to move south recently because of a lack of film support in the North and to reach a bigger audience with his art. He took several years to make his movie because of a lack of funding.
Next consider the plight facing Nunavut-based Igloolik Isuma Productions -- makers of the acclaimed Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner). The film earned five Genie awards earlier this year. How's that for Northern exposure?
Not good enough for the governments.
The company wants to shoot its next film in the High Arctic but is threatening to film in Quebec because of the Nunavut government's lack of tax incentives.
The bottom line: we have to strike while we're hot.
An acquaintance of mine, fairly renowned in the world of balancing budgets, once remarked to me, "The one thing you can count on when you manage a budget is that one year you're riding high on the hog's back and the next you're coming out its rear end."
A bit crude in its delivery, but an effective truism nonetheless. It is also a message the hamlet of Rankin Inlet may want to pay attention to at this particular time.
We support the hamlet's decision to use $32,000 of its $285,000 operational surplus to purchase a good vessel for the local search and rescue committee.
However, we can also well imagine the list of organizations lined up for a piece of the surplus pie is a lengthy one. Hopefully, before shelling out the remaining surplus on other funding proposals, council will pause long enough to look at the big picture.
The tough funding times of the past few years are far from over. The hamlet would be well advised to discuss earmarking a portion of its surplus to be invested toward the proverbial rainy day.
Even with the volatility of the money markets during the past 18 months, a number of conservative, and solid, investment opportunities still exist. Professionally managed, a modest investment now could provide the hamlet with a financial security blanket to be carefully put aside for tougher days ahead.
And should hamlet council continue to manage its resources wisely, additional investments could lead to enough revenue to tackle some of the badly needed infrastructure projects in the community on its own.
Siding with experience
While many were disappointed by the announcement of the artificial ice being delayed for yet another year in Rankin, the hamlet made the right decision in delaying its arrival until it can get the arena up to acceptable standards.
That being said, the hamlet should also have taken the time to research the project more efficiently once it had the first $150,000 from the Nunavut government in its bank account.
Had council done that, the necessary work could have been completed in time for the upcoming season.
An argument could also be made that this is a prime example of the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti procurement policy not always making sense.
We fully support each and every project being granted to local companies with the expertise to complete the job. But when it comes to a project like the installation of artificial ice, it would have made more sense -- and been more cost efficient in the long run -- to have had a Southern company with decades of experience handle the procedure from A to Z.
It was quite an eye-opener speaking with Jacob Adams and Russell Newmark about how the North Slope Inupiat struggled for home-rule and now, 30 years later, have become one of the richest areas per capita on the planet.
Prosperity didn't happen overnight and it didn't come through pipeline ownership, or even sub-surface resource rights. It came from the age-old tax laws that every government relies on.
The tax dollars allowed the Inupiat to build a strong infrastructure that has since flourished into a billion-dollar baby called the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.
Now, the Inupiat have the best of the best teaching in their schools, and working in their state-of-the-art health centres.
Every community boasts an indoor pool and every student has a computer on their desk. They have Inupiat graduates returning home from Harvard, MIT and Cal Tech.
The wealth of the North Slope was born from a lucrative tax base, but the prosperity and pride of the people came from self-determination, an entrepreneurial spirit and good leadership, beginning with the borough's first mayor, Eben Hopson.
Hopson fought the oil companies through court to gain his people's home-rule and solid tax base and his submissions to the Berger Inquiry changed the course of history in the NWT.
Speaking to the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Calgary in 1978, Hopson hoped the efforts of the Inupiat would serve as the benchmark for all other Inuit communities.
"We regard the North Slope Borough to be the beachhead for strong regional local government all along North America's Arctic Coast. We look to Canada and Greenland to improve upon our model."
Our leaders here owe a great debt of thanks to Mr. Hopson for laying the groundwork he and his team set forth with self-determination and building a reluctant, but solid relationship with producers.
The parallels between here and there are astounding and it is with the type of forward-thinking people like Hopson that have built a legacy that will secure the future for the Inupiat into the next 30 years and many more after that.
The leaders here can repay that debt to Hopson and the Inupiat by building on his dream and bolstering the beachhead for the next regional government.
It appears the housing corporation has softened their stance on where the new elder's six-plex will be built and by the time this paper hits the street, council will have already decided.
The compromise seems like a good one, as it barely touches the campground and it would be a good place to build if Inuvik only needed six senior's homes.
The plan all along has been to expand on this development and what's propose offers zero room for expansion and would be ludicrous for the town to approve it.
As it sits now we have seniors housing scattered willy-nilly all throughout town and this new plan offers very little foresight.
Deh Cho Drum
Fascinating. That's about the only way to describe Nancy Jarrell-Hilderman's account of the landslide near her cabin at Cli Lake.
Living in mountainous regions does come with a risk attached. Jarrell-Hilderman acknowledged that. She said her husband Garth scouted the location for the cabin carefully, with the possibility of a landslide in mind.
Most places in the world have inherent hazards. Everyone who chooses to live in the Caribbean or the eastern seaboard of the United States is subject to hurricanes. Move inland to the American mid-west and the threat is primarily from tornados.
Floods strike many locales around the globe on a regular basis. Over the past week, scores of people have been killed in flooding in Europe. Even Winnipeg was threatened by the Red River flood, which wiped out several smaller communities in Manitoba and North Dakota in 1997. We've all seen how devastating forest fires can be in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the northwestern U.S. over the past few summers.
Settle into the Philippines or Central America and keep active volcanoes in mind.
Major fault lines run all the way from Mexico through North America's west coast right into Alaska. There have been predictions of a catastrophic earthquake striking Los Angeles, Vancouver or Anchorage, Alaska, for many years. Some have even warned that Vancouver could become separated from the mainland and cast into the ocean.
San Francisco felt the brunt of nature's fury in 1989. That earthquake was a magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale (they can be much more serious), and yet it caused 63 deaths and an estimated $5.9 billion in property damage. By comparison, 3,000 people perished in the larger 1906 San Francisco earthquake (magnitude 8.25) and the resulting fire.
So, in the bigger picture, natural disasters are hard to avoid.
If one factors human-caused mishaps and malevolence into the equation, things really get messy. From Chernobyl to the Sydney tar ponds, crime-ridden areas, wars and terrorist bombings, the list goes on and on. Just making the news this week: an enormous cloud of smog, known as the Asian brown cloud, is wafting over much of the Middle East and parts of Asia. The
three-kilometre thick band of ash, acids and aerosols is expected to cause millions of deaths due to respiratory complications.
Welcome to the neighbourhood.
While the NWT isn't impervious to disasters, natural or human-caused, we should be grateful that we generally are not in the direct line of fire of nature's wrath. A cold winter's day of -40 C doesn't seem so bad after all.