Editorial page

Wednesday, September 4, 2002
City and businesses need to take a stand

It's time for businesses or the city to practise tough love when it comes to smoking bylaws.

Non-smokers have to wait two more years, as of Jan. 1, 2003, to enjoy a 100 per cent smoke-free environment in local restaurants.

But last week concerned citizens were pushing city council to impose the total smoking ban on Jan. 1, 2003.

City councillor Blake Lyons was the only one who gave the real reason we are waiting another two years -- money.

Restaurant owners could lose business if they cannot cater to smokers. But their loss will come nowhere near the estimated $31 million in health-care costs attributed to tobacco in the Northwest Territories.

The problem is that NWT smokers just can't seem to understand that tobacco is bad for them and those breathing nearby.

The North leads the pack in smokers across the country. And that's where we need to get tough.

It was our hope that implementing a gradual smoking ban in city restaurants -- starting in 2000 -- would have curbed our smoking rate, but it shows no sign of slowing down almost three years later.

Banning it outright in restaurants in January would be a good chance for us to convince smokers that we are serious about cutting our smoking rates and health-care costs.

If businesses oppose such a move then show us how much you care about your smokers' business and build an enclosed area for them so non-smokers can really breathe in 100 per cent smoke-free air.

Be ready for anything

Ask any old Boy Scout what they remember most about their years in uniform and it will probably be the motto: 'Be prepared.'

It's a mantra all of us who enjoy the wilderness around Yellowknife should adopt. After all, it was just 14 months ago 18-year-old Kyle Harry was killed by a bear and just two weeks since the Walters family had a close encounter.

Anyone who goes onto the land must be prepared for anything. That means notifying people where you're going and sticking to the plan. That means understanding how to handle encounters with wildlife and knowing what to do if you get into trouble.

It means packing more than just a windbreaker and a granola bar. Look in your Boy Scout or Girl Guide manual or go to the library or RWED office so you know what to do and what to take, even for a three-hour hike -- like a survival kit, first aid supplies and anything else you might need to survive an unexpected night, or nights, on the land.

Time to get serious

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

For a cargo company seeking support, the points raised before Rankin Inlet hamlet council by the Northern Transportation Company Ltd.'s Tommy Owlijoot carried little weight. Owlijoot's talk of an "alliance" among NTCL, Gardewine North and the Hudson Bay Railroad Co. didn't impress the council -- and rightly so.

Referring to the alliance as the Kivalliq Transportation Group, the best Owlijoot could offer was the move toward one shipping bill and the assurance NTCL is "negotiating" with Gardewine North on a better rate for shipping goods from Winnipeg to Churchill.

Here's a flash for NTCL: If Gardewine North won't lower its Winnipeg-to-Churchill rates enough to be competitive in the Kivalliq market, maybe it's time to find another partner in your "alliance."

Having one bill for customers is something NTCL should have addressed a long time ago. And Coun. Justin Merritt was bang on when he implied Kivalliq consumers are tired of hearing about NTCL's "negotiating" problems with Gardewine.

First of all, if NTCL thought for one minute the fuel resupply contract was not going out to tender after the tainted fuel fiasco of the past year, its senior-management types had their heads buried in the sand.

Second, if ever there was a prime example of companies doing business in the North being spoiled by the monopolistic environment of the past few decades, this is it. For the size of company it has become, we can't get our heads around NTCL's contention that it "cannot dictate" the rates it wants from Winnipeg to Churchill or Thompson. It's not like no other transportation company would jump at the chance to get a slice of the region's lucrative cargo pie.

Merritt was right again when he said NTCL has become big enough to take matters in its own hands and set up an independent shipping system if its "alliance" won't help deliver competitive rates to Kivalliq residents.

NTCL's claim it will no longer be able to conduct business in the region with dry cargo alone was met with the same collective shrug of the shoulders by Rankin council that the company is, obviously, getting from its "alliance" partners. The time is now for NTCL to realize the gravy train has jumped its tracks.

If the company has any hope of support from the Kivalliq, its senior managers had better show up with an offer for that support. And that offer has to be a lot more substantial than one bill for consumers. If not, NTCL will soon receive its own cargo bill -- and that will be for a one-way trip out of the Kivalliq.

Negotiated nightmare

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

Stellar sweeper Kudos to town council for ponying up the dough to get the new street sweeper.

That piece of gear will go a long way towards improving tourism here and the health of the people too.

The machine will save the town the expense and delays they were having by contracting the service out, and it will also get a cleaner street with this machine.

As well, with gravel becoming a premium product here, the purchase couldn't have come at a better time.

Is the caller there?

I never know who's going to be on the other end of the line when I pick up the phone in the Drum office.

Often it's the regular calls for advertising and other newspaper business, but sometimes I get into some pretty lively discussions here.

I fielded a couple of angry calls over my last week's rant over the college contract and the campground issue.

While most would dread taking these calls, I actually enjoy getting them.

I need to hear other opinions as it helps me understand these issues better.

This is your paper and I can't formulate an educated opinion without input from you.

If people don't comment or call back, I have no way of knowing their side of the story, and I can't print rumours.

As a new guy in the community I can't sit here and type out the right answer to every issue that faces this part of the world, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I sugar-coated every editorial either.

The purpose of an editorial comment is not necessarily to be right, it's written to inspire debate on issues that need to be debated.

I've got a pretty thick skin and big enough shoulders to take the criticism, but it's also in the reader's best interest that I dish it out as well.

Keep those nasty calls and letters coming, but I'd appreciate some good ones now and then too!

C'mon summer!

Sure felt good to get out and suck up some of that warm Delta sun during the slo-pitch tourney held last weekend.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking we were kind of cheated out of a summer this year.

We did get some hot weather during the arts festival, but that was almost too warm to appreciate.

This is a bittersweet time of year; the kids returning to school and people ending their summer vacations.

And we all know what's just around the corner, but this time of year has got to be the best.

After the cool snap, most of the bugs have disappeared, the leaves are turning and the temperature has been perfect to get out for some fishing.

Let's all cross our fingers and toes for a nice, long Indian Summer!

Turbulent times

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

It's been a tumultuous few weeks for a couple of chiefs in Deh Cho.

Pehdzeh Ki Chief Percy Hardisty, less than a year into his term, was unceremoniously removed from office on Aug. 12 while he was in Edmonton on medical leave. Acho Dene Koe Chief Floyd Bertrand, only elected three months ago, has apparently been the subject of a much-rumoured petition calling for him to step down.

Interestingly, both of these chiefs had a solid majority of the vote in their electoral victories.

Neither of the aforementioned circumstances are ground-breaking precedents. Between being ousted and resigning, it's been quite some time since a Wrigley chief has completed a full term. In Liard, petitions have become commonplace. Bertrand's two most recent predecessors, Judy Kotchea and Harry Deneron, were, by way of petition, also called upon to renounce their seats.

Somehow this conflict must all get sorted out. As with the Liberal party on a national level, when infighting and squabbling come to the fore, there are many other important issues that consequently do not get addressed. It's counter-productive.

Should evidence of corruption or illegal activities ever surface among chief and council, of course action should be taken immediately. Otherwise band members should think long and hard before they attempt to disrupt the affairs of their own local government.

The Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation in Kakisa offers a shining example. There, Lloyd Chicot has served as chief for over a decade and was given another mandate by the elders in May. Granted, it's a tight-knit community of fewer than 50 people, but band member Margaret Leishman -- whose father, Phillip Simba, was a long-time chief in Fort Providence and Kakisa -- had the following pearl of wisdom to offer on the issue of leadership:

"If you continue changing leaders nothing will get done."

Keeping chiefs and band councillors accountable is one thing, but needlessly creating instability is something else.

Building knowledge

For the cynical, last week's gathering in the Deh Cho First Nations' boardroom was yet just another oil and gas workshop. It has been suggested more than once that workshops have become an industry in themselves in the North.

On the other hand, since the political provisions to open the door to development aren't yet agreeable to the Deh Cho First Nations, why not spend the interim educating people about the oil and gas industry? Informed decisions emanate from workshops such as the one held last week.