Editorial page

Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Time for candidates to step forward

While Mayor Gord Van Tighem's announcement last week that he will seek re-election for a second term in the mayor's chair was widely anticipated, it is timely in that it marks the unofficial kick-off to the Oct. 20 municipal election two months from today.

Now is the time for potential challengers to Van Tighem, be they on council or private non-elected citizens, to step forward and throw their hats in the ring. That's what democracy is all about.

Granted, as long as the weather holds and we can squeeze a few more days out of the brief but glorious Arctic summer, municipal politics may not be the first topic to come to mind over the barbecue. Perhaps it should be.

The mayor's race is vitally important and a chance for citizens to speak with their ballots. Just ask Dave Lovell, the two-term ex-mayor, how important that democratic choice can be. In 2000, he was defeated by Van Tighem, finishing third behind runner-up Bob Brooks. Three years earlier, Lovell barely held on as mayor by six votes, surviving a surprising challenge by maverick Matthew Grogono.

Now is also the time for councillors Dave McCann, Blake Lyons, Kevin O'Reilly, Alan Woytuik, Wendy Bisaro, Robert Hawkins and Dave Ramsay to declare their intentions.

Only Coun. Ben McDonald has said he won't run again for personal reasons. Ramsay, Hawkins and Woytuik are considered likely candidates for MLAs seats in the Nov. 24 territorial election.

It's time to tell Yellowknife voters what's up.

Road of dreams

Like W.P. Kinsella's "field of dreams", if you build it, will they come?

That's the question the city must now ask about a road linking the Kam Lake industrial park to Highway 3?

It's been in the plans almost since the first industrial lots opened there 30 years ago. A $2 million pricetag always drops the project to the bottom of the priority list.

Right now, it's scheduled for construction in 2011, but council has written the territorial government asking for funding for the road.

Given the GNWT's budget situation, the city may be better off buying Lotto 6/49 tickets to finance the project.

It also has to put this project up against other needs: rebuilding Franklin on the hill down to Old Town, fixing the traffic mess that is Old Airport Road, and all the repair jobs that come up. It's time to decide whether the road is needed now or later. Earlier this year, just three industrial lots were left at Kam Lake, down from 35 two years ago.

More industrial lots will be needed and such a road could open up a whole new bank of much needed residential lots.

Such a plan could transform the proposed road from an expense into an investment.

Decisions based on fact

Editorial Comment
Chris Puglia
Kivalliq News

The same-sex marriage issue in Canada has been one of heated debate and controversy.

It has been weighed down with hatred, intolerance and misinformation.

Surprisingly, the hatred and intolerance may be the two factors most easily understood.

Ignorance is something the world can't seem to purge.

But misinformation is inexcusable, especially from people in places of authority.

Honestly, if you don't know what you are talking about then don't say anything at all.

Last week Rankin council did something unique.

They became one of the first Northern, and perhaps Canadian municipalities, to get involved in the same-sex marriage issue.

Coun. Justin Merritt brought the issue to the table.

Perhaps the municipal government level is not the place for such discussions, but providing input from the most basic of grassroots political organizations is important.

What is even more important is basing decisions on fact and not fantasy.

Unfortunately, fear mongering, which spread at the beginning of the same-sex debate, seems to still have its hold in Rankin.

Merritt stated that he respected the rights of gay and lesbian couples.

He said what they did in the privacy of their homes and bedrooms was their business.

He quickly followed that up by saying he had a problem with churches being forced to marry same-sex couples against their beliefs.

If that is the basis for Merritt's argument against same-sex marriage, he should have looked more closely at the information before spreading all too common incorrect facts.

Fredericton Liberal MP Andy Scott, chair of the federal justice committee on same-sex marriages, has clearly stated that freedom of religion statutes in the Charter would protect religious denominations from marrying same-sex couples against their beliefs.

Additionally, John Fisher, director of Egale, a national gay and lesbian group, said that the gay and lesbian community is not looking for religious marriage rights, only civil rights.

It's important to respect and value the right to equality everyone in our society has.

I agree that a person's rights should not infringe on the rights of another person or another group.

For example we should not have the right to drink and drive or spread messages of hate, which obviously put other people at risk.

But, clearly, allowing same-sex couples the right to civil union is not infringing on anyone's rights.

If you don't agree with it, too bad. I am sure people don't agree with some of the things you do on a regular basis.

Mega-gouge per gigajoule

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

It's nice to see the gas company has backed off its summertime gas gouge a bit, but we're still paying about three times what the rest of the world pays for the same product.

Albertans are outraged in paying about $5 per gigajoule and here we are paying $17.50.

I know, I know, you're asking, "What's a gigajoule?" I didn't know either, but found out today that it takes roughly 23 of the little buggers to heat a home in January.

It would be different if IGL had to ship that gas all the way up here like Imperial does with heating fuel, but they don't. It gushes out of the ground here in true Jed Clampett style and all they do is pipe it into our homes.

They throw us this fastball high and inside, to back us off the plate and then come in with a change-up to sucker us into swinging at this next pitch.

Well, I'm not swinging. This gas price has got to be regulated and the gas company fears that more than wind and solar power combined.

When the council of the day approved the cost of gas to be tied to the cost of heating fuel, they might as well have tied it to the price of dodo eggs.

With oil reserves shrinking throughout the world, lunatics, liars and other Americans starting wars, of course the price of oil is going to rise.

There was no foresight; no public consultation. They all looked at natural gas as the saviour when they should have been looking at it like the devil they didn't know.

Without competition the gas company was left to gouge as deep as they wanted. They have the market converted and we're now all at their mercy.

It's nice of them to drop the price a few dollars in time for winter's icy grip, but how long will that last?

As for the NWT Power Corporation's rate hike, I'm about done blaming the bloated office types in Hay River, this is all about our MLAs trying to save their political necks.

The majority screams when "election" is whispered on the wind and if you've ever been to Yellowknife, you know the wind blows hard down there.

Yes, this is an election year and it's time to pay attention voters. It's time to take a good look at the people who represent you and ask some hard questions.

There will be a lot of wind blowing as this election winds up and there will be many shirking and shrugging off the blame about power corp., recorded phone calls, severance packages and conflicts of interest, but it's up to you to determine just how "open and accountable" this 14th Assembly has been.

Revelry taken too far

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Fort Providence resident Agnes Silverthorn has undoubtedly touched on a sensitive issue by confronting rampant drinking and gambling in the community.

The problem peaks during the Mackenzie Daze weekend. Silverthorn's comments are, to a large extent, validated by Chief Berna Landry's shared concern and backed up by RCMP statistics. The police received about seven times as many complaints during the Mackenzie Daze weekend than they do on an average weekend.

There's nothing wrong with friends getting together for a game of cards. There's nothing wrong with having a social beverage, whether it contains alcohol or not.

There is something wrong when a child as young as eight is passed out in a ditch drunk and kids are wandering around at all hours of the night, scared to go home.

It's time the community takes a hard look at this problem.

True democracy

Mayor Tom Wilson has been under attack by some village councillors and some members of the public for voting twice on motions.

To make things clear, Wilson isn't regularly voting twice on every motion. On occasion, when the councillors have voted 3-2 or 4-3 (depending on the number of councillors present), Wilson has cast a tying vote. Then he would cast the tie-breaker. Any way you look at it, that's two votes and the perception isn't good.

So now council is revising its procedures bylaw. However, this bylaw, as it currently reads, goes too far to the other extreme. It would prevent the mayor from voting except to break a tie. That would create a situation where the mayor -- be it Wilson or the next mayor elected in October -- has been put in place democratically, yet the mayor is denied the right to vote on motions. But it's a right that every councillor would retain. Is that just?

Granted, this proposed system isn't unprecedented. As a matter of fact, it's used in Yellowknife and other major centres. But there ought to be a middle ground in there somewhere. Why not allow the mayor to vote once, and once only? If the mayor's vote happens to create a tie, then a tie is commonly considered a defeated motion.

In a small community like Fort Simpson, where there are sometimes only five councillors present to make quorum, giving the mayor a vote could prove beneficial.

Democracy isn't that difficult a concept. Let's not stretch it in either direction.


The two Aurora College residences in Fort Smith which have been closed by the Fire Marshal have a total capacity of 34 students, not 30 each, as was reported last week.