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Korean business welcome
NWT News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011
Although the brief tour was played down as a fact-finding mission and an opportunity to introduce Korean Gas Corporation officials to community leaders, the fact the company has boots on the ground in the Beaufort Delta and has invested $30 million in natural gas assets in the region points to genuine interest.
A lot has to happen in the NWT before the Koreans decide to allot even more money in NWT oil and gas development. Streamlining the territory's laborious and frustrating permitting process would be a good start. Transportation infrastructure that would come via completion of the Mackenzie Gas Project would also be a valuable incentive to entice greater Korean investment, as well as attention from other nations.
We are impressed with the Koreans' knowledge of how to conduct business in Northern communities. Meeting with community leaders before moving forward with any development plans -- no matter how preliminary -- demonstrates the company has done its homework and that will go a long way toward earning trust in the region.
Aside from shipping liquefied natural gas to Korea from the Beaufort Delta there is potential for real benefit to residents of the region if the Koreans do decide to do more business here. There is the prospect for more jobs and better infrastructure, but possibly most promising are conversations Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Merven Gruben has had with the company about helping to convert his community to natural gas. Such a move would reduce Tuktoyaktuk's need for diesel fuel and potentially cut heating costs.
We welcome the interest the Korean Gas Corporation is showing in the territory; if it continues to respect Northerners and develops a plan that will be mutually beneficial, the door to future business dealings should be kept open
Tlicho in the black
NWT News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011
After seven years of diligently paying off a $28 million land claim negotiations loan owed to the federal government, the Tlicho Government will now reap the benefits of millions in transfer payments it is scheduled to collect for the next eight years.
During the Tlicho Assembly held July 5 to 7, government leaders took a wise step and passed a law to manage and invest the remaining transfer payments. Through the land claims agreement, the Tlicho government will receive $90 million, which started in 2005 and winds up in 2020.
Part of the law directs the Tlicho Government to determine investment options so the region's capital transfer dollars will maintain their constant value after inflation. Once established, and if properly managed, that fund would then provide the Tlicho Government a stable source of funding for capital projects.
The next step of the process will be public consultations to determine what Tlicho citizens want the money spent on and how funds will eventually be doled out.
With proper management, this money will last the Tlicho Government well into the future and is an opportunity to secure the prosperity of Tlicho communities.
Ride the tide of tourism
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011
Who wouldn't welcome scores of visitors wandering into the community with money or credit cards in their pocket, looking to purchase carvings, prints or jewelry?
That's what happens when cruise ships drop anchor in the harbour of Nunavut's coastal centres.
In Cambridge Bay, where three ships are expected to pay a call this summer, an estimated 240 tourists are expected to spend $20,000 while spending only several hours on site. That's not too shabby.
Nunavut is expecting 27 cruise ship stops in 12 communities by the end of September.
There will be cultural presentations, throatsinging, traditional Inuit games and walking tours in some of the communities to greet the visitors, some of whom will have paid as much as $16,000 for their cruise adventure.
Many of the cruise ships include tours of Greenland or Newfoundland and Labrador during their 10-17 day journeys. So there is an element of competition as tourists may spend more in Nuuk, Greenland, or Hopedale, Labrador, depending on what is on offer. Those who are made to feel welcome, are exposed to a wide breadth of cultural experiences and well informed about the history of their surroundings are more likely to reach deep in their pockets out of appreciation and for want of lasting memories.
That's why Nunavut Tourism, the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association and representatives of Nunavut's communities have to keep working hard to enhance tourist visits - without breaking the bank - and promote Nunavut as a worthwhile cruise ship destination.
With the opening of the Northwest Passage due to climate change, more ships, including cruise liners, will be able to navigate our territory's coastal waters.
There are few drawbacks to the influx of tourists, other than a possible accident due to running aground. That's exactly what happened on Aug. 27 last year when the MV Clipper Adventurer, with 128 passengers and 69 crew aboard, ground to a halt after striking a rock close to 60 nautical miles from Kugluktuk. It took a day and a half for a coast guard ship to reach the stricken vessel but fortunately there were no injuries and no oil or other pollutants spilled from the ship.
That accident has led to the cruise ship company filing a $15 million lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the waters were shallower than navigational markers indicated. Whether Ottawa is to blame for failing to provide a proper warning, or the ship's captain made a mistake, in February the Government of Canada did commit $8.3 million over five years to improve navigational and safety information and marine communications.
The government obviously sees the need to make it safer for vessels to negotiate Arctic waters.
It's crucial that Ottawa makes good on that pledge because we don't want our promising tourism industry sunk by federal neglect.
City councillor dreaming
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 15, 2011
Coun. Cory Vanthuyne, who sits on the city's Smart Growth Implementation Committee, told council last week that he would like to see big box stores in the area be "a little more user-friendly and a little bit more user-accessible" for pedestrians and transit users. To that end, he wants to restrict parking spaces out front and bring the stores closer to the sidewalks.
His comments come after council was presented with a memo by administration that singles out the Canadian Tire parking lot -- 61 metres from street to store -- as "not in compliance with the proposed setback requirements."
Too bad those weren't the rules when city development officers approved Canadian Tire's development permit 10 years ago. Or when it became apparent Wal-Mart's parking lot was going to book-end a gas station with an insanely busy Tim Hortons on the other side. Some awful planning that was.
The truth of the matter is Old Airport Road, particularly between the Co-op and the junction at Highway 3, is a bit of mess in the same sort of helter skelter manner in which development has sprung up elsewhere in the city like Old Town and Kam Lake.
On Old Airport Road we have the box stores like Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire but also a hodgepodge of dishevelled-looking operations littered with broken down trucks and piles of junk out front. There are three vehicle dealerships, a boat and snowmobile shop, two transportation yards, and a bulk propane fuel supplier, among others.
The city's Smart Growth Development Plan, developed at a cost of $170,000, identifies several reasonable remedies that would provide better uses for Old Airport Road - at least for some properties. That includes allowing medium and high density development in the area and encouraging industrial operations to move out to the nearly empty Engle Business District. Most people who have lived in cities elsewhere will recognize arterial streets that feed suburbs the way Old Airport Road ought to be: with lots of stores, restaurants and apartment blocks lining them.
Having high density housing in these areas keeps the "not-in-my-backyard" types with their half-million dollar homes happy by keeping large-scale development out of their neighbourhoods, and makes apartment dwellers happy - especially those who don't own vehicles - by keeping them close to entertainment and shopping centres.
But much like achieving results from development rule changes proposed for downtown, which council has put on the back burner after testing the waters of public perception and finding them lukewarm, the Old Airport Road recommendations will take time to achieve the desired results -- a lot of time.
And as far as the Canadian Tire parking lot goes, the city better get used to the idea that not everything will change.
In the meantime, our municipal politicians and administration need to work closely with businesses on Old Airport to make sure they're on board when it needs them to be. Yellowknifer spoke to some business owners and managers prior to the writing of this editorial and while it was obvious they were aware the city was planning something for their street, all complained that no one from the city had talked to them.
That's why it's unhelpful when city officials openly muse about stores needing to be closer to the street, and parking should be at the side or in the back. Such things are not possible at this time so why talk like it is and make some business owners feel targeted?
Just the tip of the iceberg
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 14, 2011
Located in the far southwestern corner of the region, Fort Liard seems closer to B.C. than it does to its nearest Deh Cho neighbour.
In fact, Acho Dene Koe First Nation claims traditional lands in both the Yukon and B.C., in addition to the Deh Cho.
The state of Highway 7 also adds to this disconnect. It's far easier for residents of the hamlet to make the trip to Fort Nelson for supplies than Fort Simpson or beyond.
Fort Liard is also distanced on a political level.
The split was formally made in October 2008 when a resolution to remove Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADK) from the definition of Dehcho First Nations and the entire Dehcho Process was unanimously passed at a Dehcho First Nations' fall leadership meeting.
Three months earlier, ADK had signed an agreement with the territorial and federal governments to negotiate its own land claims agreement.
One of the reasons ADK gave for going its own way was that it wanted to assert its claim on traditional land in the Yukon and B.C., something that couldn't be done under the Dehcho Process.
Going it alone wasn't an easy path to choose.
ADK is now negotiating on its own with the territorial and federal governments. It can no longer count on the shared clout of the much larger Dehcho First Nations.
In addition to dealing with the two levels of government, ADK has also been faced with challenges from the Nahanni Butte and Sambaa K'e Dene bands with regards to overlapping traditional lands, an issue that has yet to be resolved.
ADK's recent election has put Harry Deneron back in the position of chief. It's a familiar role for Deneron, who first took on the title and the responsibilities that come with it in 1975.
Deneron and the new band councillors will have their work cut out for them over their three-year term as they continue negotiations and try to increase community involvement and understanding in the process.
ADK may no longer be part of Dehcho First Nations and the Dehcho Process but it is still part of the Deh Cho region.
The First Nation chose a path that was controversial three years ago when it broke away, and it still is today.
ADK, however, should be wished every success in its continuing negotiations.
The community's success and strength will only serve to contribute to the region's overall developing prosperity.
Continue caring for survivors
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 14, 2011
Inuvialuit youth are currently out whaling by Kendel Island, surely a unique experience that puts them in touch with their traditional roots. Later on in the summer, they'll have the chance to go fishing and berry picking.
Gwich'in youth will take 20 days to canoe from Ogilvie River to Fort McPherson. Again, what an amazing opportunity for them to paddle the river like their ancestors. Unfortunately, it will also include a three-day portage, also like their ancestors, but you know they will enjoy it after the fact; bragging rights and all that.
The curious thing is that while many youth were interested in the beginning, a few have dropped out because they got summer jobs. Understandable. Cash is a much-needed commodity at any age. For youth, the excitement of making your own can't be beat.
The thing that's kind of ironic is that adults, too, have trouble getting time out on the land. The nine to five, Monday to Friday grind doesn't leave a lot of time for packing the boat and heading out for weeks at a time to explore the land or go fishing and hunting. In the winter, costs are even higher.
It's the balance between traditional and modern that people are struggling to find. How do you continue to live in the way your grandparents did, while still enjoying the perks of modern life? Maybe its by taking advantage of these trips, volunteering to help out on them or even just going on them.
While residential schools tried to get rid of these traditions, schools now are working traditional knowledge into the curriculum, which will hopefully give students an idea on how to grow up with this balance of tradition and making a living.
Chief Jimmy Bruneau had a philosophy, that to succeed in the new world, his people must be strong like two people. The Dene have taken this to mean that to succeed in the current world, indigenous people must live with one foot firmly grounded in each world, western culture and their ancestors' culture.
If a person succeeds in straddling these two worlds, they can be the strongest person around. Hopefully these summer camps and school programs can give youth the strength to believe and succeed in both.
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 13, 2011
That was also the situation six months ago where non-emergency surgeries were called off for nearly 60 days.
On both occasions the information was brought to the public's attention through the complaints of patients and not by the Department of Health and Social Services.
Even under a different minister, this time Michael Miltenberger - former health czar Sandy Lee was not known for being forthcoming - the department still keeps information close to its chest; information that many Yellowknifers and others across the territory would like to know.
Last year, about 30 per cent of all surgeries were considered emergencies, the only type of surgery currently being offered at the hospital. From January to April, more than 200 elective surgeries were cancelled. Numbers for this troubled stretch are still being compiled, and the date for the resumption of all surgeries is still unknown.
The department, to its credit, is attempting to care for as many individuals in serious need as possible and has had technicians come in to diagnose the technical issues with the equipment. The sterilization machines are used for necessary surgeries as well as the general running of the facility.
However, remaining tight-lipped about information until the complaints begin to rumble contaminates the department's reputation and makes it appear that it was attempting to keep the problem under wraps. It's little wonder that strategy angered Great Slave MLA Glen Abernethy, who was caught off guard when one of his constituents informed him the sterilization problem has returned.
Although our health care system is as good as anywhere in the country - and public critiques help ensure that it remains top quality - the department's repeated choice to limit information until its hand is forced only weakens its public image.
Humans trump birds, but we can try to preserve nests
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Last week's story about songbirds along the Ingraham Trail being "pureed" by a Department of Transportation mower clearing brush is sad, but hardly surprising.
Wherever people live, and thrive, they run up against nature, even here in the vast North.
In this instance it's a case of "us" versus "them" - the safety of people driving on the territory's highways versus the fate of songbird species that have adapted to nesting in the roadside brush.
Naturalist Jamie Bastedo wants the department to push forward its timetable for clearing shrubbery until the chicks can fly.
For its part, the department should be commended for saying it'll try to do just that - examine whether it can postpone clearing work until later in the summer, "without compromising (human) safety." Transportation officials should follow through on that pledge, even though the department was not responsive when the same concern was raised in the past, according to Bastedo.
At the end of the day, what it comes down to - at least until more is known about the birds' behaviour and whether there is any other feasible solution - is human safety taking precedence.
Big egos lead to dumb acts
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 13, 2011
With the Qulliq Energy Corp. (QEC) being under fire again this past week, another plug is needed to stop the latest gusher of bad publicity bursting through the Government of Nunavut (GN) dam.
Although the RCMP investigation concluded QEC president Peter Mackey and/or lines supervisor Grant Penney did nothing wrong at their Iqaluit duplex (Mackey lives on one side and Penney the other), it became the latest case of powerful people becoming just a little too comfortable in their positions.
The RCMP concluded this was simply a case of QEC dropping off used utility poles, as can be availed by any Iqaluit resident, but it still has a poignant aroma.
And that foul smell emanates from the ever-widening gap between regular folks and Nunavut's upper crust of society.
Perception is often more powerful than reality, and it appears time to bring the understanding of those who occupy a Nunavut penthouse down a little closer to where the rest of us live.
We have no problem with the fact whoever received the poles did nothing more, or less, than any citizen has the right to do. The problem is, when you're a corporate head or a government minister, premier, head of a regional Inuit association, a high-ranking-management type, or among the top executives at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., you're not just like everyone else.
Your actions are on public display and, when you stop caring about that, the arrogance kicks in and trouble is soon to follow.
Although everything was proven to be above-board, as claimed by the QEC and those involved from the onset, a simple public announcement before the poles were delivered would have avoided the whole mess. A little acceptance of not being above public scrutiny combined with a few minutes of effort and you're done. No muss, no fuss, and no police investigation.
The silence from the GN in the early going of this matter (except for a brief release stating they only did what anyone else can do), is simply typical. It's become the standard tack when Northern media have questions about anything other than the latest, and greatest, GN initiative to improve our quality of life.
In fact, it's one of the few truly transparent actions of this government when these types of situations arise:
(A) Stay quiet while others do the work.
(B) Get rid of anyone found guilty (a list stretching from Arviat to Iglulik and points in between since 1999) and act sanctimonious about it all.
(C) If all are exonerated, break the silence and launch a verbal tirade against the unjust accuser.
(D) Carry on as usual with no further thought to perception or accountability.
Our leaders and top corporate executives should realize every month, when they're excited by the latest pay deposit into their bank accounts, they're not just like everyone else.
But those big numbers should also carry a sense of responsibility and dedication, as well as bearing testament to the receiver's intelligence and effectiveness.
When they start feeding egos, I am ruler of all I survey takes root and a little effort in the name of common sense evaporates.
And that's when police investigations begin.