Editorial page

Friday, May 2, 2003
More Mounties, please

As a city grows, it's natural to expect that the "serve and protect" crew should grow in size, too.

Yellowknife's population has doubled in size since 1986 -- despite what the last census says.

Yet we see only two additional officers in Yellowknife's detachment for a complement today of 30.

Policing today requires much more effort than it did 17 years ago.

Leaps in forensic investigation and new avenues of policing into community service such as student awareness programs -- not to mention patrolling a city with wider-ranging neighbourhoods than 17 years ago -- all require more stetsons on the job.

Were there way too many police in Yellowknife in 1986 that adding only two coppers in 17 years is seen as providing adequate service to Yellowknife?

We don't think so.

It says something that there hasn't been a funding increase since the 1980s, according to NWT Justice Minister Roger Allen.

With pretty much the same number of police now as 17 years ago, we shudder to think of the case loads the current Mounties have on their desks generated from a population twice as large as then.

Gem of a donation

Here's a pat on the back to De Beers Canada for a recent donation of a half million dollars to Yellowknife Catholic Schools. The money will help build the career and technical centre project, scheduled to begin in June.

Any investment in the future of the North's workforce is honourable, progressive, and should be applauded.

So, as long as companies like De Beers continue pumping money into projects that produce a better educated and trained population, we'll continue to clap loudly.

It's all part of building Yellowknife and building the North for a more prosperous future.

Time to level the playing field

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Value can often rely as much on perception as substance.

Properly promoted, an item of relatively little worth can suddenly be viewed as something of great value.

Anyone remember the feeding frenzies over Bre-X and dot.com stocks?

Conversely, something portrayed as a bargain basement item will often be treated as such, regardless of its true value.

In fact, that illusion of worthlessness remains a major asset of those astute enough to see its true value.

Then there are the prognosticators - those who will often buy dirt cheap to simply see what happens.

Previous Rankin Inlet hamlet councils were guilty of encouraging just such prognostication by treating prime-time real estate as if it were Arizona River sludge under London Bridge.

For decades, council placed such little value on land lots that prime commercial real estate would be scooped up simply on land speculation.

These 'investors' in Rankin's future would then stick a building on the lot -- usually an old dilapidated eyesore -- and wait to see what project might come along they could use the land for.

Once the building was in place, the title holder would only have to pay a $250 annual land lease to maintain control of the lot.

This is a practice Rankin's current council must thoroughly eliminate if it has any hope of encouraging commercial development at fair market value.

Commercial lots in the downtown core of any municipality have to be viewed as premium acquisitions.

Council is currently in the process of identifying its prime lots and placing a dollar value on them.

It will then put out a request for commercial lots to see if any interest exists for new project development.

A little research into the not-so-glorious past of Rankin real estate shows that just about anyone who wanted a parcel of land got it.

Proper rules and regulations were rarely followed, and there was a very real perception within the community that a number of people were getting lots they had no entitlement to.

In other words, they were getting something they shouldn't have and at far less than what could be perceived as fair market value.

Hopefully, council will affix price tags to these lots befitting their value.

And, just as importantly, begin to follow the bylaw governing land acquisitions to the letter.

The move would be a far cry from guaranteeing commercial development.

But, it would create an equal playing field for all interested parties and, at the same time, be another positive sign of a responsible municipal government at work.

Smoke, mirrors and cabinet

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

Fort Smith's Jack Van Camp brings up some excellent points in his letter and, spelling mistakes aside, I'd generously grade him and his silent partner with a big red C+ for his effort.

He's right about the bloated bureaucracy at the NWT Power Corp.

In preparation for their intervention on the most recent rate hike, the Association of Municipalities for Fair Power Rates requested a cost estimate for administering 200 separate rates to 41,000 residents and the NTPC declined to offer that information. The proposal alone from the power corporation required a 1,000-page explanation of why they need to suck more money from us.

It's obvious the corporation was bloated even before division, but when cuts were proposed, cabinet stepped in to stop layoffs.

Van Camp is right about the smoke and mirrors, but the smoke is coming from Yellowknife -- not Hay River.

Joe Handley, the minster responsible for the power corp., is in favour of a single rate, but "cabinet" is opposed.

OK ... cabinet, huh? So let's examine just who in cabinet would be opposed and for what reasons:

Premier Stephen Kakfwi represents the Sahtu, where residents pay some of the highest power rates in the territory. Vince Steen represents Nunakput residents, who pay the highest rates, Jim Antoine represents Nahendeh, which is all served by diesel generated power. Roger Allen serves Inuvik Twin Lakes.

So that leaves only Michael Miltenberger, who serves Thebacha (Fort Smith), and Jake Ootes in Yellowknife who represent hydro-based communities on cabinet.

Certainly these two votes aren't enough to sway cabinet against levelized power rates, so we have to believe there is some other motivation at work here.

Something that stinks of political paybacks lurking below the surface here and I don't think we should have to tolerate this kind of action from an assembly who, from the start, have been touting their "openness and accountability" like some badge of courage.

Recorded phone calls, conflict of interest charges levelled and dropped, ministers demoted and members promoted, lawyers and assistants given golden handshakes, I know I'm not alone in wondering just how "open and accountable" this government has been.

The way this government has carried on, I think we can all speculate to where the smoke is really coming from, but I'd like to see a recorded vote on just who is in favour of flat rate power and who isn't -- and I'd like to see it before the next election.

Government feel they can fetter away the rest of their term without making a move on this, with the excuse that they're awaiting a report from the energy secretariat.

I say we can't wait that long.

We, the share holders of this Crown corporation should demand accountability from this board of directors and find out what really happened to the flat rate proposal.

I have my suspicions that should the real truth be known, many from this government wouldn't make it through the term, never mind an election.

Be prepared

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Many Fort Simpson residents seem to take the spring breakup for granted.

Practically everybody is well aware that the community could brave a flood but the possibility seems so remote. After all, the last evacuation in Fort Simpson occurred 40 years ago.

For the past several years, the ice has pretty well rotted in place. There are always some big chunks of ice along the river banks but much of it flows harmlessly down the Mackenzie.

Yet reading the flier issued by the Fort Simpson Flood committee can really make a person stop and think. As slim as the odds are, if the river ice jammed and water did begin rising, are villagers truly ready to be evacuated to the airport with little notice?

The scene, if it were to unfold, would certainly be surreal -- nearly 1,200 people crammed into a makeshift campground.

Everyone would undoubtedly be worried about their pets, property and possessions left behind (although it seems likely that some people would smuggle their pets out to the airport in their vehicles rather than leave things to chance at the village compound, even if it is on higher ground).

It would be like a scene from the television news, of a disaster that always seems to happen somewhere far away.

The information provided by the Fort Simpson Flood committee is not intended to be alarmist. It's a valuable reminder of what could very well happen every spring.

Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.

The annual NWT volunteer awards ceremony, held in Fort Simpson this year, was a breath of fresh air. It was nice to see people who work so hard getting some well deserved recognition.

Yes, these selfless individuals would quickly tell you -- and most did say so on Sunday -- that the most meaningful rewards are inherent in what they do. They are fulfilled by the smiles and the thanks they receive from those who benefit from their work. That's all the motivation they need.

Yet that shouldn't stop their neighbours and fellow community members from hailing these folks as the champions they are.

There aren't enough of them.

If only more people held a philosophy similar to Fort Simpson's Stephen Rowan. True to form, he gave freely of his time to lead visitors on historical tours of Fort Simpson on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Being modest, Rowan down-played his role in making life more enjoyable for others in the community.

He said his voluntarism is just an extension of his passion for things such as history, reading and skiing. Surely he's sincere, but not everyone chooses to share their passions, allowing others to partake, learn and revel in the activities.

Stephen Rowan has chosen to share. For that, we owe him, and all the volunteers in the Deh Cho, a debt of gratitude.