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Friday, July 2, 2004
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Don't be dirt cheap

The price of residential land is determined by supply and demand, cost of development, and location. For residents of the Con and Rycon trailer parks, add in the cost of cleaning the land of industrial waste.

Why have these 26 families have been left to pay the cleaning bill after Con mine closed?

Because the territorial government ignored its responsibility to the environment and its citizens by allowing Miramar Mining Corp. to clean the land to industrial standards rather than higher residential standards.

There are people, such as city councillor Alan Woytuik, who say those former Con workers should pack up and leave. The land lease only allowed them there as long as the mine was in operation.

But they want to stay, in part because there's nowhere in Yellowknife for them to move their trailer homes. Again, bad decisions, this time by shortsighted city councils past and present, have backed residents into a corner.

Some estimates have pegged the clean-up price at $300,000. Some estimates have put it much higher, but no-one will really know until a more thorough study of the contaminants is complete. Putting in new water and sewer infrastructure could cost as much as $2.1 million.

On Monday, city council agreed to sell the land to the residents and a developer who wants to build an additional 25 or so new homes on the undeveloped land. The final detail is the price.

Yellowknifer has learned the city is proposing $800,000 for the land - with cleanup and servicing extra. Residents don't believe that's a fair price, and we agree.

For ordinary city lots, it seems a steal at about $16,000 each. But once the servicing is done, the price of the lots goes up to about $58,000, a figure far closer to market value.

As they stand now, the lots have no value. To expect anyone to pay market value for serviced lots, then expect them to pay more for cleanup is unreasonable.

The city must sit down with residents and determine fair market value for that land. The cost of the cleanup should come out of the $800,000 sale price.

The city must not expect to make a profit. Con Mine and its workers contributed so much to the growth of Yellowknife over the past 65 years, this expense is justified.

The deal must be done quickly because the water and sewer services have to be be in place before freeze-up. Given the slow pace of getting to this point, new attitudes must be brought to the table.

A city gone mad

The weather was perfect, the BBQs were working overtime, and the bugs were on holiday: all the ingredients for a successful Raven Mad Daze.

Franklin Avenue was packed as thousands flocked downtown. The kids were greased up with shaving cream and silly string, the hungry had a world of grilled delights to choose from, music was in the air and if you had a hankerin' for a good deal, merchants had more than one offer you couldn't refuse.

We want to applaud the organizers of this event, but more so the army of people who invaded the downtown beginning at midnight.

Small mountains of garbage lurked on street corners. Everywhere were splotches of shaving cream, smears of missed food, mashed webs of silly string: someone had to clean all that up. The biggest salute therefore, goes to the city's workers who brought our downtown back to order.

Time to plug in some answers

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We can't help but wonder where Nunavut Education Minister Ed Picco is hiding these days?

Picco has long trumpeted himself as the type of guy who stands up and faces the heat when things don't go exactly as planned.

Yes, indeed, terms such as accountability and accessibility have been popular buzzwords for Picco during the past five years.

He's not the type of politician who dodges the tough questions or ducks pressing issues.

At least, that's how he has publicly described himself on many occasions.

So this begs the question: just exactly how hot does the heat have to be before Picco reaches for an extinguisher?

In the case of the Qulliq Energy Corp., things couldn't be much hotter, but nary a peep from the man who was the minister responsible for the corporation during much of the upheaval.

It's not like we have a lot of really big questions to ask.

We'd like a small explanation on how the corporation broke the government's own rules to borrow so much more than it was allowed to?

No biggie, eh Ed?

Maybe, just maybe, there should be an explanation forthcoming as to why a rider wasn't kept after the split from the NWT Power Corp., and, more importantly, why one wasn't put back on when it became painfully obvious the corporation was losing money at a staggering rate?

Dare we ask if anyone in Picco's department bothered to check all those rosy numbers predicting profits for a corporation that was losing millions annually?

Was the minister even interested, or were all those comforting, yet totally unfounded, predictions a ready-made excuse for him to focus all his attention on keeping an even keel with his other portfolio at the time, that of Health Minister?

Wait a minute, that department has also been grossly over budget since the birth of our territory!

We would also like to know why Premier Paul Okalik hasn't brought Picco -- kicking and screaming if need be -- under the public spotlight to answer to the mess the corporation finds itself in?

The time for silence is past and the time for explanations is now.

Dare we ask to see some sort of vision for the future from the current heads of the Qulliq Energy Corp.?

Of course, they're no easier to find than Picco these days and they're not taking phone calls, either.

Finally, one last question to Nunavut's educators: Are you feeling just a little nervous about the direction Education may take during the next four years?

Politics could scuttle the pipeline

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

As the bureaucratic wheels have been set in motion for constructing an Alaska Highway gas pipeline, the players involved in the territory's pipeline project better find a way to get on the same page or risk losing out.

The same person who forgot to tell Deh Cho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian that pipelines can bend -- avoiding the Deh Cho Settlement Areas altogether -- better inform him of the stakes at risk if this "alternate route" beats the NWT to the punch.

Although building the Alaska Highway pipeline would be much costlier than the Mackenzie Valley option, the volume of gas in the North Slope -- estimated at five times more than the Delta's -- and the demand for cheaper fuel in southern markets could bode well for the Alaskan route's chances.

If the Alaska Highway plans were to go ahead before the Mackenzie pipeline, the Delta region down to Norman Wells would still benefit some, as NWT gas could be routed to connect with an Alaska Highway pipe. However, such a situation would push back any NWT pipeline plans -- and subsequent benefits -- as manpower and materials would be employed on the competing front.

In addition, several experts have noted that requisite pipeline steel, not to mention skilled labour, is not abundant enough to construct both pipelines simultaneously.

Green party sinks NDP in Western Arctic?

There were a lot of disappointed NDP supporters in the Western Arctic riding Tuesday morning as NDP candidate Dennis Bevington missed toppling incumbent Liberal candidate Ethel Blondin-Andrew by a mere 52 votes.

Blondin-Andrew must be secretly thanking her lucky stars that the Green Party chose to run a candidate in her stronghold, as several NDP backers in town cursed the same party Tuesday for the same reason.

Though it's true that the Green Party's existence makes for a more fruitful democracy, a cursory glance at the party's platform may make the average voter wonder what really separates it from the NDP.

While some may feel good about throwing their vote away or making a statement by casting it for the NDP's younger sibling, feeling good about oneself and making statements is not going to change things in this country if your party doesn't have a hope of winning a seat.

As Blondin-Andrew gets packed for Ottawa and Bevington sits licking his wounds in Fort Smith, the irony is that forces once considered allied with the NDP contributed to its downfall in the Western Arctic this time around.

To the Green Party's credit, it captured enough of the popular vote to qualify for federal funding that will undoubtably be put towards enhancing the profile of the party, thereby making the NDP's chances of ever winning the Western Arctic seat slim to none.

Oh those housing woes

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

There is seemingly no end to the line of Housing Corporation clients with complaints.

Although it won't alleviate problems dating back over a number of years, current clients should make a point of getting all future promises in writing. There are far too many people claiming that they were told one thing, but later told something else entirely different.

If it's on paper, and the client is provided a copy, then it won't be simply one person's word versus another.

There are a few things that all housing clients should know, if they don't already. According to Larry Campbell, the Housing Corporation's manager for the Nahendeh region, the Housing Corporation relies on mortgage payments to help cover the cost of making repairs.

When people in a community fail to make payments, then the pool of money designated to fix houses quickly dries up.

That means everybody is left in a bind.

As well, Housing Corporation tenants are charged mortgage payments based on income. If they earn more, they pay more. If they make less, they pay less. To avoid slipping into arrears, clients must inform the Housing Corporation of changes in income level in a timely fashion.

Each community should have a Housing Corporation binder in the band office. Clients can use that binder to register complaints or request an appointment with Housing Corporation officials or technical staff.

Finally, self-government may soon bring the opportunity for First Nations to assume control of housing. It will be interesting to see what changes that will bring.

What an evening

There was no holiday commemorated or anniversary marked at last week's cookout at the long-term care facility. No, the get-together was held for the sake of getting together, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Elders, toddlers and everyone in between enjoyed the splendour of the outdoors, the tasty dinner and the delightful conversation. It was an idyllic setting.

The best part is that such a great social occasion can take place at any time, so long as there is a will to do it.

What a trip

Judging by the photos, the impressive list of stops and the enthusiastic recollections, Grade 6 students at Bompas elementary school had a splendid time on their class trip to Alberta. It was 12 days of good times that they and their parents earned through fund-raising activities.

They reaped the benefits for showing the initiative, and the community supported them in a journey they will surely remember for many years to come.