Editorial page

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Tax trouble

Before you politicians get the notion that a sales tax isn't such a bad idea, consider the ramifications. A TD Bank financial group economist who visited Yellowknife last week suggested a sales tax as one way to boost territorial government coffers.

It may do that, but the consequences would be devastating.

The cost of living in Yellowknife is more than 20 per cent higher than Edmonton.

A 2001 survey of household spending shows Yellowknife residents spent an average of $7,899 on household operation, furnishings and equipment and clothing a year. The national average is $6,813.

Add a per cent or two, or five, on top of that and you would drive people south, putting a growing economy into a tailspin.

Sales tax is a regressive tax that directly hits the poor, who already struggle to get by.

The impact on the territorial budget would be minimal. Retail sales in the NWT hit $506 million in 2002, a 16.8 per cent increase over 2001. A rough calculation shows that a one per cent sales tax would raise just a little more than $5 million.

The real issue is not how much money the NWT can raise off its citizens' backs, but how the federal government consistently underfunds this territory.

We barely get enough to keep our schools open, health professionals on the job and highways passable. It's only recently that Ottawa has loosened the purse strings, and that only came after a difficult fight.

Former premier Stephen Kakfwi and his Yukon and Nunavut counterparts had to walk away from health care funding talks to drive the message home.

It took more than two years for Ottawa to respond to a plan to rebuild highways and other critical infrastructure.

Even then, the NWT has to come up with matching funds.

Politicians need to keep their fingers out of our pocketbooks. Instead, keep the pressure on the federal government to pay the true cost of turning the NWT into a national economic powerhouse.

No one is an island

There are many traditions in this holiday season that are well-worth repeating.

There's wishing anyone and everyone a "Merry Christmas," or a "Happy Holidays." There's indulging in humming bits and pieces of favourite Christmas carols or seasonal jingles (we kind of like "Rocket Santa Claus").

There is getting and giving gifts.

And there's the personal and deep satisfaction of giving to charities.

While there are dozens of important charities in Yellowknife, the food bank and Salvation Army are two with a close link to Christmas.

It wouldn't be Christmas without a volunteer jingling a ring of bells by the Sally Ann donation kettle outside a liquor store.

And a donation of cash to the food bank helps others less fortunate look forward to gobbling a cornucopia of Christmas treats.

Their work never stops but at this special time, we ask you to help make someone's Christmas better.

Christmas gift list

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Well, it's that time of the year once again, valued readers -- time to send out our annual Kivalliq News Christmas gift list.

And what better place to start than at the top?

To Premier Paul Okalik, we send a brand new Spiderman costume so he can easily blend in with the guests at his next constituents party.

To Akulliq MLA Ovide Alakannuaq, we send a complete bound set of every bill passed during the past two sittings of the legislative assembly for his reading pleasure during the holidays (better late than never).

To Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell, we send a giant catching mitt to protect her Northern counterparts just in case Prime Minister Paul Martin's lacrosse skills are no better than Jean Chretien's.

To outgoing Baker Lake MLA Glenn McLean, we send a copy of Janet Jackson's golden oldie, What have you done for me lately?, personalized with the inscription, Out of sight, out of mind!

Looking for answers

To Arviat MLA Kevin O'Brien, we send a magic 8-Ball in hopes we may finally get a decision on his intentions for the next territorial election.

We won't, however, send O'Brien the 8-Ball until we know Karetak-Lindell has received her catcher's mitt.

To outgoing Rankin Inlet North MLA Jack Anawak, we send one hour's worth of surgical time to help dig the knife out of his back before he assumes his new position.

We also offer to read him the initials engraved on the handle.

To Rankin South/Whale Cove MLA Manitok Thompson, we send a new electronic locomotive set so she can finally stop using her old one-track train of thought.

Of course, that would mean her old steam whistle would have to go back in the closet.

Bright ideas

To Minister Ed Picco, we send one 100-watt light bulb from the Nunavut Power Corp. in hopes he will finally have a bright idea on how to lower the health deficit.

To outgoing Finance Minister Kelvin Ng, we send four former members of the Sakku Investment Corp.'s board of directors to be his new poker playing buddies.

We also include a straight-face mask for Ng to wear at the table when he realizes the other players always think he's bluffing.

And, finally, to Rankin Inlet Mayor Lorne Kusagak, we send a brand new Toronto Maple Leafs hat to be worn on special occasions when he absolutely, positively has to look impressive!!

May these gifts be received in the spirit for which they were intended.

Good news to come?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

Despite the fact Inuvik Twin Lakes and Boot Lake MLAs Roger Allen and Floyd Roland bowed out of the premier's race this week, both were poised to take on some high-profile cabinet positions.

If this comes to pass, it will put Inuvik in a good position to enjoy the perks of having two heavyweights in the 15th legislative assembly. Between Allen and Roland, Inuvik's MLAs could hold down the finance, justice and RWED portfolios.

As the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline project is in its developmental stages, there couldn't be a better time to have our MLAs in those positions.

During the race for the Twin Lakes riding, education, alcohol and drug abuse, affordable housing and taking care of the elders topped the list of prevailing issues.

Now, it is our MLAs duty to respond to these concerns and take concrete action in addressing them.

It has been said that there's a lot more to education than books and at the end of November, the Career Technology Studies class at Samuel Hearne Secondary school proved it.

For three days the class' students lived on the land and employed skills they learned in the classroom.

In speaking with CTS students about their experiences, one wonders why a course such as this is not mandatory right across the territories.

Loss of language is generally attributed to the deterioration and ultimate loss of cultural identity. However, if people don't understand the manner in which their culture evolved, and an interest in that is not stimulated, then the rest is moot.

This is why programs like CTS should be the cornerstone to a truly Northern education. Getting kids -- aboriginal and non-aboriginal -- out on the land with the benefit of hands-on guidance from elders is the best way for anyone to gain an appreciation for where they come from or where they live.

I have never lived in a place that throws as many community Christmas feasts as Inuvik. This kind of openness and generosity is a sure sign of the spirit of the town and I am certain that many are appreciative of the efforts of those involved in providing for and hosting these events.

So with each passing Christmas we are reminded of those who are less fortunate than others. This season is no different.

Last week it was reported that the food bank has been experiencing a shortfall in its stock. Being that it is the most crucial time of the year for such an operation to have the resources it needs, any support would be surely appreciated.

Enough is enough

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

What is wrong with being forced to clean up the mess you've left behind?

Responsible parents teach this concept to their children. Yet in the realm of government and mining -- at least in the NWT -- there has been no such lesson. The only lesson to date has been a hard one left for taxpayers to swallow.

Mining companies come barreling in, build infrastructure, create undesirable and often toxic byproducts, then, just before turning out the lights, these same companies become insolvent, leaving the public to deal with the mess and the cost associated with it.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has finally adopted a policy that should hold existing mines responsible for putting up 100 per cent of reclamation costs during the life of the mine. It's a well-intentioned approach, but in the case of North American Tungsten, it may prove too little, too late. Just as the reclamation security payments are about to kick in, the mine lays off its 200 workers, company executives resign and they mothball the mine as they did in 1986.

So now what? Nobody knows, really.

The $7.9 million that the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board was holding North American Tungsten liable for may never be collected.

Enormous clean-up costs

Reading through the Land and Water Board's review of CanTung reclamation costs, it's obvious why mining companies cannot be allowed to write their own ticket when it comes to environmental clean-up. North American Tungsten proposed that a paltry $1.9 million would be sufficient to make the site clean and safe once again. Compare that to the two independent studies that concluded totals of $10.2 million and $34.4 million would be more realistic.

The Land and Water Board commissioned another environmental consulting firm to assess the aforementioned studies. That firm blended all the figures and came up with the $7.9 million that was attached to North American Tungsten's water licence.

Although nobody seems sure of what will happen from this point forward, the public should fully expect the Land and Water Board to be a bulldog in demanding the reclamation security deposit. There is no way that CanTung mine should be permitted to resume production until the deposit is paid on schedule. In the same vein, the company is sitting on MacTung deposits, which it proclaims as a 25-year, high-grade supply of tungsten. If North American Tungsten should go bankrupt, then it must forfeit that asset.

The company must not be allowed to reinvent itself to take advantage of that asset. Whoever is in line to exploit the MacTung deposits -- should that area ever be mined -- must be made to pay full reclamation costs up front.

Canadian taxpayers may just have to ante up for CanTung's clean-up, but let's be sure to leave past mistakes in the past.


Mary Vane, a staff person for the Alberta branch of Canadian Parents for French, was the facilitator of a second chapter of the parents organization in Yellowknife. Guy Paradis was mis-identified as the organizer in the article "Program resurrected" (Yellowknifer, Friday, Dec. 12). Yellowknifer regrets the error and apologizes for any confusion it might have caused.

Former YK1 school board trustees Maureen Miller and Rob Meckling say they were out of town for a recent board meeting that would have applauded them for their previous work as trustees. As a result, they did not "snub" that meeting, as a Yellowknifer headline wrongly claimed.

The newspaper apologizes for the error.


David McPherson, past president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, said, while addressing city council about the smoking bylaw Monday, Dec.8, that the chamber was in favour of separate smoking rooms but not smoking after 10 p.m. as reported in the article "Hope extinguished," (Yellowknifer, Wednesday, Dec. 10).