Editorial page

Friday, May 16, 2003
Traffic jam

When city council sold the lot adjacent to Stanton Territorial Hospital to Westfair Foods for $1.75 million last December, one of the few to protest was hospital CEO Al Woods.

Among his concerns were traffic flow and emergency vehicle access for ambulances due to the increased number of vehicles that will pass through the hospital's south access road to get to the store.

Last month, the city's Development Appeal Board ruled that the access route was never designated for emergency use only.

We believe Woods' concerns over traffic flow and emergency vehicle access are valid.

According to the most recent traffic survey from May 28, 1998, 11,087 vehicles passed through the the Range Lake-Old Airport Road intersection. The amount of traffic reported at the hospital entrance was 629 vehicles. This will change once the store is open.

While the new store will also have an entrance onto Old Airport Road, it will be available to westbound traffic only. The rest of the shoppers, including transport trucks, will use the hospital road to enter the store parking lot and loading area.

Fire Chief Mickey Beauchamp has shown little concern about the swarm of cars and trucks that we expect will pass through this very short road.

He says there's no reason why the "road should be blocked at any time." Yet, it was only last March that Beauchamp's deputy, Lieut. Chuck Dewar, complained that Yellowknife drivers do not yield to emergency vehicles.

We wonder how this road will be on a busy Saturday, especially if there's a little fender bender.

Granted, the hospital still has public access down the narrower Byrne Road but it was closed for sewer repairs for several days last summer. Any future disruptions will send even more vehicles, including ambulances, through the south access.

Frustrated shoppers may also use Byrne to cut through the hospital parking lot to get to the store if congestion at the Old Airport Road intersection is a problem.

Of course, all this would be a non-issue had Health Minister Michael Miltenberger simply written a letter last year with a commitment by the territorial government to buy the land for the hospital in the future.

No money had to exchange hands and the NWT could have had it for far less than the price Westfair paid. This would have guaranteed suitable space to expand the hospital when the time comes.

Instead, we may be left with a burgeoning traffic jam for decades to come, smack in front of our hospital emergency entrance.

We hope city councillors stop counting the dollars from the land sale long enough to deal with any traffic problems. In an emergency, minutes can mean the difference between life and death.

The cream will rise to the top

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Full marks to Coun. David Ittinuar for his response to Coun. Laura Kowmuk during Rankin Inlet's regular council meeting on May 5.

Kowmuk was upset with the job requirements needed to fill the position of municipal works maintenance manager for the hamlet.

She told Ittinuar a journeyman's certificate in a related field, or an engineering technology certificate were too high for Inuit to obtain.

In her spiel Kowmuk said, "When I hear some qablunaaq say they're going to get that job, I get really upset."

If this were an anti-racism column, that statement from an official elected to serve ALL the people of the community would provide the fodder for our attack.

But it is not, so we'll let the remark speak for itself.

This column is aimed at the notion Inuit aren't capable of landing jobs of high standards.

That's a point Ittinuar addressed by informing Kowmuk he, himself, holds a journeyman's certificate.

Ittinuar didn't want to beat his own drum too loudly, so we'll do it for him. He is, in fact, the holder of a provincial red seal automotive certificate.

More to the point, Ittinuar informed Kowmuk there are a number of journeymen in Rankin now and many more are working to achieve that goal.

In fact, according to Dept. of Education numbers, seven journeymen certificates have been issued in Rankin Inlet since Division in 1999, and 10 across the Kivalliq region.

There are an additional 19 registered apprentices currently active in the region.

There are many, many Inuit working hard in the trades and at post-secondary institutions to reach their goals.

During the next few years, many of these people will move into government, health, education and trades-related positions without once asking to lower the bar.

Whether the hamlet eventually hires an Inuk, caucasian, or any other race or nationality is immaterial.

What does matter, is that the best person for the job is hired from the applications received.

That's what will benefit our community.

There are too many influential people in this territory who want lower standards in education, government and the workforce. Maybe they believe they're doing the right thing, but they are not.

A Grade 12 certificate full of credits for comic book reading and basket weaving would be no more than a wall decoration.

Hiring people for jobs they are not qualified to do is an exercise in futility.

Those who push to lower the bar have opted for an easy road leading nowhere. And, more often than not, they're more concerned with personal agendas than the future of Nunavut.

As for those who would make decisions based on race, creed or colour -- they will forever remain part of the problem, and never be part of the solution.

Brains on ice

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

Along with a collection of other gawkers, I watched in amazement as a group of snowmobilers forced their machines across open water down at the public dock last Sunday afternoon.

Then Tuesday afternoon, I'm called away from my looming deadline, to attend the rescue of Mr. Holman who, despite the designation of "Safety Officer" emblazoned across his company jacket's shoulder, tried to negotiate his snow machine across open water.

What is this fascination with cheating death? Are our memories so short?

On May 19 of last year, Roderick Simon died when his snow machine failed to clear some open water just north of town.

The town mourned this senseless loss, but it seems no one has learned.

I've heard reports of people walking across the ice and falling through and I'm bracing for the next ice water drowning story I'm going to have to write.

No easy way out

In this job, I get to see some extreme contrasts in the community and this issue reflects that so well.

Last Friday the community hall was packed to the rafters with pride as friends and families beamed upon the graduation of their loved ones.

The audience for Monday's sitting of the Supreme Court was equally supportive, but not near as proud, while two young men were sent to jail for selling cocaine.

My heart sinks every time I watch someone so young, and with so much promise, go to jail because they were looking for an easy way to make a buck.

These two guys were not hardened drug dealers -- they weren't even selling the stuff -- but in the eyes of the law, procurement is still trafficking.

Now their future is in ruin because they were looking for a few free lines, joints or to simply gain favour in the eyes of a peer.

While those grads will be spending the rest of 2003 earning big salaries, these two guys will be doing time in YCC.

There is no easy way to make a living -- believe me, I've tried. Every person needs to work hard at an education and even harder at their careers.

If the lure of a steady paycheque isn't enough to bend you straight, just think about the profound sorrow in the faces of your mom, dad and grandmother watching you get sentenced to jail.

That's a sentence worse than anything the court can hand down.

Rock and a hard place

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Insurance rates, in some cases, are a runaway train. It's true for NWT municipalities and it's true for vehicle owners in many parts of Canada.

Now Steve Malesku is raising a concern that may apply to many homeowners with wood stoves. He can't find an insurance company willing to offer him coverage at a reasonable rate. The one broker that's willing to take him on wants six times what he used to pay.

Why does Malesku insist on having a wood stove?

Well, he's in a predicament shared by many Northerners. He doesn't want to rely on one source of heat in the dead of winter. Other than his wood stove, he gets propane delivered from Fort Nelson, B.C. For his heating system to work, he also needs the Fort Liard power plant to be functioning properly. Without a wood stove, he can't afford for his furnace to break down either.

When it's -35 C, it is reassuring to have a backup source of heat. Not only does it keep one's body warm, it keeps the pipes from freezing.

Of course, it's risky to go without insurance. Without it, a house fire like Malesku had last year is all the more devastating.

So people are caught between a rock and a hard place. Some of them are undoubtedly failing to declare their wood stoves to side-step the insurance hassle. That practice may make life easier in the short term but should the stove cause a fire, those homeowners are going to be up the creek.

Somebody -- and the territorial government is as good a candidate as anybody -- must ascertain how pervasive this problem is across the NWT. If it's a matter of certifying more inspectors and assigning responsibility over who pays those inspectors, so be it.

Something must be done. Homeowners with wood stoves shouldn't be left languishing.

Full tummies

The graduation ceremony for four cooks in Trout Lake was a major event in the community of approximately 65 residents.

Not only did those in attendance get a chance to applaud the commitment of the cooking students (and their instructor, and the sponsoring businesses and government departments), everyone was treated to a first-class meal.

Even though that was filling in itself, the desserts were hard to resist. Of course we all had the option of showing restraint and only sampling morsels of the rich pastries. That proved next to impossible for those in line for the baked Alaska. Phoebe Punch was serving up huge servings of the ice cream cake. One woman's plate, which she was holding by the edge, literally cracked under the weight of the enormous slice.

Our compliments to the chefs.