NNSL Photo/Graphic

Subscriber pages
buttonspacer News Desk
buttonspacer Columnists
buttonspacer Sports
buttonspacer Editorial
buttonspacer Readers comment
buttonspacer Tenders

Demo pages
Here's a sample of what only subscribers see

Subscribe now
Subscribe to both hardcopy or internet editions of NNSL publications
Distributed in Northwest Territories and Nunavut Canada

Northern News Services Online

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall text Text size Email this articleE-mail this page

MLAs new clothes
NWT News/North - Monday, November 23, 2009

It sounds like a story written by Hans Christian Anderson.

One of the Danish author's most notable fairy tales - the Emperor's New Clothes - is about how swindlers con an arrogant emperor into buying clothes made of invisible thread, explaining only those who are incompetent can't see them.

Our government is weaving its own invisible clothes by trying to sell an $86,000 government trip to Europe in the name of climate change. Premier Floyd Roland, Minister Michael Miltenberger, MLAs David Krutko, Bob Bromley, Glen Abernethy and two staffers are travelling to Copenhagen next month to attend a global conference.

Just as human rights took a hit for 9/11, it seems climate change is being used to justify blank-cheque spending. Does anyone believe a 11-day trip to Copenhagen costs $12,000 a person? Miltenberger said the trip was purposefully over budgeted. He promises what is not spent will be put back into government coffers. We all know how often government under spends budgets and politicians keep their promises.

Only our government is arrogant enough to think it can sell the illusion that sending seven people to a climate change conference halfway around the world helps anyone.

Abernethy admitted members of the NWT contingent are going as observers, meaning they will have zero power to influence. Will there be ideas presented at the conference that can be applied in the NWT? Likely. But Alaska, which has 10 times the population as the NWT and similar environmental concerns, is only sending one person.

We have a few suggestions how the MLAs can spend their time on climate change related activities.

They can get down with reggae star Shaggy and other celebrities during the Dance For Climate Change. They should then head over to the Fashion Summit on ethical clothing, an ideal spot for our MLAs to support Northern clothiers. Don't forget your sealskin gloves! Oh, those are banned in Denmark. For those homesick moments, they can head over to the Arctic Venue put on by the same Danes who banned the sealskin.

While MLAs dance away the night, Northerners suffering the effects of the present economic crunch may wonder where MLAs get the nerve to take off on a ritzy holiday.

The legislative assembly must believe they deserve a break. For months they have been under siege. After protests over health benefits, board mergers and student funding cuts, combined with our premier's affair and subsequent conflict of interest hearing, they must be tired.

What better way to escape the woes of this do-nothing assembly than to flee to one of the most expensive cities in the world?

In 2007, when the GNWT released its greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy, its most notable point was that without a devolution agreement the NWT has little power to control its largest contributors to climate change - industry and transportation. We doubt the Copenhagen conference will have any advice on how to negotiate a devolution agreement.

If climate change activists want something to protest, they can start with our government's contribution to global warming by burning more than 80 grand of climate change money on gas-guzzling jet planes and caviar.

Net profit
Nunavut News/North - Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes a message has to be repeated to a politician over and over again before it sinks in.

To the Conservative government's credit, it finally seems to understand that the turbot fishery in the Davis Strait belongs primarily to Nunavummiut.

Gail Shea, federal Fisheries minister, announced a 1,500 tonne increase in Canada's turbot quota on Nov. 9 and Nunavut was awarded 90 per cent of that.

Jerry Ward, CEO of the Baffin Fisheries Coalition, called the increase "a good start."

And he's right. With the hike in the catch, Nunavut's portion of the zone 0B turbot fishery, located off the southeast shore of Baffin Island - rises to 41 per cent from 27 per cent.

The increase certainly shows progress from last year when the federal government rubber-stamped the transfer of 1,900 tonnes of the zone 0B turbot catch from one Atlantic fishing company to another. Nunavut fisheries groups were up in arms over the thoughtless move and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board went to court in an attempt to get the decision overturned.

In 2003, Ottawa announced a 2,000 tonne increase to the shrimp catch near Qikiqtarjuaq, but only 51 per cent of it went to Nunavut while the remainder was granted to Atlantic Canada.

The value of Nunavut's turbot catch in 2008 was $42 million while the shrimp fishery rang in at $15.4 million.

Since 2005, the Nunavut Fisheries Training Consortium has trained close to 350 Nunavummiut to work in the fishery.

When you put the revenues and the employment opportunities together, you arrive at an avenue to self-reliance in a territory that lacks jobs, other than government positions and the burgeoning mining industry.

Fortunately the federal government saw fit earlier this year to provide the bulk of the fisheries training consortium's $6 million in funding to keep the organization afloat until 2012.

Over the past two years, Stephen Harper's Conservative government has committed $25 million to create a small craft harbour in Pangnirtung, which is welcome by fishers from the community. But it still won't be enough for Pang's fish plant to accommodate large commercial fishing vessels.

In addition, Pond Inlet, Repulse Bay, Qikiqtarjuaq, Clyde River, Chesterfield Inlet and Kugaaruk have a solid case for a small craft harbour.

The feds clearly have more work to do.

This new turbot allocation should ease some of the competition among the groups with an interest in the Nunavut fishery: Arctic Fishery Alliance, the Baffin Fisheries Coalition, Cumberland Sound Fisheries, Qikiqtaaluk Corporation and Pangnirtung Fisheries and the Nunavut Development Corporation.

It's difficult for the smaller organizations to invest in boats when they are only entitled to a small portion of the catch.

There's plenty of interest and still not enough fish to go around. Ottawa must keep looking North to foster greater independence in a young but promising territory.

Cabinet paycheques trump safety
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, November 20, 2009

If there is anyone who still believes it benefits the city to have Yellowknife MLAs serving in cabinet then the Nov. 4 vote on a motion to ban cell phone use while driving should dispel that.

The motion, tabled by Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro, was defeated by a single vote from Speaker Paul Delorey, who broke a five-all tie among regular MLAs. Sitting on the sidelines were the seven cabinet members, including Yellowknife MLAs Sandy Lee and Bob McLeod, who could have passed the motion had they chosen to vote.

Drivers talking on cell phones are four times more likely to get into a crash, according to the Canada Safety Council, while those who text while behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to get into a collision.

Talking and texting on hand-held cellphones while driving has already been banned in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan are all poised to do the same.

There is a growing consensus across the country that cellphones and vehicles don't mix, yet a majority of MLAs in the NWT refuse to act. Some, like Mackenzie-Delta MLA David Krutko, insist all 33 NWT communities should have access to cell service before considering a ban. And exactly when will tiny communities like Colville Lake or Sachs Harbour ever get cellphone service?

Seventy-five per cent of NWT residents have access to cell phone service today, but like 911, most of our MLAs feel that's not a good enough reason to make legislation that would save lives in our larger communities, including Yellowknife.

Dr. Anna Reid, president of the NWT Medical Association, points to the hypocrisy of Transportation Minister Michael McLeod in a letter to the editor in today's Yellowknifer. The minister issued a press release Wednesday, marking National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims, in which he is quoted saying: "This Day of Remembrance is an opportunity for people across Canada to pause and consider how we can reduce the number of collisions, injuries, and deaths on our roads."

His way of honouring those victims was to abstain on the cellphone vote.

This inaction is even more frustrating when we look at our Yellowknife MLAs on cabinet.

McLeod and Lee's refusal to vote shows they favour cabinet solidarity and their hefty paycheques over the safety of the voters they claim to represent. What a disgusting display.

A hill of dreams
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, November 12, 2009

In my time in the Deh Cho I've had the privilege of writing about a lot of great homegrown initiatives.

There's something reaffirming in hearing about someone who's started a positive project, not for their own personal gain but for a group of people or a whole community. The Deh Cho seems to be blessed with more than its share of residents who are willing to go the extra mile for others.

The Pehdzeh Ki Snowboard Resort in Wrigley is a perfect example of one of these projects. While the name seems a little fancy for what's really a cleared hill, it's not grand enough to describe the work and effort that went into the project. The resort is not quite a field of dreams as seen in the 1989 baseball movie of that name but rather a hill of dreams.

Shawn Alli, the community's recreation co-ordinator, didn't hear a voice while walking down the hill telling him "if you build it, he will come." Instead, while learning how to snowboard himself he saw that youth in Wrigley were also drawn to the sport.

Alli suggested a snowboard hill should be developed for the next season. Young people agreed and the project grew. The best part of the story is the youth involvement in the hill.

Alli, unlike Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner's character in Field of Dreams, wasn't left on his own to build the dream facility. For two and a half months as Alli laboured to clear the hill by hand he was joined by youth from the community. Together they sweated it out, chopping down trees with axes and ripping out root systems with their hands. The kids stuck it out through thorns, scrapes, cuts and blisters.

Their involvement in the hill was crucial because it shows they have bought into the project. It's one thing to launch a project and hope youth get involved. It's quite another to have youth involved from the beginning so they develop a sense of ownership in the initiative.

Not only did the young people of Wrigley believe in this project, some unlikely sources did too. Thanks to a letter-writing campaign launched by Alli, the burgeoning snowboarders in Wrigley are outfitted in some top-quality gear. Organizations and companies like Quiksilver Canada, York University and Transworld Snowboarding also believed in the dream and donated.

With snow now on the ground, Wrigley has not a baseball field but a snowboard hill. The result is the same.

In a small community with few recreation options, the hill is a major development. This will keep youth physically active and busy all winter. The creation of the hill is also something that they can take a lot of pride in.

The hill is also fostering dreams. There is already talk among some kids about trying out for future Arctic Winter Games. The hill could lead to Wrigley producing some competitive snowboarders.

Alli and his youth partners deserve to be recognized for their vision and determination. They saw past all the obstacles and achieved their dream.

The magic of the torch
Editorial Comment
Andrew Rankin
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, November 12, 2009

Frankly I wasn't looking forward to Wednesday's Olympic Torch rally at all. I've always been a little cynical of the Olympic Games, figuring a whole lot of money is spent on celebrations that can be put to better use. I also look at the playing field and realize a whole lot of countries are shut out of the world event because they do not have the resources to develop their athletes. But Wednesday's event did a lot to make me more appreciative of the games.

I played witness to a lot of very moving moments throughout the evening event. Some of which include when torchbearer Nellie Cournoyea veered off her route to greet a couple of elders through the hospital window. There was nothing particularly earth shattering about it, just an exchange of smiles and that to me was a tender moment. Then there was the surprise of seeing torch bearer Mark Orbell, a wheelchair user, being carried in a snow grooming machine. It was also a special moment for me to see a subtle smile appear on his face as he looked up at the torch's flame.

Near equal to that was when the first time torchbearer, Sharon Firth of Aklavik, who's also a former Olympian, reached up to light her torch from Orbell. She couldn't contain her joy. The biggest highlight for me - and I would think a lot of people - took place when Abel Tingmiak, the last torch bearer, made it to the stage in Jim Koe Park and lit the Olympic cauldron in front of hundreds of spectators. It was just an outpouring of real emotion as he danced around the stage hoisting the torch high overhead.

His actions backed up his words when asked to respond to how he felt to be given the honour of lighting the cauldron, Tingmiak said he was simply proud to represent his people.

It was fascinating to me to see just how much happiness and pride this Olympic Torch Relay produced in the community and how it alone was able to move hundreds of people to come together in peaceful, joyful way in -30 C temperatures.

I'm still not entirely sold on the Olympics and if I was the one organizing the Inuvik Torch Relay I would have done some things differently; namely I would have invited all the torch bearers on stage with Tingmiak for the lighting of the cauldron instead of whisking them away to the Midnight Sun Complex in a bus.

With the risk of being too sentimental, Wednesday's torch relay to me it offered a small model of what the Olympics are supposed to be like. Despite our differences, it's still vitally important for countries and people to come together to share our similarities and all the good we have in common. What better way to bring those qualities out than through sport.

Maybe some things are worth holding on to and fighting for, no matter the cost.

Property tax smokescreen
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's seems the city will be waiting an awfully long time to collect unpaid property taxes from Giant Mine.

The city is looking to either the territorial Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, which controls the surface rights at Giant Mine, or the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), which controls the subsurface rights, to pay $328,645 the city says is owed in property taxes dating back to 2005.

The territorial government says an agreement has yet to be reached, while INAC flatly denies it owes the city any taxes.

The federal department makes a good point. It's paying millions of dollars to clean up the mine, a responsibility it inherited after previous owner Royal Oak went into receivership in 1999. It's the city that will benefit from the cleanup with new land available for development.

In reality, city administration's beef about unpaid taxes is a smokescreen to divert attention away from skyrocketing costs in services and wages.

Administration is now calling for a 5.95 per cent tax increase for 2010 and another 6.95 hike in 2011, after previously forecasting increases of 5.84 and 5.89 respectively.

Next year, the city expects the number of staff to climb to 203 positions – up 39 from 2001 when the city's population was not much different than it is today. Nearly $20 million will go towards salaries and wages, which is almost $3.5 million higher than it was just two years ago. Most of the new jobs are going into community services, mainly for the new fieldhouse.

Instead of bellyaching about unpaid taxes, the city should be more mindful of its spending, especially when council reviews next year's budget in December.

Dog mushers should quit barking
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some dog mushers who live in Kam Lake are upset over a re-zoning bylaw which would allow a float plane base in the area.

The Northwest Territories Float Plane Association argues there isn't space for visiting pilots coming to Yellowknife to park their planes. The association wanted the base in Old Town, but room in Back Bay is simply running out, so they're looking at Kam Lake.

The dog mushers' argument that the noisy planes would be disruptive is rather ironic, given the constant din of sled dogs barking and howling. The kennel owners should remember well how it feels to be shunned.

It was only two years ago that some Kam Lake residents and business owners were seeking a shorter lease and a relocation plan for the Yellowknife Dog Trotters Association. The complaints against the kennel owners were also noise related, plus worries about the dogs' feces. However, city council approved a 10-year lease.

Now some dog mushers are acting like they should hold exclusivity over the area.

It was suggested at last week's city council meeting that float plane enthusiasts and kennel owners sit down and talk over the issue. They shouldn't let the background noise drown out the important point that must be communicated: a float plane base in Kam Lake makes good sense. More parking for planes would, in all likelihood, mean more visitors and more dollars spent in our city.

And besides, Kam Lake is still an industrial park.

A promise never to forget
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A long-awaited change to the way the RCMP assign officers to the North was announced earlier this month.

Members will now stay four years in Nunavut, which is twice the length of time they previously stayed.

An officer will serve two years in one community, and then be posted to another Nunavut hamlet for the remaining two years.

One of the carrots the RCMP is dangling to entice members to come North is the ability to be allowed to pick the location of their next posting in Canada after their time in Nunavut is up.

The RCMP reports its staffing division has already received numerous calls from officers interested in heading North since the policy change was announced.

The force also announced the policy shift has prompted about one-third of Nunavut's current members to stay longer than their two-year terms, which were due to expire this coming spring.

Having officers stay longer in our communities has long been a desire of many Kivalliq residents.

It enables them to become more a part of the community they serve, and to better understand Inuit culture and Northern values.

The policy change should by no means affect Inuit officers on duty in Nunavut.

If anything it should strengthen their relationships with southern officers, knowing they're working with members who want to be in Nunavut and who will be around longer.

When all is said and done, this is a positive step forward in building a better relationship between the RCMP and people in the North.

It's also another step towards providing better overall policing in our communities.

It has been a little unsettling to hear some people voice negative opinions on the announcement, fearing officers will only come here for the money and the chance to pick their next location, not because they're interested in the North.

Thankfully, these negative reflections on such a positive move come from a small minority of Kivalliq residents.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and the RCMP realize this initiative doesn't address all the policing problems in Nunavut.

It doesn't do anything to persuade more Inuit to apply for the force, nor will it give those who do apply a better passing ratio out of depot.

But it's a step in the right direction.

The next step to better policing in Nunavut is for the RCMP to find a way to increase the number of officers it has in each community.

Everyone who pays attention to such matters realizes many of the members in the Kivalliq are overworked and on call almost on a 24-7 basis.

Not only does that increase the amount of stress on the affected officers, it's also a barrier to them having the time to get more involved in the community and be able to spend more time on the land.

But, with the current state of the economy and the strain on every department's budget, the needed increase is, no doubt, at least another year or two away.

In the meantime, having more members who want to be in the Kivalliq able to stay here for a longer period of time is a welcome development indeed.

We welcome your opinions on these editorials. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.