Editorial page

Friday, August 9, 2002
Lack of housing is old news

Growing old ... the inevitable process of body and mind breaking down and possibly rejecting you to the point where you are completely reliant on loved ones or technology to stay alive.

It sounds bleak, but it is the reality of aging. And the picture gets even darker when the system cannot handle the people it is there to help.

Financial problems forced Aven Manor to cut its bed capacity and close the doors to new clients. Managers say the territorial government did not come across with enough money even after they pleaded for several months for more funding.

While the funding fight continues between the two sides, those waiting for beds are squeezed wherever there's room.

One man has been forced to stay in a hospital bed for the last several months waiting for a room at Aven Manor.

There are now 3,000 seniors in the territory and that number is expected to increase to 7,000 by 2020. We are not getting any younger and don't need more studies to tell us we don't have the proper facilities to handle our aging population in Yellowknife.

There is a waiting list at all seniors homes in the city and Aven Manor is the only one that provides 24-hour care.

There are about 550 public housing units for seniors in the North Slave region. And 30 per cent of seniors are living in unsuitable housing.

The minister of health has allocated an additional $1.5 million in next year's budget for the care of seniors. About half a million is slated for Aven Manor.

But that won't do much more than scratch the surface.

The government better get out hammers and start building.

If it doesn't want to take on the task, let private companies do the job and subsidize the rent for seniors.

Perhaps politicians will realize the sense of urgency after a visit with some seniors forced to live in squalor. Picture your own parents in that same situation. You know - the ones who put a roof over your head so many years ago. It's your turn now.

He left a legacy

You have to admire Roger Woods.

Even while battling the leukemia that claimed his life last week, he faithfully produced his weekly Pastor's Perspective. In fact he wrote so much that we have more to publish.

His words were a regular part of Yellowknifer for the past eight years. And for the next few weeks, everyone can read some of his final thoughts.

While not everyone would agree with his message, Wood's perspective was welcome. He made us laugh and cry.

Most of all, he made us think.

That's the legacy we'll remember.

Arts strategy needed

The NWT Arts Strategy Advisory Panel has certainly heard an earful from artists throughout the NWT.

Set to wrap up its public consultations next week in Yellowknife, the group has been touring NWT communities since last September.

Artists' concerns include everything from insufficient territorial funding to the lack of studio space.

It's clear the arts have been overlooked in the North. The good news is legislators can do something about it.

The panel is expected to make recommendations to the legislative assembly in time for the fall sitting.

Considering our own premier has been seen singing for his supper at a recent Norman Wells reunion - he's partial to Bob Dylan, and not bad, at that - let's hope this panel's recommendations will get the attention from cabinet that it deserves.

There is a time to blow the whistle

Editorial Comment
Nathan VanderKlippe
Kivalliq News

Hiding disagreements stifles legitimate public debate and prevents people from seeing alternative options to whatever decisions are ultimately made.

That's why an open and transparent democratic process is so important -- it allows the public airing of numerous view points, and public input into the debate that forms an outcome.

For the most part, we're pretty good about holding our elected officials to that standard. Anyone can sit in on most legislative assembly or hamlet council meetings. But we don't have a great track record upholding the same with overnment bureaucrats. Especially among staff members, the right to free speech is one of the more routinely flouted civil liberties in Nunavut.

Most territorial departments forbid their staff from speaking with the media without the consent of the deputy minister. This can become a logistical nightmare, as staff must always seek time-consuming permission from higher-ups. More importantly, it silences vast segments of intelligent, knowledgeable voices in the government.

Now we hear that the hamlet of Rankin Inlet is doing something similar. Herman Bruce, a heavy equipment mechanic with the hamlet, was suspended for three days without pay after discussing several of his complaints with this publication. The logic for the discipline was that Bruce should have followed a set procedure for the complaint process.

Bruce's case presents an interesting dilemma. On one hand, employees should have an unmitigated right to speak their opinions, especially employees of a public entity. On the other hand, employers should have the right to expect their employees to follow due process. The question here is not whether Bruce's complaints were right or wrong -- that is for the complaint process to decide - but whether Bruce should have had a right to speak freely to the media. In many cases, the media rely on whistleblowers -- be they in government or business or parts between -- to shed light on important issues of concern. But media are often called to sort out what are simply internal matters, complaints that do not have broader implications. Bruce's case seems to lean toward the latter. That doesn't mean his difficulties should be ignored. But in this case, there is an argument to be made that proper process should have been followed before the media was involved.

A key role played by media is the airing and questioning of issues of public concern. Were Bruce's complaints directly linked with significant public safety problems, this would be an entirely different story, one that would fight to protect a municipal staff members right to inform the public.

Whether Bruce knew he was prohibited from speaking with the media is a different issue altogether. He says he didn't, and based on that alone he should not have been suspended without pay. Further, hamlet employees need to be told in very definite terms how these kinds of procedures work. Just as important, they need to know that when there are issues that the public needs to know about -- they need to approach the media without fear of reproach.

Stick to your plan

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

Monday's meeting with the residents of Husky Trailer Park is bound to spur-on another debate at the next council meeting.

This park has been a thorn in the side of council since the town took it over and, by the looks of things, they are far from finished with their obligations to the people who live there.

It's a tough call, but unless some deal can be made to eventually bring the park up to code, I think council had better stick to their original decision.

For starters, there are 12 trailers parked where there should only be 11. That would require forcing one home owner out and moving all the others a foot or two to comply with code.

One owner had quote on such a move and they were told, "Whether it's three feet or 30 feet, the price is $3,000."

Second, is the cost of replacing the utilidor. Depending on who you listen to, the system is either a "disaster" or "needs some work", but replacement of 70 metres of utilidor will run the town about $175,000.

While these numbers would still fall drastically short of the town manager's estimate of $500,000, it still is an expensive undertaking.

Given the town's profit margin on the pad rentals of $5,000 per year, that investment would take the town 40 years to pay off -- not an investment you'd expect a private developer to make.

If this were a private development, there would be no golden parachute offered. A landlord need only give proper notice and the tenant must vacate.

The situation is an awkward one, to say the least.

The town picked up this property when the previous owner couldn't pay back taxes.

The place was not up to code then and the town couldn't sell the property without first complying with code.

Should the town leave the situation as is, they are liable for any insurance claim against that property and since the development is not up to code they could also be found negligent should a fire rip through there.

So, for the third time since they've owned it, the town is trying to crawl out from under this dilemma.

You have to feel for these residents and that's why I think the town should make some room to allow for the residents to form a co-op.

The residents could assume liability and gradually, through attrition move out one home and bring the place up to code.

Since MACA is helping the town out with other utilidor upgrades, certainly a few dollars could be shared with these people.

Looking around at the rental situation here in town, the last thing we need is to get rid of affordable housing.

Between a rock and a hard place

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

The Fort Liard RCMP's plea to the community for co-operation in catching bootleggers brings to light an unfortunate but bona fide problem in communities that restrict or prohibit alcohol. Not only do bootleggers and drug dealers prey on the addicted, they hook the young, trying to set up clientele for the future.

It's the RCMP's job to catch these criminals. Yet they cannot nab all bootleggers and drug traffickers without assistance from local residents. Anonymous tips are often useful. However, occasions also arise when it may be necessary to testify against a bootlegger or drug dealer in court. Let's face it, it's not an envious position.

The potential for backlash from bootleggers and drug dealers may be a deterrent to those who wish to speak up, but the alternative is not appealing. While there is a possibility that bootleggers or drug dealers may take retaliatory action, there is also a possibility that an intoxicated individual may arbitrarily wreak havoc through vandalism or violence.

There comes a time when individuals have to make a decision. Is it worth taking a stand to make delinquents pay a price, or is it best to say nothing and allow poison to flow relatively unimpeded into the community?

Happy Daze

Congratulations to Mackenzie Daze organizers on a successful four-day celebration. There was some tinkering with the format this year, putting more emphasis on a music-fest. Unfortunately there weren't many people inside the arena listening to the music on Saturday while a few outdoor events coincided. Outside of that conflict, it was a well-arranged event.

It was good to see a new event like the strong-man competition take hold. Initially it didn't look like there would be many participants or spectators, but the numbers gradually built. By the end of the afternoon there were nearly 20 competitors and scores of onlookers.

Hand games is an event that has been revived. It is extremely popular in Fort Providence, and that's also good to see. With a lot of nostalgia about the war canoe races, which have fizzled out over the past few years, maybe it's time to make an effort to breathe new life into that event as well. Teams from other Northern communities used to come to Fort Providence to paddle for pride and major prize money. The two-person canoe races, although amusing, simply don't elicit the same excitement.


In last Wednesday's city council briefs, Yellowknifer, July 24, it was reported that Coun. Kevin O'Reilly made the lone vote against adopting the priorities, policies, and budget committee's recommended plans for Twin Pine Hill. This information is incorrect. Coun. Dave Ramsay also voted against the plan.