Friday, December 23, 2005
As the money for the budget was getting eyeballed by city council, the special interest groups were silent.
Gone were the defenders of green space, or gray rocks in the case of Yellowknife: Blast no more, they had cried over and over, delaying development after it had already begun. When it came time to decide where the city should spend its money, the gray defenders were nowhere to be seen.
Self-confessed environmentalist Kevin O'Reilly may sit on council but when it comes to building big, greenhouse gas-belching public buildings all green caution is blown to the winds, both nature and money. O'Reilly claims to fight for energy efficiencies, when actually he voted for energy hogs - a multi-million dollar library and fieldhouse, a tax hike and a thumbs up to more city expansion so long as it contributes to the "quality of life" at any cost.
Also absent was the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce. Why was there was no one from the YK Chamber of Commerce to give a united business front to the politicians? This is the chamber whose members just got whacked with a sudden increase in their garbage fees, as if business people are not worthy of the same respect as the general public.
Alan Woytuik, in the past a staunch ally of small business, has suddenly abandoned his crusading conservative bent (Let the non-profit groups sink or swim!) and voted for a new library and a tax hike. Is that a leopard changing its stripes or what?
Bob Brooks and Doug Witty resisted the assault on the taxpayers. Unfortunately, they couldn't really call up any hard numbers to explain why a tax hike was not necessary.
Blake Lyons has smooth one-liners, Mark Heyck awkward platitudes, Wendy Bisaro blanket endorsements - three rubber stamps for City Hall's ambitions.
So it's smooth sailing for City Hall with a new $43 million budget and staff who have grown by 16 job positions since 2002. Through award-winning accounting practices, left out of the revenue side of the budget is $10 million coming from the federal and territorial governments. These are called "one-time grants" for specific municipal projects and administration would like to just keep that money outside the budget until it's all spent.
City administration didn't get the larger tax increase it wanted but now has a free hand to build, build, build. And who better to lead us? Taking the municipal debt from $13.1 million to $8.7 million in four years is an indisputable success. Forget that it takes higher taxes and higher user fees.
Revenue is the goal and the people of Yellowknife are the endless source of it.
Wow! Talk about a super Christmas gift to a group of kids in the Kivalliq - this one is pretty high on the list.
Although it won't be announced until Dec. 22, Kivalliq News has learned the Rankin Inlet bantam hockey club has been picked as one of Wayne Gretzky's Future Team Canadas.
The program is a joint effort between the Wayne Gretzky Foundation and the Canadian Hockey Foundation.
Because they were selected as one of the winners, the Rankin bantams will be receiving a very special package sometime during the next three-to-four weeks.
The kids will receive a new supply of sticks, sweaters and gloves, including the two goalies who will each get a new trapper and blocker.
The squad also gets a $1,000 cheque to be used for team-development purposes.
The bantams will send a team photo into the foundation and it will appear in a nationally distributed publication.
So, who do the bantams have to thank for this wonderful Christmas gift?
That would be their coach and long-time volunteer Tommy Adams.
Adams took the time to fill out and submit a lengthy application when he found out about the national program a few months ago.
While Adams is to be highly commended for landing this windfall for the Rankin kids, he is far more than a bantam coach.
Adams has been a certified Level Two hockey official for a number of years and is also a board member of the Rankin Inlet Minor Hockey Association.
The easy going hockey nut is the perfect example of the type of volunteer we need more of in the Kivalliq.
While there is no shortage of folks who are quite willing to point out the weaknesses in our Northern hockey program, there are few willing to step up and put in the amount of time to improve the program as Adams does.
We're fortunate in that Adams is not alone.
You would be hard pressed to find an evening during the week Donald Clark is not at the local arena, while people such as Justin Merritt and Ron Roach have been involved with minor hockey at various levels for years.
The same can be said for Jim MacDonald, who decided to step away from the game for awhile this year after being known as Mr. Hockey in Rankin for more years than he probably cares to remember.
While we have a strong base in Rankin, we still have plenty of room for more people to get involved.
In fact, volunteering time to make your community a better place to live sounds like a pretty good new year's resolution to us.
The people we've listed above could certainly use your help, and hockey is but one program that would welcome you into the fold.
It's nice to end the year on such a positive note by sending our congratulations to Adams for getting his bantams included in the Wayne Gretzky Future Team Canada program.
If more volunteers offer their time in the coming year, we're sure we'd have even more good news to pass your way - something to think about during the holidays.
National Energy Board hearings getting underway, followed by a federal election are just a few things we can expect early next year.
I am hesitant to say "look forward to" as a room full of lawyers and polling stations don't really breed too much excitement. However, both are important for the region and the country, but not the most festive things to be thinking about when there's turkey to be cooked, gifts to be bought and wrapped and friends and family to visit.
Personally, I'm looking forward to a few days off to tune out the world and relax around the tree.
The last thing I want to be doing is watching federal party leaders Paul Martin, Steven Harper and Jack Layton battle it out in soundbites on the TV. One can only hope these guys either turn it down a notch - at least until the hangover of New Year's has worn off - or actually start talking about the issues instead of trying to win the public over with cash handouts, tax cuts and new gun laws.
It's times like these that living in Inuvik is calming. At least we don't have the federal MP hopefuls lurking about ready to ambush us while we wait in the Northmart checkout line. Western Arctic candidates have vote-rich Yellowknife to battle for. That said, it would be nice if Inuvik could get a commitment from all four - Dennis Bevington (NDP), Richard Edjericon (Conservative), Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Liberal) and Alexandre Beaudin (Green) - to attend Inuvik's all-candidates debate Jan. 16., you know, a gesture of good faith and all to show the people they really care about this region.
Beaudin is a Yellowknife photographer and glass worker, and joined the campaign earlier this week.
The Delta is only standing on the edge of a $7 billion pipeline project so you think we'd warrant a co-ordinated visit by the candidates, to show that we actually matter, not just the gas underneath us.
Bevington has already thrown his hat in the ring but it won't be much of a debate if nobody else shows. Don't you just love our democracy in action?
Apart from peace on Earth, goodwill to everyone and a Sizzler Steakhouse gift certificate, my Christmas wish for the Delta is that serious planning begin on an all-weather road from Wrigley to Tuk. Then when it gets built, say sometime in the next five years if we're lucky, a gallon of milk won't cost more than a six-pack of beer during freeze up and break up periods.
(Funny how the price of booze never goes up during these periods.)
Next on the list would be an addictions treatment centre here in town, followed by an arts and cultural centre and, what the heck, a crack-free Inuvik in 2006! Sad to think that the odds on favourite is the gift certificate from Sizzler - about the only item that fat guy in the red suit could deliver. I mean who's really going to pin their hopes on the government delivering anything apart from the usual.
This year I resolve not to vote for anybody who won't bother attending the all-candidates debate in Inuvik.
I could have said I'll quit smoking or staying up late watching pay-TV but I'm not sure I can take the guilt of eventually breaking those. So I figure my vote resolution is an easy one to keep and one others should consider.
There are times when it feels like saying thank you just isn't enough.
This is one of those times.
As many of you know, my wife Val and I are leaving for Halifax (actually she's already been there for the past three months and, believe me, I miss her).
Our reason for leaving is a personal one: it's family.
The Deh Cho has given us so much over the past seven and a half years. We've been made to feel warmly welcomed. But our parents are on the East Coast, and the time has come to be close to them again.
Leaving isn't easy, though.
We have grown fond of the beautiful land, the wonderful people and the casual lifestyle here. It's been a richly rewarding time in our lives.
My days in the Deh Cho have taught me more than I could have ever imagined.
I owe so much to all those who took time out of their day - as some of you did on a weekly basis - to help form each edition of this newspaper.
I'm also indebted to everyone who sent in photos, especially the regular contributors.
When I'm down south and people ask me what life is like in this part of the North, I'll tell them about the Dene and Metis and how they are striving to protect the land and their language; how they are trying to retain their storied culture, a culture they generously shared with me and others.
At the same time, I'll say, these admirable aboriginal people are aiming to assert themselves and take control of governance and industrial development in an ever-changing world.
I'll also be sure to mention the incredibly dedicated professionals and volunteers I met in the Deh Cho: education and health staff, justice workers, recreation directors, firefighters, and, yes, local politicians.
This diverse group of people didn't always see eye-to-eye, but these individuals were, without a doubt, doing their utmost to better their communities.
"Wow, that sounds like a perfect place to live," some people might say.
I will reply, "No, of course it's not perfect.
"Like every other place it has its problems.
"But, all in all, I sure do hope to go back again someday."
Until then, thank you so much for allowing me to tell your stories.
I wish you the merriest of Christmases and all the best in the new year. Mahsi cho.
P.S. If you want to stay in touch you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week the Inuvik Drum referred to an upcoming Residential School Reunion as "Rez School Gathering." Ellen Smith, alcohol and drug specialist with the Inuvik Regional Health and Social Services Authority and an organizer of the event, telephoned the Drum office to correct the paper on its use of "Rez" to imply residential school. The term "rez" is popular slang for reservation.
A photo caption in Wednesday's Yellowknifer ("2006 budget passes") contains erroneous information. Coun. Doug Witty voted against the 2006 city budget not Coun. Alan Woytuik. Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by the error.
In the Dec. 16 Yellowknifer ("Community, fireweed and second chances"), Richard Nye should have been named as one of the two people who contributed $1,000 to Erica Tesar's purchase of an armoire at the Festival of Trees auction. We apologize for any embarrassment or confusion this error may have caused.