Friday, May 13, 2005
Last week, the Great Slave Yacht Club added its voice to the park proposal opposition.
Pictured beside the Great Slave Yacht Club sign which reads "Members Only," Vice-Commodore Gary McLellan accused park supporters of thinking only of their property values and ignoring the greater safety needs of the boating community.
We have to ask who the residents of Latham Island were thinking of when they vehemently opposed and killed a public boardwalk adjacent to their properties?
And while the vice-commodore is thinking of the well-heeled Yacht club members and their safety, there seems to be little concern for all Yellowknifers who have very little access to Great Slave Lake.
At least those who want the new park are willing to share it with the general public.
The Yacht Club did say they are looking at a small park next to their property and that would be very welcome. But that little patch doesn't add up to significant waterfront development.
As for the safety issue, Yellowknifer is in agreement with vice-commodore McLellan. If the Fisheries location is the best place for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, then the park supporters must take that into account with their proposal.
Safety trumps public interest. But waterfront development and access serves all Yellowknifers and comes second. Property values, whether they go up or down, should (but don't always!) come third.
People come and go from this city without anyone noticing their passing, but the departure of Majors Al and Karen Hoeft won't go unnoticed.
The pair announced last week they are moving this summer to take up work at the Salvation Army church in Winnipeg. That city is making a great gain at our expense.
The Hoefts worked with people most others in this city would rather cross the street to avoid.
For 15 years, they ran the city's Salvation Army church, providing a soup kitchen, shelter for the homeless, toys for Christmas, plus countless other community support activities.
Sense of fairness
Most refreshing about the Hoefts was their sense of fairness.
Karen Hoeft - the most often quoted of the pair although not exclusively - was equally comfortable marching against violence towards women or questioning the fairness of a territorial law that puts accused domestic abusers out into the streets.
Simply put, the Hoefts' mission in this territory was to advocate for all those less fortunate.
We feel they have done this job well. Our community will be greatly served if those who replace them at the Salvation Army are every bit as active.
We sympathize, to a certain degree, with the need for various groups and organizations to hold bingo games as fundraisers.
However, we also sympathize with those voices in Rankin Inlet complaining over the number of big-dollar games being held during the Pakalak Tyme celebrations.
When the celebrations come to a close this coming Saturday, there will have been no less than eight games held, totalling a minimum of $73,000 in jackpot prizes.
There were four $10,000 games scheduled, and a monster $15,000 jackpot.
This is not even taking into account the Nevada ticket sales, which are also starting to creep up with their top prizes.
Least afford it
The concern is, of course, too many people who can least afford it are spending their entire disposal incomes, and then some, chasing that one big payout.
And the biggest problem of all in the community, are the people with families depending on them who don't stop spending when their disposal income is gone.
In those cases, all too often the only thing to be found in their cupboards is used bingo dabbers.
In such scenarios, it is our community's children who suffer the most.
They are the ones who do without while the adults in the family, the ones who should know better, chase the illusion of easy money.
A closer look
We are by no means advocating a bingo prohibition.
The fundraising aspect of this Kivalliq paradox is far too important to our community's youth, athletic groups, extracurricular school programs and recreation department to be completely halted.
However, it is time for hamlet council to take a closer look at the ever-rising jackpot amounts being offered, and the higher card prices that accompany them.
We may very well have reached the point where it's time for council to consider the possible reduction of the overall number of games being offered and, more importantly, place a restriction on what the top prize offered can be.
At the very least, there has to be a reduction of the number of games with a jackpot of more than $5,000 being offered every month.
Bingo not alone
Let's not forget the fact all these bingo games are being played on top of the dizzying array of gambling ventures being offered by government.
The scratch-and-win tickets remain extremely popular in Rankin, and the usual lineup of 6/49, Super 7, Western Lotto, etc., continues to rake in its share of money, as well.
Let's be honest here, with an unemployment rate in excess of 20 per cent, it's not all high-income earners putting down their money at the bingo table.
And, while we're being honest, let's also take a look at who never wins at these games.
The answer to that question can be found under the C - for children!
If we were to imagine for a moment the Beaufort-Delta region being part of the Yukon, how would that change the dynamic of the current pipeline negotiations?
For a start, the right of way for the project would most certainly follow the Dempster Highway, fulfilling Prime Minister Diefenbaker's original road-to-riches vision for his "Highway to the Northern Sea."
Gwich'in and Inuvialuit stakes would remain intact and worries about plugged land claim negotiations/litigations down the Mackenzie Valley wouldn't matter.
In fact, this scenario might hasten the stagnating process as regions down the valley - in what would be left of the Northwest Territories - would try to entice proponents with a more direct route. Imagine that. Regions in the valley actually lobbying for the right-of-way rather than ostensibly lobbying against it - at least in the eyes of Big Oil.
It would be as if the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak.
Stakeholders here - already possessing visionary leadership and a certain amount of control over their territory - would find themselves in a position to choose.
They certainly wouldn't be stuck where they are now, separated from the gas market by a feuding First Nation and seemingly ineffective territorial and federal governments.
Further, with the Dempster in play, much of the work that would have to be done to accommodate a valley pipeline - ie: constructing a road - would already be in place.
News/North columnist Cece Hodgson-McCauley periodically reminds readers that a road up the Mackenzie would be a good thing for its citizens, and rightly so.
The Beaufort-Delta already enjoys such a luxury. However, our road leads to Whitehorse not Yellowknife.
In many respects, this region has more in common with what is now northern Yukon, than with those at the southern end of the NWT.
With the Dempster Highway acting as a dependable supply line to the Delta, today's inhabitants are even more closely connected with our neighbours to the west.
Unfortunately, the Delta becoming part of the Yukon is not in the cards and we must come back to reality.
Contemplating a potential merger with the Yukon does put pipeline matters into perspective.
Governments - local, aboriginal, territorial and federal - all talk of getting together to work together to hammer out deals everybody can live with (and ones oil and gas can navigate through) on the mission to realizing a gas pipeline.
One wonders how quickly all this talk would materialize into action were another route option on the table for discussion.
Put another way, if talks switched gears into fighting for the right-of-way rather than fighting for the benefits of being on the right-of-way, the Mackenzie Gas Project could well be on the way to construction, not mired in a multi-layered government mess.
Kevin Menicoche is Nahendeh's MLA. He is also an individual, a private citizen.
So when Kevin Menicoche signed a petition opposing the Northern store's proposed gas bar, did the MLA leave an autograph, or did the private person scrawl a signature?
For Menicoche, it seemed unequivocal at the time: he signed the petition as an individual, not as an elected official.
But the lines are a little more blurred for the many members of the public. If you were to ask people on the street, "Who is Kevin Menicoche?" the majority of responses would likely be, "He's the MLA." The man and the title are inseparable in some people's minds.
In the legislature, how often do MLAs truly set aside their own personal views and pick a side of a debate based on the communicated desires of the majority of their constituents? There are times, such as the aforementioned example, when MLAs should represent their constituents first and foremost. Their own wants and needs are secondary in such situations.
But outside the legislature, when does an MLA get to be a "regular person?" It's a fascinating subject. One that applies to elected officials at all levels.
When B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell was convicted of drinking and driving while on vacation in Hawaii in 2003, he was still the premier even though he wasn't there on business. Of course the news reports made the association between the man, the crime and his high profile office. Campbell later made a tearful public apology.
When MLA Henry Zoe got into hot water for insulting others at the Yellowknife Legion, it was quickly noted that he was a member of the legislative assembly. Zoe was subsequently stripped of his cabinet post.
Didn't commit an offence
In Menicoche's case, he didn't commit an offence of any kind. It could be argued that he didn't even do something distasteful or classless.
What he did was take a stand on a controversial issue. He tried to do it as an individual, not as an MLA.
There is a distinction but many people can't discern it.
Menicoche won't be going to jail. He won't be forced to resign. But his personal point of view may be remembered when the next vote comes around, for good or for bad.
He's paid as an MLA to be the voice of the people. He has rights as a citizen to hold an opinion. But when his personal opinions become public knowledge, that's when things get fuzzy.
He has to carefully decide on which issues it's worth staking his reputation.