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Northern News Services Online

Monday, August 20, 2007

Arctic defence requires commitment

As a surprising and welcome aspect of the Conservative Party's election platform, sovereignty in the North catapulted to the forefront of Canadian politics in early 2006.

Prior to that, the Chretien/Martin Liberals scoffed at the notion that Arctic sovereignty was a critical issue.

Since Prime Minister Harper's election promise of new icebreakers and substantial numbers of Canadian Armed Forces personnel stationed in the Arctic, little happened. In fact, as time passed, the Conservative government appeared to be backing off.

The announcement in July of six to eight patrol ships with limited icebreaking capabilities did little to shore up lagging confidence that Arctic sovereignty was a priority.

That all changed with the announcement Nanisivik had been chosen as a deepwater port for the Canadian Navy and Resolute Bay as the site of a military training centre.

While the port and training centre will create much needed jobs, the announcement also represents real action on a commitment to back up Canada's claim to the Canadian Arctic.

The allocation of cash and personnel may fall short of election promises but the fact Canadian soldiers are fighting and dying in Afghanistan must be taken into account. Canada's military resources appear stretched to the extreme.

So as a first step toward sovereignty, Harper's government gets a gold star. A naval base in Tuktoyaktuk, a deepwater port in Iqaluit, roads up the Mackenzie River and south from Rankin Inlet should move up the list of priorities.

To quote Prime Minister Harper: "We either use it, or lose it." Northerners are doing their part by living and working here. Now it's time for Ottawa to match that commitment.

Internet battle must not go to court

The Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation has filed with the court to get access to its equipment on sites belonging to the Qulliq Energy Corporation. The Government of Nunavut should prevent a such a court case.

Qulliq, claiming the broadband group hasn't been paying its bills, is preventing technicians from performing upgrades. So now the two entities are locked in a potentially costly dispute. It's difficult to understand exactly when things went wrong as each side is arguing that the other hasn't honoured commitments made over the past several years.

What we do know is that Qulliq, a Crown company, has only recently started to rebound from a history of financial pitfalls.

We also know that the high-speed QINIQ Internet network serving Nunavut's communities has been nothing short of a technological marvel, especially considering the logistics involved. Without a resolution, many Nunavummiut may very well lose access to the Internet.

In an interview with Nunavut News/North, a federal official spoke of a cautionary precedent in Nova Scotia, one where a high-speed Internet system was terminated due to a similar quarrel.

The territorial government can't allow that to happen in Nunavut. The GN must show leadership, assert itself as an arbiter and save not only the Internet service but taxpayers' money from unnecessarily going to lawyers.

A new neighbour
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Well the big announcement has been made and people have had almost a week to wrap their minds around what Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when he visited Fort Simpson on Aug. 8.

The long anticipated expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve is set to become a reality.

A total of 4,766 square kilometres are already protected in the park that was created in 1976. Through an order in council approved by the Federal Cabinet, Canada has promised to increase the boundary to include more than 23,000 square kilometres set aside in a land withdrawal in 2003 as well as an additional 5,400 square kilometres.

When all of the numbers are added together the grand total comes out to an area around 33,566 square kilometres.

This means that the park, when expanded, will cover an area four times the size of Prince Edward Island.

It will also make the Nahanni National Park Reserve the third largest park in Canada coming in behind the Wood Buffalo National Park at 44,807 square kilometres and Quttinirpaaq National Park on Ellesmere Island at 37,775 square kilometres.

Many people celebrated the announcement of the expansion. Work to expand the park has been ongoing for a number of years.

Parks Canada has been on the record as wanting to expand the area since the first park management plan was prepared in 1987. The Dehcho First Nations has also been a leading force in the drive for expansion.

The real question now is how many people sat down to consider what living beside a park this large will mean. What will it be like to have such a large protected area as a neighbour?

On one side of the argument, having such a vast area under protection is a feather in the Deh Cho's cap.

Some countries are smaller than the area that is about to be set aside and many other countries would give their eye teeth to have such a natural wonder to put on display.

There's a reason that the park reserve was the first site in the world recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In an age where environmentalism is in vogue, the Deh Cho is leading the way.

Also up for consideration is what the park will do for local residents. It's one thing to have the park if you're an avid canoeist, but it's quite another if you are trying to make a living for yourself and your family.

Will the expanded park come with a significantly expanded budget that will provide jobs for more local people? It would also be good to know if the park will lead to added benefits for local businesses involved in tourism as more people come to visit the park.

A final question, and one that is often raised by Senator Nick Sibbeston, is what are we giving up? Are there vast resources in the park in the form of metals, diamonds, gas or oil that might one day be needed more than the park itself?

As in many things in life the definitive answers to most of these questions are unknown. It won't be until after the park boundaries have been moved and a few years have passed that residents of the Deh Cho will finally have enough information and first hand experience to decide if the decision to expand was the right one.

As the saying goes, with hindsight everyone has 20/20 vision.

What about the Dempster?
Editorial Comment
Dez Loreen
Inuvik News
Thursday, August 16, 2007

It seems like every week I open the pages of News/North only to read a column from one of our staple contributors hoisting a flag for the construction of the fabled Mackenzie Valley Highway.

The magical Mackenzie Valley Highway would connect Tulita to Inuvik, en route to Tuktoyaktuk, opening our region to the rest of the Territories.

That's all fine and dandy, but I feel like the government is abandoning our original link to the south: the mighty Dempster Highway.

Well, maybe it isn't so fine and mighty anymore. Yes, the adventurous journey that we call driving down the Dempster has changed over the years and I'm worried that the those fat cats in Yellowknife couldn't care less about our concerns.

Well, that is why we elected strong iron-spirited speakers like our Twin Lakes MLA Robert McLeod.

I spent some time in his office last week talking about the Dempster highway and his plans for the behemoth of road that stretches across the Yukon and the NWT.

McLeod wants to address the highway's problems in the last session of the 15th Legislative Assembly. Better late than never, I say.

I spent a few hours contemplating a trip down the Dempster with some friends last month, but nobody had a vehicle that was armour-plated and with a high enough lift to take the beating that was waiting for anyone foolhardy enough to risk it.

When McLeod clicks his microphone button and starts his campaign for the Dempster, I hope there will be others in attendance who will vouch for the highway.

As a territory, we need to invest more in the road and into our tourism.

Inuvik is doing a fine job of promoting tourism. The only problem is that some people are shell-shocked from their experience on the highway and need to repair their vehicles before they can take in our sights.

After a bit of reading, I found a few facts about our highway that I found to be quite interesting.

Seems that Big Daddy Diefenbaker wanted to connect the North to the rest of Canada back in his time as prime minister sometime before I was a twinkle in my dad's eye..

The road was delayed a few times before it finally touched down in the Mackenzie Delta.

In 1978, the highway was officially completed. Since then, it has been the shared responsibility of two neighbouring governments to maintain the highway.

In its 2007-2008 budget, the Yukon government pledged $2.7 million for upgrades to the Dempster, Atlin Road and Robert Campbell highway. It shows too, because all my fond memories of the road happen after I cross that border.

We have elections coming up really soon. Why don't the local MLAs and ministers rally behind this? The Dempster is our only way out. Before we push for a fantastical amount of money to connect us to the rest of the NWT, we need to address this matter.

I'm sure long time road veterans like the fruit man Bill Rutherford will tell you, we need to pick up our end of the slack and soon.

So come on GNWT, get on the ball here, I don't want to hear another tourist start their stories with "Oh, we had such a great trip until..."

Go west on the jet
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's never too early to start planning for your next trip, especially if you happen to be a dog lover.

This past month, the new Air Canada policy came into being that makes dog lovers ship their pets via cargo.

There will be no more pets on Air Canada passenger planes.

I guess it's really true when you have someone to bail you out financially, like Big Brother has done in the past for Air Canada, you really don't have to worry too much about customer service -- especially if you still have a monopoly on many destinations within Canada and abroad.

Air Canada first took small pets out of the passenger-seating area due to the fact they were a health concern to the one per cent or so of flyers who are allergic to them.

Fair enough. Few of us like to see anyone suffer, no matter how few they may be in the big picture of things.

But now the animals must fly cargo to, apparently, create more luggage room for paying customers.

Although I'm not really sure why being a dog lover who refuses to leave his little buddy behind every year knocks me from the ranks of paying customer, let's put that aside for the moment.

Having your furry family member relegated to the cargo hold could still be viewed as an annoyance if you were only paying an additional $75 on top of your ticket.

However, Air Canada expects you to pay full cargo rates (but of course) for your pet, which, depending on size and weight, could have you shelling out close to the cost of a ticket for another person.

Hmmm. Sub-species to get off of the plane, but equal being when it comes to paying for the ride.

And if you think because you now have to pay an outrageous amount to have your beloved pet come on vacation with you, that will ensure its safe delivery and good treatment along the way -- think again!

This past year, our pet of about 15 years was eight pounds too heavy in her kennel to be included on our ticket.

So, the good folks at Air Canada told us she had to fly at cargo rates.

We still have our receipt for anyone who doubts we paid almost as much to fly our old girl down east with us as we did for our own tickets.

As we headed back home to Rankin, content in the knowledge Princess would be well-cared for at that rate, we arrived in Winnipeg to find she had been bumped in Montreal like a $10 sack of potatoes.

She showed up hours later, suffering from mild heat stroke, upset and obviously not even afforded the courtesy of a bathroom break during her lengthy voyage.

We know this because she left presents for the cargo folks the second she was let out of her kennel.

The good people at Air Canada were very apologetic and let us know, quite earnestly, if they could do anything to make it up to us -- except refund any of our money -- we had but to ask.

To our family, Air Canada's pet policy has made it an airline to be used when there's absolutely no other choice (including walking) or it's a free flight.

When purchasing airline tickets from this time forward, my motto will always be, go west young man, go west (jet)!


The $10.6 million Nunavut Inuit Health Survey is taking place at a different time than the sea ice study aboard the coast guard ship Amundsen. The story "Largest ever polar health project sets off" (Nunavut News/North, Aug. 6) should have made that clear.