Friday, March 10, 2006
The territorial government has an energy conservation plan, but a cabinet minister's flip-flop on vehicle registration rates lead us to wonder how committed they are to seeing it through.
An innocuous little item in the government's pre-budget report calls for a feasibility study on charging registration rates based on vehicle and engine size.
The underlying principle in this is to encourage people to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
It's no secret that many Northerners choose to drive large, gas-hogging pick-up trucks and SUVs. It makes sense in smaller communities where roads are bumpy and pitted, or only open during the winter.
In Yellowknife, a person's decision to purchase a bigger vehicle likely has at least some connection with the delusionary idea that a rugged climate warrants a rugged ride, even though the roads here are paved and graded, and an efficient public transit system circulates through much of the city. It's not absolutely clear whether the government was thinking of charging a higher rate for larger vehicles, or a lower one for smaller cars.
Last week, a Transportation spokesperson warned that, "You're going to pay much more for a big truck than you do for a car."
A couple days later, however, Transportation Minister Michael McLeod insisted in the legislative assembly that it was the other way around - that they were actually thinking about charging a lower rate to smaller vehicle owners.
Regardless, it's all moot now, because apparently the minister has decided the whole thing was a bad idea from the start, even though no actual study was ever initiated.
We fail to understand why McLeod is being so weak-kneed about it. Was his spokesperson's comments about paying more for a big truck so damaging that it's now caused him to high-tail it and run?
McLeod never called us back, so we don't know. It really seems to be such a trifling matter considering that the cost is nothing compared to the money vehicle owners shell out every year for maintenance and insurance. At $68 a year, it's small potatoes.
If anything, a staggered rate system would be merely a symbolic gesture towards reducing the energy consumption by Northerners.
If McLeod can't even commit to looking at that, what does that say about the rest of the government's energy plan?
Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley's absence at the official announcement of Nunavut's first trade school coming to Rankin did not go unnoticed by hamlet council.
Council and Mayor Lorne Kusugak were so incensed by Curley's absence, that Kusugak drafted an official letter of concern to the MLA, which was endorsed by council during its regular meeting this past week.
Short of an emergency or very poor health, whatever Curley's "personal" reasons were for not attending the announcement or dignitary luncheon afterwards were not good enough.
Kusugak is right with at least two of his assertions to Curley.
First: not only council, but the community noticed his absence.
Second: this was an important announcement for Rankin - one that's going to bring jobs and money into our community.
Curley should have laid aside any differences he had with the way the Government of Nunavut (GN) makes its announcements and showed his support for the trade school.
This was a time for representing the people of Rankin and helping the hamlet celebrate the best economic news it has received in quite some time.
The third of Kusugak's contentions is the most difficult to substantiate, but could have the most dramatic impact.
Premier Paul Okalik and Education Minister Ed Picco will not be happy about being snubbed by an MLA.
And, Rankin is still lobbying long and hard for a new regional correctional facility in the community.
It's not that difficult to imagine a scenario in which such a snub could come back to haunt the community.
We firmly believe our premier is above that type of petty and malicious politics, but if you keep pulling on a bear's ears, sooner or later you're going to get mauled.
The Rankin snub was one of two Curley mis-steps during the month.
Curley's comments concerning the ministerial review in the legislature were ill-advised, and his remarks to Iqaluit Central MLA Hunter Tootoo while his microphone was still on is not the type of mistake you expect from such a seasoned political veteran.
Curley has seemed at odds with the GN since losing his bid to become premier, and it's time he puts his personal feelings aside and puts the needs of his constituents first.
There's a difference between wanting accountability, asking for transparency and simply picking a fight.
And lately, Curley seems bent on picking a fight.
There may come a day when Curley is premier of Nunavut and represents all the people of the territory, but that's not today.
Today, Curley is the MLA for a community that needs him to use his experience and political savvy to bring more opportunity to its doors, not alienate it from the hands controlling the purse strings.
Should Curley continue down the path he is blazing, he may find another difficult day looms ahead - one commonly referred to as election day.
It was great to see so many young women participating in the Gwich'in Cup this past weekend. I had no idea how many female hockey players there were breaking trail in the region's minor hockey ranks.
Altogether, more than a dozen played in the four championship games Sunday.
Whatever your stance is on Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan, here's hoping that RCMP Northern Detachment Commander Staff Sgt. Al McCambridge's mission to help foster that country's police force is a success and that he returns safely in a year's time.
Despite what polls reveal about the national opinion with respect to our armed forces and reconstruction teams being deployed there, surely anything is better than the state that nation was in prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
A few years ago I remember watching a documentary about the Taliban Government ruling that country. The interviewer was questioning a high level minister about the use of Kabul's UN-sponsored soccer stadium as an execution ground. The minister replied that if the UN would build them a proper execution ground, then the stadium could be returned to its original function as a sports facility.
After the acrimony that transpired in Fort Smith over the spending of community capacity building dollars, it's nice to see the local groups here appear to be getting along swimmingly in reaching consensus on how to spend Inuvik's $1.8 million share.
I propose that some of these funds be put towards building a snowboard halfpipe somewhere in town. Everyone knows how many kids enjoy the local skatepark in the summer, so surely a snowboarding facility would attract the same kind of use.
There's nothing quite like using your ailing father's public housing unit as a party shack in his absence only to get him kicked out. And that's exactly what happened to a 67-year-old Inuvik man who is now faced with having no place to live.
We've all heard about elder abuse in its various forms, but to come face-to-face with it was a difficult thing and I'm hoping that somebody, somewhere can do something to help this elder out of the predicament he finds himself in.
Keeping Slavey alive as a language is an uphill battle.
This consensus came from language instructors who work in the communities. The instructors were gathered together in Fort Simpson for a course on teaching an aboriginal language as a second language.
Even the title of the course hints towards the fact that Slavey is not the first language for many children entering school.
Comments passed around the classroom between instructors included the fact that although many children come from parents of Dene descent, few hear Slavey spoken at home unless they are with their grandparents. The number of people speaking the language has decreased.
There is little comfort to be found in the fact that Slavey is not alone in this position.
Around the world, many languages spoken by a variety of groups, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, are hanging on by their fingertips. Often the enemy is the encroaching behemoth of the English language, which dominates both general conversation and the media.
The challenge is to take the language and advance it beyond the concept of using it as a school subject or a tool to use when speaking with elders.
It's a difficult task.
There is a large difference between wanting to learn something and having to learn something. Anyone who has ever sat through classes or workshops they weren't interested in can relate to the difficulty of remembering the information that was being presented.
Finding a way to make youths want to do anything is difficult. The magnitude of the challenge increases dramatically when a whole language is involved.
Despite the lack of easy answers, the goal should not be dismissed.
As language instructor Valerie Wood pointed out, a language and its culture are intertwined and can't be separated. Culture is embedded in every word of Slavey.
To keep the language alive also means to keep the culture alive.
A round of applause should be sent out to all the young athletes and coaches in small communities who battle against disadvantages to excel in their chosen sports.
In almost every sport, athletes from smaller communities are at a disadvantage when matched against teams and individuals from larger centres. Challenges range from having a shorter season because of ice time, lack of competitors, small team numbers or even a lack of facilities.
Time and time again, athletes overcome these handicaps with little complaint.
They prove that winning is not always about fancy equipment and facilities, but instead about heart, determination, good coaching and a bit of skill.
The Thank You for Making a Difference campaign is a Northwest Territories award, sponsored by the NWT Teachers Association, First Air, Northern News Services and the department of Education, Culture and Employment. Incorrect information appeared in Yellowknifer March 8.
As well, the SnowKing's castle is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
We apologize for any confusion or embarrassment these errors might have caused.
In the March 2 issue of the Deh Cho Drum, the names of Helen Corneille and Tracy Michel were flipped in the Street Beat. The Drum apologizes for any confusion this may have caused.