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Ramp it up!
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 22, 2011

Enough is enough.

It's time the management of Centre Square Mall follows the order issued by the NWT fire marshal, listen to customers and simply do the right thing - instal an access ramp at its Franklin Avenue entrance.

Wheelchair-users and their supporters have been pushing for the ramp since early 2009 when management of the upper mall installed a glass partition at the 49th Street entrance - the only entrance with a ramp - forcing users to wait and be buzzed in by Yk Inn staff.

But despite a February 2010 order by Fire Marshal Stephen Moss that a ramp be built at the busy Franklin Avenue entrance, no work has started, leaving people with wheelchairs or strollers on the outside looking in.

Both management and the city have debated a design that won't interfere with pedestrian traffic. And Moss cut the mall some slack in meeting his June 2010 deadline (more than a year ago!).

In the latest development last month, the mall submitted a revised design that appears to meet city criteria. But the reaction of one mother with a stroller when she heard the news - "I'll believe it when I see it" - is typical.

It shouldn't be this hard, especially when paying customers are involved. Either mall management has to build an access ramp at Franklin Avenue or the fire marshal has to get busy enforcing his own order. Either way, access shouldn't be denied any longer.


Invest in artistic community to help revive downtown
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 22, 2011

Although there has always been an expiration date for the Artist Run Community Centre in the old Pentecostal Church on 49th Street, the ticking of the clock is growing louder.

The first step toward the plot of land being transferred from its current owner, who is allowing the artists to use the space, to the GNWT took place at city council earlier this month.

It's not a question of how the artist community can keep the land, but how the city and territory should profit from the passion and devotion of those running and using the space.

Over recent years, the City of Yellowknife has invested millions of dollars into such shiny facilities as the Multiplex and the Fieldhouse.

There seems to be no shortage of funding available from local and higher levels of government for sports and recreation.

While facilities catering to active lifestyles and recreation are an asset and a necessity in a community, the same can be said for the arts.

The last major investment in the city for the arts community was the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre in 1984, with contributions from federal, provincial and territorial governments and an active national fundraising campaign led by then-mayor Michael Ballantyne.

The arts community has turned an empty shell of a building into the foundation of a strong arts centre, a stage for art shows and musical performances, helping to revive a dying downtown.

The artists, with the help of the business community, have shown the way. It's time governments - territorial and municipal - play a stronger role in sustaining and growing the capital city's art community.


And it begins
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 21, 2011

The region's residents, both those in the Deh Cho and Nahendeh electoral districts, had better start preparing themselves for what's ahead.

Although people wanting to run in the fall territorial election can't officially become candidates until the week of Sept. 5 to 9, the upcoming election is already on the minds of some, including the region's two current MLAs.

Both Michael McLeod in the Deh Cho and Kevin Menicoche in the Nahendeh have publicly announced their plans to run for re-election. Both are assembling teams to help them examine the current issues and decide which they want to focus on in their platforms.

The region's residents can look forward to at least two months of political discussions and debates in the lead up to the Oct. 3 election. The questions that will soon be answered are which issues the candidates will focus on and will those issues coincide with what is really of concern for residents.

McLeod noted that during his three terms in office, the cost of living in the North has remained a primary issue. Because these costs affect everyone, it's a safe bet they will be debated by those looking to become part of the 17th legislative assembly.

Housing and employment were also flagged by McLeod as long-standing issues. For Menicoche, education, health and highways have been the focus of two terms in office. Comments at constituency meetings have shown those issues continue to remain important.

While the mainstays will absorb a lot of attention, it could be issues that have more recently risen to prominence that will sway voters toward certain candidates.

If the Dene Nation has anything to say about it, devolution will be in the spotlight during the election period. A vocal opponent of the signed devolution agreement-in-principle, part of the nation's plan to address the issue is to make sure the MLAs who are elected in the fall share its views on devolution and are willing to work on the issue.

If the Dene Nation puts its support behind certain candidates and can encourage its members to vote for them, it could prove to be a major force in the election.

Concerns about the protection of land and water, especially in light of Enbridge Pipeline Inc.'s spill on the Norman Wells line and continued oil sands development in Alberta, will also likely feature prominently in the election.

The region's residents have just more than two months to decide which, if any, of these issues matter to them and which candidate is best suited to represent them. These decisions could mean in with new and out with the old in the two electoral districts or a continuation of the current leadership.


Tourists need tours
Editorial Comment
Samantha Stokell
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Great Northern Arts Festival is fantastic. It's brought a bit of big city living to Inuvik, with the beautiful art, live music every night and a sense of bustle, busy-ness and excitement.

It's a celebration of Northern art (as the title implies), but also what goes with that Northern culture in whatever form it may take. It could be an artist who has lived North of 60 for two years, 40 years or their entire life. The definition of a Northern artist is changeable; it can be someone born in the North who has taken their craft south or someone who moved here and became inspired by the landscape.

The perk of this festival is that the artists can all learn from each other and further influence Northern culture and art. The sharing of ideas and techniques with other artists and visitors is certainly helping with the energy of the festival.

For a tourist or a resident, the workshops are brilliant. Increasing the number of classes available so that more people can participate in a variety of different art forms is a fantastic idea. In Inuvik, not a lot happens and not a lot is available for visitors to take advantage of. Without the festival to provide activities, these travellers can scramble for things to do.

Yes, there is the Igloo church. It's beautiful and full of history, but doesn't necessarily fill up your day. Same with the greenhouse. It is amazing and beautiful and useful, but doesn't really take that long to tour.

After doing a few weeks of Tourist of the Week, it seems that almost all visitors have the same schedule: Drive up the Dempster; stay in Inuvik for two days; visit Tuktoyaktuk for one day; drive back down the Dempster. People rarely stay for more than a couple of days because there isn't anything to fill those days up.

The potential here is endless. As some of the tour operators have suggested, aboriginal culture is a key area for growth. Why not embrace and celebrate it more? Aboriginal Day is an exciting and interesting event why not share that culture year round? Set up a culture camp in Jim Koe Park during the summer months or at the visitor centre where an elder (or a younger) can do demonstrations and talk a bit about their heritage, from 1 to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday?

As well, Inuvik is a transient community and even people who live here likely want to play tourist every once in a while and learn more about the place they live in. Maybe the Great Northern Arts Festival could hold once-a-month artist workshops, simply to provide an activity, raise some money and increase an awareness of culture in Inuvik.

The point is that Inuvik right now really feel like a destination. It's at the end of the road, but people are only here because they can get to the Arctic Ocean. Build a road and people will just continue farther North. Before the road to Tuktoyaktuk is built, we've got to build up Inuvik's tourism options because otherwise, when the Dempster is completed to the ocean, people will just keep on driving.


Halls of medicine and security
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A 37-year-old patient at Stanton Territorial Hospital runs unaccompanied into the kitchen and inexplicably plunges a knife into his chest twice on Nov. 4, 2009.

His heart is wounded, blood is cut off to his brain. He survives but now lives in a hospital bed with limited physical and mental function. His prognosis is uncertain.

That man is Allisdair Leishman, a helicopter engineer and son of Margaret Leishman, a mother who would not rest until she had answers as to how her son was able to harm himself in a place where he was supposed to receive help.

The hospital conducted an internal investigation. The findings were not made public, and that included Margaret. She did not accept that outcome, so she turned to territorial politicians to support her cause. Several regular MLAs voted in favour of an external review.

That external review was carried out and it resulted in two recommendations: that the hospital hire special constables - security guards with specialized training to respond to challenging patients - and encouraging family members, especially of those with mental illness, to accompany them to the hospital. These seem like good, common-sense recommendations, as was to begin locking the kitchen door, a step that reportedly came from the internal review.

What happened on Nov. 4, 2009 was tragic, but there is no reversing it. The best we can do it figure out how to prevent something similar from happening again. The process has nearly run its course due to a courageous mother who insisted on the truth and MLAs who took their jobs seriously and went to bat for her. To complete the lessons to be learnt from this horrific incident, the health department must now adopt the recommendations.

Improvements to psychiatric care - long an Achilles heel of the NWT health-care system - are also needed.

The Leishman case is an example, albeit a painful one, of how we make our medical services - generally among the best in the country - even better.


Clean-up contract is good business for Dene
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Close to 7.6 million ounces of gold were carted away from Giant Mine and millions of dollars in profits flowed to various corporations from 1948 until 2004.

While providing sustained growth of the City of Yellowknife, very little of the riches benefited the Yellowknives Dene, the original owners of the land.

That began to change in 2005 when Det'on Cho NUNA, a joint-venture between the Yellowknives and the Inuit, was formed.

As of July 6, that company was the winning bidder for the care and maintenance contract for the third straight time - the terms: $14.9 million over 21 months. That follows a three-year, $40-million contract. The Yellowknives and Inuit workers are responsible for security, water sampling and sewage treatment, public safety and monitoring buildings on the site.

The past two contracts that Det'on Cho NUNA held for the site over six years ended with not a single safety incident, Det'on Cho president and CEO Roy Erasmus Jr. said. Its a sterling record.

As Erasmus suggested, the mine, with its 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide being frozen underground, is one of the worst environmental liabilities in Canadian history.

Yet now the Yellowknives are helping to oversee the cleanup of the site and building wealth at the same time.

Their initiative is to be commended as is the direction provided by the federal government, which has been supportive of Det'on Cho NUNA efforts.

So long as the mine is cleaned up, the benefits extend to us all.


Leaving them in the dark
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

With all the negativity surrounding the Qulliq Energy Corp. (QEC) lately, it's time to give it a little credit for ramping-up efforts to collect the millions owed in unpaid power bills.

The QEC had $23.4 million in unpaid bills owing at the end of the 2010 fiscal year.

And, believe it or not, that represents a gain of more than $11 million from 2009, when the amount owing stood at an incredible $34.5 million.

Obviously, the collections specialist at the QEC is producing results.

Nunavummiut should not be put off by tales of woe, such as the one on Northern airwaves earlier this month about a man in Arctic Bay having his power cut for the money he owed the QEC.

Yes, it can be sad when people fall on tough times through illness or injury.

But that's why most of us spend a small fortune throughout the course of our lives on something we hope we never have to use - insurance.

Those who decide to traverse life devoid of proper coverage to protect themselves, family members and their belongings know the risk.

Too many people read or hear about those in trouble with service or utility providers due to not paying their bills, and look upon it as an isolated or solitary situation.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just as those who steal from our retailers drive up the prices the rest of us pay to cover the store's losses, so too do those who ring up high utility bills and walk away without paying them.

Our power rates are going nowhere but up in the near future to begin with, and tens of millions of dollars in unpaid bills will do nothing but add fuel to that costly fire.

Even if we ignore the fact we all have the responsibility of paying our bills - it's simply the way things are supposed to work - surely most people realize the enormous cost of providing power the QEC deals with.

And, for every kilowatt hour someone doesn't pay for, the rest of us will, eventually, be made to pick up the slack.

The non-payment-of-bills policy the QEC is starting to enforce with the promise of cutting power to those who do not pay is a universal approach.

Try living anywhere in this great nation of ours and not paying your power, water, fuel, telephone or cable bill for an extended period of time and you know what the end result will be.

The QEC claims it is working with customers in arrears to provide them with reasonable options to get caught up with their bills.

And, while no one wants to see anybody without power during a Nunavut winter, the fact of the matter is the QEC cannot afford to keep giving power away, no matter what the circumstances.

We here in Nunavut often express our desire to become more modern in many areas where it benefits us, and lament over the services we feel simply do not measure up. But like most things in life, that's a two-way street and accepting responsibility to pay for what you use comes with the territory.

If not, a simple flick of the switch can come as a chilly reminder after all other options have been exhausted. And, the cold hard fact of the matter is, those who find themselves in that situation can no longer claim to be left in the dark as to the reason why.


Korean business welcome
NWT News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011

A Korean business delegation that visited the High Arctic might one day yield economic dividends for the NWT.

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.

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