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Friday, December 9, 2005
The joke's on us

City Hall missed a golden opportunity to shine on the international stage this week.

Delegates from 180 countries at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change in Montreal would have been staggered by the city's ingenious solution to eliminating CO2 emissions from idling vehicles.

All that's necessary, according to city bylaws, is to lock the vehicle and presto-chango, greenhouse gases are vanquished before they can gobble a fresh hole in the ozone layer.

Actually, we're making a joke at the expense of the hapless lawmakers at City Hall who seem more concerned with protecting their behinds from frostbite than discouraging a wasteful and polluting practice.

The bylaw that prohibits leaving a vehicle to idle unattended for more than 20 minutes is intended to protect private property from theft - not to protect pedestrians and the environment from a faceful of hydrocarbon emissions.

It's time for City Hall to get tough with Northern pansies who don't want to be discomforted by a cold seat on a frosty December day.

Cabs and delivery vehicles, water trucks and honey wagons could be exempted from the law, but there is no reason not to impose stiff fines on motorists who insist on leaving their vehicles to idle at the curb.

If the city won't take on the challenge, the territorial government can step in, just as it did with a ban on smoking in public spaces. Then we would have some answer to those who point out that Northerners, per capita, are the country's pollution pigs.

Sponsored facilities aren't for free

Flush with federal cash, and surrounded by sponsors keen to make their Yellowknife legacies known, city councillors are tripping over themselves to let the capital project gravy flow.

A $12 million fieldhouse? Why not? How about a new library at the Gerry Murphy Arena site, and a new arts and cultural centre?

These are all worthy projects, and there may very well be enough funding and sponsors to pay to build them all, but we mustn't lose track of the costs as well.

The city's existing recreational facilities are expected to run deeply into the red next year, as they do every year. The projected cost for maintaining the Multiplex, Yellowknife Community Arena, Ruth Inch Pool, among other facilities is almost $5 million in 2006. User fees bring in about $1.5 million. Ratepayers pay the lionOs share of the bills, and will certainly be paying more after the launch party for the fieldhouse is over.

Council must remember that even if the initial capital costs are covered, the bill only gets bigger every time a new facility is a built.

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.

Give smokers a break

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

I thought I heard it all on the crusade against cigarette smokers until my alarm clock radio startled me out of my slumber with the news announcer talking about the government's plans to ban smoking in all remaining public places.

I bolted out of bed, put the coffee machine on and lit a cigarette to calm my nerves.

Sure, it starts innocently enough with bus shelters but where will it end? Public places could also include sidewalks, roads, parks, campgrounds and beaches. Who will stop the insanity?

And who or what agency will enforce this ridiculous legislation? Town of Inuvik bylaw officers have enough to do chasing loose dogs, illegal snowmobilers, handicapped parking violators and now, perhaps, the guy wandering down Mackenzie Rd. having a butt. Has the government lost its mind?

Imagine there's a guy selling crack just down the road, and you get busted for having a smoke while walking your dog in the opposite direction. Is this the best the braintrust at the legislative assembly can come up with for saving the souls of law-abiding citizens?

I'm completely dumbfounded.

How about legislating people, you know, with serious life-altering addictions like alcohol abuse or those sucking back the really toxic smoke of hard drugs like crack cocaine and crystal meth to get cleaned up? Or what about legislation to enforce punctuality and attendance at school? No, you see these would be violations of one's human right to be intoxicated at all hours or to be a dropout and we wouldn't want to tread on those precious freedoms.

So let's just go after the nicotine maniacs littering the Territories. Yeah, once we teach those guys a lesson this place will see some real results!

(Some real results might be seen if the GNWT built an addictions treatment centre here in Inuvik, but I digress.)

Add this ludicrous public smoking ban to the GNWT plan to ban the display of tobacco products in retail stores while hardcore porn magazines are in full view to anyone over five feet in height and what you're left with is nothing short of a gong-show.

I guess us smokers will be forced to feel like real health-pervs now, asking the clerk to see that luscious carton of duMauriers hiding behind the counter. Oh, Players, they're just too sexy to be in plain sight!

And be sure the advocates will try and push the argument that fewer smokers means less strain on the already cash-strapped health care system in the years to come.

Real believers in this outlandish legislation will even try to tell you that hiding cigarettes from consumers and banning smoking in public places may even curb smoking among youth.

Pure nonsense when you consider the strain drug addiction, including all its cumulative effects, and a large population of school dropouts already put on the public purse.

Much ado about elders

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

There is no handbook on how to deal with elders.

Things were undoubtedly more clear cut centuries ago when Dene tradition was strong. Today, however, with the blending of lifestyles and political practices, it's a fluid situation.

This week's Drum profiles emerging elder Jonas Antoine. He, like Rita Cli, was designated a Liidlii Kue First Nation elder by current chief Keyna Norwegian.

Leo Norwegian, one of the members of the old guard, acknowledges the need for a new crop of elders. Yet he would much prefer that the senior elders be the ones to select their successors. That's how he ascended to the role, he said.

So we have a bit of a conundrum: who should rightfully be selecting an elder?

Then there's the question of how much sway the elders should truly have. A future Deh Cho public government - proposed through a draft constitution and based on Dene values - will ostensibly give an elders' council a central role in many weighty decisions.

But, when it's all said and done, will the elders essentially be a bunch of rubber-stamping figureheads, much like Canadian senators or even more ineffectual, similar to the Queen of England? Or will their recommendations carry real influence? Finally, the scenario unfolding with Leo Norwegian brings to light another wrinkle: what happens when an elder falls out of favour with the political leadership? Could there really be such a thing as a rogue or maverick elder? Should there be a power of recall?

These are some of the complex questions that arise when we don't limit the discussion on elders to the usual platitudes, which remind us that the elders are wise and are to be respected. While that may generally be true, there is so much more at play these days. It just has to be brought to the surface and discussed.

There is no shortage of opinions on the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline but it's interesting to get some youth perspective on the topic in this week's Coffee Break.

Although today's teens and children need adults to make prudent decisions on their behalf, the youth should be as informed as possible on the anticipated consequences, both good and bad.

Roxanna Thompson is in the process of taking over as editor of the Deh Cho Drum.

She arrived in Fort Simpson on Sunday and, in the coming weeks and months, will become a familiar face to the people of this region.

I'll be hanging around for another week or two before departing for Halifax. I trust that you will make Roxanna feel as welcomed as you did me.