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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

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Hot dog wars: let the marketplace decide

The sizzling summer debate over hot dog carts -- or the lack thereof -- downtown is one that has played out from time to time in recent summers in towns and cities across the country. On one side of the debate, we inevitably have what in principle is a well-intended municipal regulatory regime -- usually in the form of a restrictive bylaw -- that in practice often comes to appear as oppressive, punitive and just plain silly.

On the other side, we have the colourful cast of hot deg vendors, wanting to sell their edible wares on the street.

Fortunately, in most Canadian cities some semblance of summer sanity has prevailed, allowing hot dog vendors to ply their trade without too much government interference.

Alas, not yet in Yellowknife. Under a 1990 omnibus business licence bylaw, hot dog carts -- bureaucratically described as "mobile canteens" -- are not allowed "to operate in the downtown area between 44th Street and 54th Street, and 49th Avenue and 52nd Avenue, inclusive except to serve construction sites."

There are three exempt hot dog cart vendors who were operating prior to Aug. 27, 1990, who have renewed their licences annually, and have been effectively "grandfathered" into the bylaw. So they can sell hot dogs downtown; the trick is finding one of them on a summer day at lunch.

The 13-year-old business licence bylaw was an attempt to regulate all sorts of businesses in Yellowknife. Mobile canteens were just one small area targeted. No doubt some of the regulations make sense.

While the city has a legitimate interest in regulating hot dog carts downtown in the areas of public health, parking and impact on other tax-based restaurants in the core, that interest shouldn't rise to the level of effectively banishing the hot dog trade -- which is what has happened.

Limit the number of vendor licences, of course. And charge a reasonable licensing fee given these business don't pay taxes like other restaurants. But don't grind them out of existence. Let the marketplace decide their future.

There's a limited number of eateries offering takeout in downtown Yellowknife at lunchtime. Office workers buying the odd hot dog on the street during our all-too-short summer season are not going to put them out of business.

It's time Yellowknife lightened up a bit. Who knows but perhaps Mayor Gord Van Tighem, members of council and Glenn Peterson, manager of city business licensing, might actually enjoy a hot dog over lunch on a downtown sidewalk as they chatted in the summer sun with real Yellowknifers.

Don't know a good thing

Editorial Comment
Chris Puglia
Kivalliq News

Nunavut is plagued with social problems.

Unemployment, low rates of graduation, suicide: the list goes on.

The various levels of government say they want to find solutions to these problems and help their people lead productive, safe and healthy lives.

So why is it that when solutions seem to arise they are met with negatively?

Take the Meadowbank Gold Mine in Baker Lake for instance.

Here is a project with the potential to create hundreds of jobs and pump millions into the local economy.

You'd think there would be people lining up at Cumberland's door trying to expedite the process of bringing the mine on stream.

Instead the project is at a stand-still waiting for the federal government to decide who should take the lead.

Before that it was bogged down in territorial paper work.

Of course taking the necessary precautions and ensuring the protection of the environment and traditional way of life is important.

But, this project hasn't even reached that stage yet.

Same with the Doris Lake mine and the Bathurst Road and Port Project.

The people of Nunavut are being held down by their own government's and the federal government's bureaucracy.

Jobs that can be created by these developments will not just put people to work, they will be a source for hope.

Students will have a reason to stay in school and that will give communities self esteem.

Granted development is a sensitive issue and it should be approached cautiously.

But, at the moment, it seems it is being approached nonchalantly, thrown up on the shelf under the pretense of needing more study.

Businesses don't mind if things are scrutinized and regulated properly; they do mind if it seems they are throwing their money at a lost cause.

Nunavut has three mines and a potential major transportation system that could mean great things for the development of the territory.

That will translate into less social problems and more jobs.

It will also showcase the territory to other developers wanting to capitalize on Nunavut's mineral wealth and spin off business.

But, show investors and developers they are doomed before they begin and the territory will be lucky if any new business tries to set up shop.

I am not saying throw caution to the wind and allow anyone to do business here. But, do create a cooperative atmosphere that will show companies they can do business here.

Famine at the feast

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

The new food bank is a nice idea and the people behind it worked hard to get it established so quick, but I really wonder about the good that will come from it.

With zero unemployment in Inuvik, I know that people who want to work can find it here -- that's not the issue.

There are hungry people here and we have to ask "why?" Soup kitchens are busy and kids are going to school without breakfast and lunch.

The source of hunger is not coming from a lack of work, but coming from an abundance of addiction.

Instead of feeding their bodies, people are feeding their addictions. Booze and bingo and everything else in between takes a priority to addicts.

A food bank is a Band-Aid solution heaped on the backs of the town's people because the territorial government has failed miserably at attacking the problem at the source.

There are one and sometimes two addictions treatment centres in the NWT and they are taxed to their limits, but we keep on building new jails.

Yellowknife has just built the Hilton of hoosegows and Inuvik has a brand new young offender's centre sitting empty.

Most of the inmates in Yellowknife are there because of booze, not because they are evil people. The young offenders that were in the centre here were most likely there because their problems with alcohol or a home environment brought them down because of it.

We dance around the addiction problem with nice words and so much rhetoric; we step over the drunks, and the puddles they leave behind in our streets each day, but nothing changes.

A food bank is a great idea to help single parents make it to the end of the month, but I'd hate to see it used to subsidize another round of drinks.

If a drunk is down to their last $20 and faced with buying another round or putting food on the table, they might chose the latter, but if a food bank is going to back them up, you know as well as I do that the bartender will soon have that $20 in his till.

Homeless shelters and food banks are great ideas when times are tough -- I don't have a problem with that. There is more opportunity here than anywhere else in the country right now and there is no reason why anyone should be going hungry.

The people who are hungry and homeless are the ones on the fringe -- the alcoholics and addicts who couldn't meet their minimum payments or couldn't keep the party out of the government's house.

Their stomachs crave booze more than burgers and a free bag of groceries will only perpetuate the problem.

I think it's time for some tough love here. We need a facility for people who fall through the cracks -- the ones that housing won't have and the ones that really want help.

This youth offenders centre here would make a top notch treatment centre and I'd like to see it put to work in a proactive, rather than reactive way.

There is little we can do for the habitually hungry in this town who don't want to be helped. But to the ones who do, we should have a place for them to go other than YCC.

A clean, secure building with trained staff could go a long way to a healthy appetite and a healthier future.

Political perception

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

It looks like the race for Nahendeh MLA will be wide open.

There's already been rumours circulating as to who's going to enter the fray. Notwithstanding, some prospective candidates were waiting to see what incumbent Jim Antoine would do before taking the plunge. Antoine has been a juggernaut since stepping onto the political scene, first as chief of the Liidlii Kue First Nations, then as MLA.

During the last territorial election in 1999, I won't soon forget sitting in a room with electoral officer Rita Cazon and candidate Paul Gammon as the results began to come in from the communities. Gammon, who had 20-plus years of administrative and contractual experience around the region, was visibly disappointed in the outcome. He admitted that he thought he had solid support from the voters in Trout Lake, Fort Liard and Wrigley. The vote count, particularly in those communities, indicated that he was a distant second choice.

As Antoine has acknowledged, he has not been very vocal in the legislative assembly during his career. Rarely did he stand up and demand change. He contends that he effected change quietly, behind the scenes. Some people question the validity of that claim, but a majority of his voters clearly put stock in his abilities when he sought a third term. Doesn't that speak for itself?

Being MLA, as with most positions of political leadership, is surely not an easy job. There are constituents approaching you with polar opposite expectations. For example, some are pro-development while others are anti-development. Then there are the basic demands to improve local education, health care and roads -- and create more jobs while you're at it. Who doesn't want those things?

As well, there are numerous individuals who, although deserving of sympathy, present personal problems that no politician could resolve.

Let's not forget an MLA's hectic travel schedule, let alone that of a minister (or a minister holding two portfolios).

Antoine also had the unenviable position of representing territorial government policies in the face of the Deh Cho Process. The Deh Cho First Nations have essentially held the territorial government in contempt. By extension, it often made for an adversarial relationship when Antoine answered to DCFN leaders at political assemblies. He says he doesn't take any of it personally. It's something his successor will have to deal with, perhaps in a different manner all together.

On the upside, the job offers a handsome salary. That can't be hard to take. The satisfaction in seeing things get done, in seeing projects benefit local people, must be very gratifying.

So who's next in line for the job? That's up to us as voters. A healthy list of candidates would be welcome. Bring on the contenders.


The photo "Go Fly A Kite" appearing in last Wednesday's Yellowknifer featured Taylor Anne Maracle, not Taylorann Miracle. Yellowknifer apologizes for the confusion.

The photo "Sudsy Helper" appearing in Friday's Yellowknifer was actually of Joshua Hardy, not his brother, Matthew Hardy, as the photo stated. Yellowknifer apologizes for the mistake.

A headline in Yellowknifer July 4, 'Man touched girl', had no basis in fact. While a man has been charged with sexual interference, the facts of the case have not yet been proven in court. We apologize for the mistake.