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Pipeline top issue

Jack Danylchuk
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 12/05) - Andy Carpenter can't recall the last time a federal politician came to Sachs Harbour and the isolated community on the Beaufort Sea probably won't see one during this campaign either.

"We don't see them around here," said Carpenter, chairperson of the Hunters and Trappers Committee.

"People don't even talk about the election."

The perennial issues are the desire for full-time police presence and renewable resource management.

"There is no enforcement of any kind in Sachs Harbour, especially quotas on polar bear and muskox. A lot try and keep within the law but there is some wrong."

Up and down the Mackenzie Valley, community leaders are focused on the Mackenzie Gas Project and the push to link Delta communities to the south with a new highway.

Mayor Anne Marie Tout in Norman Wells said that "ensuring that the Mackenzie Gas Project goes ahead is very important, as well as a commitment to completing the Mackenzie Highway."

"We've been lobbying for the highway for years and years and years."

Keyna Norwegian, chief of Liidlii Kue First Nation at Fort Simpson, said the Dehcho is caught up in negotiations for access and benefits from the Mackenzie Gas Project.

"We're looking for acknowledgment that First Nations without a land claim agreement can apply land tax or get some benefit from a major project," Norwegian said.

"With the election, hopefully we can follow through on it. I'll be asking the candidates I meet: what will they do?"

The Mackenzie Gas Project is foremost in the minds of Inuvik voters, says Mayor Peter Clarkson.

They have focused on the commitment of the different parties to fulfilling the offer of $500 million in federal money promised to communities in the path of the $7 billion project.

"We wouldn't want to see after the January election the government saying, 'we've changed our mind'," said Clarkson.

Ron Pierrot, chief at Fort Good Hope, recently returned from ta First Ministers' meeting in Kelowna on aboriginal issues. It concluded with a promise of $5 billion from the federal government for education, housing, social programs and economic opportunities.

"A lot of those things are up in the air if the Liberal government isn't returned. There is no mention in the campaigns of aboriginal people, rights or treaties. So it makes you wonder if Canada is going to live up to the commitment."

If the government doesn't follow through, Pierrot said the people of the Territories "should put the Mackenzie Gas Project on hold ."