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Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Post office must stay

Yellowknife's central post office must stay downtown - preferably in its present location.

Canada Post says it wants to stay and will try to sign a new lease with whoever ends up owning the building.

That's good news, but some uncertainty remains.

The building will be sold and the new owner could have different plans.

Why anyone would send a Crown corporation and its guaranteed monthly lease payments packing is beyond us, but it could happen.

In the event the unlikely comes to pass, Canada Post shouldn't simply throw up its hands and follow the exodus to Old Airport Road or wherever.

With the possible move of the Workers' Compensation Board office to Frame Lake South, losing the post office would seriously damage Yellowknife's business core.

Downtown is a people place, and that's where the post office belongs.

Reveal WCB plan

Charles Dent's recent assurance that he won't support any move by the Workers' Compensation Board to force its way on to a building site on Old Airport Road isn't worth much, coming as it does from a politician who is unwilling to disclose the justification for a project that threatens to drain energy from downtown Yellowknife.

A board spokesperson had hinted that government might use legislative power to make an end run on city council if it refused to re-zone the land to permit construction of the office building. No politician hoping for re-election would agree to such bully-boy tactics.

But the minister responsible for the board continues to miss the point. If the board has a business case for the move, it should be shared with the public.

The justification for secrecy - that disclosure would put the board at a disadvantage in getting the best possible price for the project - is self-serving twaddle.

The public has known for years what the government hopes to spend on the bridge across the Mackenzie.

Voters know the cost of the Yellowknife courthouse and how much planners think it will cost to build a road up the Mackenzie Valley.

Leaving the public out of the loop on the Workers' Compensation Board office plan undermines the principles at heart of consensus governance: consultation and sharing information.

The board isn't bound by such messy democratic details, but Dent is. If he doesn't understand that, he shouldn't be in cabinet - or government.

Opposition must look ahead

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Well, as we have been predicting for quite some time now, Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government had gone the same direction as just about every minority government you can care to mention, and Canadians will be heading to the polls, yet again, in the new year.

While we await the New Democratic Party to announce its candidate in Nunavut, and see if any independents decide to have a go, the first salvoes have been fired by Conservative candidate David Aglukark and Liberal incumbent Nancy Karetak-Lindell.

Of course, as politics go, they were more water-pistol squirts than salvos.

We are rather curious over Lindell's rather cryptic statement about people who want to judge her over one or two things (what might they be, Nancy?) have that right and can vote for another candidate if they should so choose.

Nice to know we have the Liberals' permission to vote for the candidate of our choice.

Lindell has been on a roll since defeating Tory Okalik Eegeesiak back in 1997, and will be seeking her fourth term in 2006.

She easily defeated independent candidate Manitok Thompson and the NDP's Bill Riddell in 2004, garnering 51 per cent of the popular vote.

Aglukark has a daunting task ahead of him in unseating Lindell.

It's been more than 20 years since any party other than the Liberals held power in Nunavut, with the NDP's Peter Ittinuar having a brief fling as Nunatsiaq MP in 1980 and Tory Thomas Suluk in 1984.

Liberal Jack Anawak twice held the seat, once in 1988 and again in 1993.

The biggest problem for Aglukark, and any other challengers to Lindell's throne, is the fact Nunavummiut don't care much for party politics.

As such, the anti-Liberal wave affecting most of the country won't make much more than a small ripple on the shores of Nunavut.

The Liberal machine, as it's not so affectionately referred to by those holding monkey wrenches, has been gearing up for this election for the past year, despite Martin's attempts to keep his minority government in power.

Within the party ranks, Lindell is viewed as a solid and loyal Liberal.

Add to that every seat counts this time out, and Nunavut hasn't been forgotten in the Liberals' attempts to keep Canadians seeing red for the foreseeable future.

Not only did Martin, himself, pay a visit to Nunavut, but the past eight months has featured a steady stream of federal ministers dropping by for tea and bannock while taking every opportunity to trumpet the great job Lindell has done as Nunavut MP.

Coincidence? We think not.

Any candidate who hopes to wrest Nunavut away from Lindell would be well-advised to stay away from the past and focus on the future.

While not the stuff books are written about, Lindell has done a respectable job representing Nunavut with her party in power, which has always been the case.

The picture her opposition may want to paint, is one of a Liberal MP in Nunavut while a Tory government runs the country.

Now that would not be a pretty picture.

Christmas campaign

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

So we get to vote for a new government on Jan. 23 next year.

Driving home the news was Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, the talking head on my boob tube who greeted me Tuesday morning to go on and on about how in spite of the parliamentary bickering during question period, his party made government work. (Ever noticed he kind of looks like that guy who gives away free computer tutorial CD-ROMs on television?)

Anyway, Layton would like to have all Canadians believe that if they voted for his party, our wildest dreams would come true. Well, maybe not quite that far.

Conservative blue if you want to endure "gay marriage debate, volume two." Like the movie Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg - the one about the street savvy police witness (Goldberg) who hides out with a bunch of nuns - I was pretty much satisfied there without having to endure Sister Act 2.

Conservative leader Steven Harper has already blasted out of the campaign gates promising to give us volume two if he wins. And after he bans gay marriage, forms a holy alliance with George W., our troops can go help the U.S. lose the war in Iraq. Remember how disappointed Harper was when Canada decided to sit this one out?

Which leaves us with Paul Martin and the Liberals. At least with them, you know what you're getting.

Mystery slush funds and patronage appointments to people who head up Crown Corporations, and loot the public purse in the name of expense accounts.

A Martin government will also guarantee that U2 lead singer Bono will drop by to make us all feel guilty for not giving more of our money away to Africa.

For the Northwest Territories, there's a convincing argument to be made that it would be best to have the Liberals back in power, if for no other reason than the fact that the federal government's pledge of $500 million in socio-economic pipeline impact cash for the NWT is not a done deal and is dependent on federal legislation.

Having the Liberals back in power would also ensure that ongoing devolution and resource revenue sharing negotiations - crucial to the Territories' future - could pretty much pick up where they left off.

"Hopefully we see the same government back in business so there won't be too much of a delay," Premier Joe Handley said to the Beaufort Delta Regional Council meeting in Inuvik Tuesday afternoon.

So it's a pretty safe to bet who Handley's voting for Jan. 23.

New blood

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

It was the American folk-rock band The Byrds who sang, "To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn."

It's a song about the natural progression of life: there comes a time for change.

That is what is happening at the elders' table in the Deh Cho.

Whether that's good or bad depends on how you look at it, but the transition is necessary. The senior elders won't be around forever, that's a fact. Some are battling health problems, making it difficult to travel to meetings and concentrate all morning and afternoon for days on end.

That makes it imperative to groom a new generation of elders, junior elders, so to speak.

None of the senior elders should be cast aside if they still want to participate, if they still desire to share their knowledge. They are, after all, the strongest connection to a past way of life that grows more distant every day. They have carried forth the Dene values and principles that have stood strong for centuries. They also have an undeniable appreciation of the land.

Yet the new crop of elders brings something else to the table. They are more familiar with "both worlds:" the traditional Dene ways and modern technology.

As well, the up-and-coming elders are usually more direct in their approach. If they have a point to make, they make it.

The senior elders often convey a message through long, meandering stories of their past. While these narratives can be fascinating, they seem to be open to interpretation at the political table. It's not unusual to have two people come to two different conclusions about what an elder just said. Is that because the elder wasn't clear? Or is it because some individuals distort the elders' words to suit their own ambitions?

Let's be frank, there has always been plenty of behind-the-scenes talk about how some of the well-intentioned elders are vulnerable to political manipulation. That's sad. There are also occasional accusations that some elders show up for meetings to get honoraria cheques but they have no input. Also sad.

It doesn't mean Dene politics is rife with corruption and self-interest, but it would be naive to suggest that those things don't exist.

These are sensitive issues, but they are definitely out there.

The new breed of elders is more savvy about today's political tactics. They will take their seats with their eyes wide open to being used for political gain.

That said, the junior elders may come to the table with their own agendas. Some may argue that's no improvement.

Of course not all elders are involved in the political process. Some remain quietly at home, on the land or at a long-term care facility. Visiting them over a cup of tea can be richly rewarding and often makes politics seem like a silly preoccupation.