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Conserving energy and dollars
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 22, 2012

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley's passion for green - the environment - is conflicting with the GNWT finance minister's passion for green - money.

Bromley, a biologist when he's not a politician, has staked out his territory as the resident environmentalist in the legislative assembly. Earlier this month he called upon the GNWT to include more financing to research renewable energy projects. Funds initially set aside for that purpose in the 2012-2013 budget amounted to $3.5 million, down from $7.2 million last year. Energy planning was only to get $1.6 million compared to $6.5 million last year.

Due to Bromley's efforts, an additional $1.7 million has been added for renewable energy initiatives.

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger is under pressure to tighten the government's belt as the GNWT is staring at $656 million in projected debt by next March. As Environment minister, Miltenberger is certainly not oblivious to environmental concerns. For example, he has been high profile in calling for a trans-boundary water agreement with Alberta to protect water flowing into the NWT.

While no politician wants to be viewed as "anti-environment," Yellowknife Centre Robert Hawkins took the daring step of challenging Bromley's demand for more money. Hawkins pointed out that the previous government spent $60 million over four years on climate change initiatives and, outside of wood pellet boilers, had little to show for it.

He's largely right.

Wood pellet boilers have served Yellowknife well, having been installed at Sir John Franklin High School, the North Slave Correctional Centre, the Yellowknife Community Arena, Bison Estates apartments and the legislative assembly, among others. The boilers have saved up to 60 per cent on heating costs compared to petroleum-based fuels. This calculation shows it's a winning idea.

However, other "green" projects have either proved a failure or an analysis of their efficiency still isn't conclusive.

In February, 258 solar panels spanning the length of a football field started generating power at the Fort Simpson airport. It's the largest project of its kind in the NWT, and it came with a $760,000 price tag, most of it funded by the GNWT. The solar panels are expected to produce enough power to offset the equivalent of 2.5 days of diesel power per year. It sure doesn't seem like much.

Expanding the NWT's existing Taltson hydro system would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and the GNWT abandoned years of studies last year when the diamond mines expressed no interest in taking part.

Back in Fort Simpson, on a smaller hydro scale, the GNWT installed an experimental underwater turbine in the Mackenzie River in July 2010 at a cost of close to $250,000. The turbine only lasted 12 days before it became inoperable due to damage caused by logs and debris in the water following a storm.

The government's attempts at wind power have met with similar misfortune at the hands of Mother Nature. Turbines in several NWT and Nunavut communities have seized up or broken down over the past decade, proving unable to function well in the extreme cold of the North. The greatest hope on that front now lies with Diavik Diamond Mine, which is installing four wind turbine towers near its mine site. Let's learn from its success or failure.

There are other initiatives that have been shown to work. The City of Yellowknife was accused of establishing onerous standards when it began enforcing an EnerGuide 80 building code in 2011, which pertains to strict standards for insulation, windows and mechanical systems for energy efficiency in a home. Those standards are now routinely met and could be adopted in more NWT communities.

The GNWT has already embraced a rebate program for energy-efficient appliances, which is admirable. Perhaps it could expand on this idea.

The point is, while trying to save the environment, we should stick with what works rather than chasing expensive rainbows, especially at a time when money is tight.


Important to watch government at work
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fort Simpson will be a very busy place next week as the Dehcho First Nations' annual assembly gets underway.

As the host community, Fort Simpson can expect to see delegations from all of the Deh Cho communities arrive along with additional people who have come just to watch or partake in the associated activities. For close to a week, Fort Simpson will be the focal point of the Deh Cho.

Although people have job commitments and there are long distances to travel, as many people as possible should try to attend the assembly, even if it is just for half a day or even a few hours. Being at the assembly is an opportunity to watch the Deh Cho government at work.

If you've never been to one of the assemblies, it can be an informative experience.

The first thing of note is the agenda. It is interesting to see what items are being considered of the utmost importance for the Deh Cho. Items on this year's draft agenda include the Dehcho Process, the Dehcho Land Use Plan, Edehzhie, Devolution and the Wildlife Act.

Not only is it interesting to see what is on the agenda, it is also interesting to hear the various leaders' stances on any given item and how the Dehcho First Nations as a group decides to proceed. Listening to the presentations on each of the items is also informative because, let's be frank, very few people remain up to date on all of the major issues facing Dehcho First Nations.

The Dehcho Process is a prime example. In any given Deh Cho community there are likely very few people, apart from the chief and possibly a few band councillors, who could give a precise synopsis about what the Dehcho Process entails, what stage it is at and what ramifications it will have when finished.

This is of significant note because if it is finished and implemented, the Dehcho Process will result in some sweeping changes in the region. The assembly is an opportune time for Deh Cho residents to learn about where the process is going.

Being at the assembly is also informative because it gives spectators a glimpse of the inner workings of Dehcho First Nations and how the leaders interact with one another. Most importantly, the assembly sets the tone for the next year in the region.

While the process isn't always gripping, it is important for Deh Cho residents to experience the annual assembly. This is their government at work and people need to stay informed about what it is doing and how.


Pipeline 'stuck at a red light'
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 21, 2012

More than 500 industry and political leaders gathered for the Inuvik Petroleum Show this week to discuss issues of oil and gas development in the North.

The elephant in the room throughout the conference was the feasibility of the long-heralded Mackenzie Gas Project (MGP).

In April, it was announced that the Inuvik offices for the MGP were being scaled down and offices in Fort Simpson and Norman Wells were being shut down altogether. The reason: partners in the project had decided to reduce spending because of slumping natural gas prices.

At the time, Imperial Oil spokesperson Jon Harding told News/North that this reduction in spending was "in line with anticipated project activity."

Support from the government, and natural gas prices, are not where they need to be for the project to move the pipeline forward right now, said Heather Marreck, development executive of the MGP for Imperial Oil, during a panel on the Mackenzie Gas project Tuesday.

It seems as though private industry and political leaders are playing a silent game of chicken in regards to the entire matter.

Industry, looking at the bottom line and what makes economic sense, is saying the project will not move forward right now, period. Meanwhile, the people of the Beaufort Delta need jobs, or at the very least the promise of jobs, and that is what their politicians and local organizations seem unable to stop promising them.

Industry will not say outright that funding for the pipeline is off the table and who knows, soon prices may turn around and the project might be viable again.

However, this tension was never discussed during the petroleum show. From the tone of the conference the MGP is not a matter of if, but when.

When Inuvik residents switched over to natural gas in 1999, the idea that there may not be a pipeline and more cheap natural gas by the end of the 15-year franchise agreement for the Ikhil Joint Venture seemed absurd. Here we are, 13 years later with a well running dry and a pipeline still at least a decade away, if it's going to happen at all.

MGP partners may be able to scale back funding now that the project has lost its economic appeal, but residents have already bought in. Energy costs in the community are set to double this fall a short-term solution to the town's gas crisis and years of stalling on the sides of industry, government and regulatory boards has made the MGP unfeasible. Yes, industry has lost a chance to make money, but Inuvik has lost a chance to plug in to the pipeline, which, along with the jobs the project might offer, would be of huge benefit to the community.

As the project lost momentum, getting more and more entangled in red tape over a decade of negotiations and political volleying, the ordinary people of Inuvik and the territory have missed out on a huge opportunity. How fair is that?


Don't make it easy for thieves
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 20, 2012
With the warm weather and long daylight hours of summer comes open windows, outdoor toys and ... thieves.

Yup. Things are disappearing from people's yards, police nabbed a man suspected of breaking into a garage on Ragged Ass Road and paddles have been pinched from people's canoes.

It's all very irritating. Summer is supposed to be about living free and easy for residents, not for thieves.

Instead, police are urging residents to "ensure you lock your doors and windows and take all precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of your family and possessions."

People have to turn their minds towards the possibility of becoming victims. Yellowknife RCMP Const. Amanda McGillivray, in a press release, stated, "Remember that even though someone has been arrested in break and enters, it does not mean that residents should become complacent."

That means not leaving valuables in plain sight inside a vehicle, to prevent some misguided individual to succumb to the temptation of smashing the window and stealing.

Lock the doors of your home, even when you are in the backyard gardening. Opportunistic thieves can move quickly to ransack a house.

Although at one time it was common for boaters to leave the oars with the vessel after pulling it on shore, that can be a costly mistake. One person returned to her canoe to find the paddles had been stolen overnight. The replacement cost, about $80, may not seem high but was a considerable inconvenience and irritant.

Being vigilant doesn't just involve looking after your own property. Be a good neighbour. Call police when you see activity that seems suspicious, such as observing shady characters in places where they have no business.

Newcomers to Yellowknife need to know that the city does not have a 9-1-1 emergency phone service. To reach police regarding an emergency situation, call 873-1111 or 920-1111.

Together the community can send a message to those with a propensity towards thievery that it will not be tolerated.


Aviation memorial is needed
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Transportation Minister David Ramsay has a promise to live up to this summer, and Range Lake MLA Darryl Dolynny seems intent to hold him to it.

During question period in the legislative assembly on June 5, Dolynny pressed Ramsay about the need to enhance the territory's Aviation Memorial Program, which has been grounded since Pilot's Monument was established more than 30 years ago.

The cement obelisk features a plaque, installed in 1999 by the federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, that honours "a small number of daring aviators" whose pioneering flights helped develop the North in the 1920s and 1930s.

Today, a large number of daring aviators, along with their in-flight teams and ground crews and their families, continue to help develop the North.

Bristol Monument, a Bristol Air Freighter that landed at the North Pole in 1967 donated by aviation pioneer Max Ward, also honours aviation innovation, but neither monument reflects the need to remember those lost on the job.

On Aug. 20 Yellowknifers will mark the anniversary of the tragic flight of First Air 6560, which crashed in Resolute, killing 12 people, including Yellowknife residents David Hare, co-pilot, and flight attendants Ute Merritt and Ann Marie Chassie.

Yellowknifers will also remember Arctic Sunwest pilots Trevor Jonasson and Nicole Stacey who were killed when the Twin Otter floatplane they were piloting crashed in Old Town on Sept. 22.

Dolynny asked Ramsay if he would commit to revitalizing the Aviation Memorial Program throughout the territory and show leadership by reaching out to families and businesses with a goal of developing a new aviation memorial in Yellowknife.

"I certainly would be interested in doing that," Ramsay replied, "and I will take that back to my officials at the Department of Transportation to see how that could happen."

We look forward to hearing about Ramsay's progress later this summer.


New station for Tootoo Train?
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

There was an interesting moment during the student award presentations at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI) in Rankin Inlet this past week.

As he does every year, Rankin's own Jordin Tootoo was presenting a number of different awards, including one in memory of his brother, Terence.

The winner of that particular award attends an NHL game in Canada.

Of course, for past winners, that meant seeing the Nashville Predators play against a Canadian team.

The interesting part came when Tootoo politely interrupted MUI principal Jesse Payne's introduction to point out he may not be a Nashville Predator for much longer.

Despite his affinity for the team and the city, the fact of the matter is Tootoo has been in Nashville too long and it's time for him to take his game to another team.

The 2011-2012 NHL season was an interesting one for Tootoo, to say the least.

Most hockey pundits agree that, arguably, other than the playoffs the previous year, Tootoo played the best hockey of his career this past season.

And the Tootoo Train still found time to cause a little mayhem along the tracks.

He was the Predator to step up against Dallas tough guy Mark Fistric the game after Fistric demolished Predators' star defenceman Shea Weber.

Tootoo served a two-game suspension for a collision with Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, and narrowly escaped another after shoving a linesman who was a little too aggressive in trying to separate players in a scuffle during a game against the L.A. Kings.

And Tootoo also had his moments with the media.

He suffered a nose bleed during a live Fox Sports Tennessee TV interview with Terry Crisp, after taking a high stick to the chops during the game, and delivered a profanity-laced vent to the print media on his frustration over being relegated to the Black Aces in the playoffs.

And, it's exactly that type of spirit and love for the game that has three NHL teams keenly interested in adding the Tootoo Train to their station.

The problem may be, however, Tootoo has grown to enjoy playing in an NHL city that offers a fair share of anonymity for NHLers, and the three rumoured to be interested in his services are all hockey hotbeds.

The Edmonton Oilers have a stable of gifted young players who would benefit from Tootoo's (ahem) presence, and the Train would stand a good chance of seeing regular playing time on the Oilers' third line.

Rumours out of the Motor City indicate the Red Wings need to add more grit to their lineup, and they're looking seriously at both Tootoo and Travis Moen if neither is signed by their respective clubs by July 1.

And, finally, Philadelphia is also rumoured to be interested in Tootoo.

The Flyers (is Tootoo a natural fit, or what?) have the least cap flexibility among the three, but if Chris Pronger ends up on long-term injury reserve, that wouldn't be a problem.

The final joker in the deck is if Tootoo decides to sign with a team one of his NHL buddies, say Scottie Upshall in Florida for example, currently plays for.

Wherever he signs, Tootoo will still be No. 1 with Nunavut fans, but, you have to admit, he'd look some spiffy with a winged wheel or drop of oil on his chest come October.


Don't let communities die
NWT News/North - Monday, June 18, 2012

The territorial government should be basing more jobs, services and programs in the communities outside Yellowknife as well as holding more meetings in the towns and hamlets.

That was a statement from Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen during the early days of the latest sitting of the NWT's legislative assembly, which wrapped up last week.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche made a like-minded remark when he said he cannot support the concept of a territorial ombudsman if the $1-million office is going to be located in the NWT's capital city. It would be just another example of more riches for Yellowknife.

Premier Bob McLeod reminded the MLAs that decentralization was made a priority by the members of the current assembly. That's good because the stronger the communities, the stronger the territory.

There were an estimated 19,888 people living in Yellowknife in 2011, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, and the GNWT has 2,295 employees located in the capital, almost half of the government jobs in the territory. The next largest government centres are Fort Smith at 486 jobs and Inuvik at 471. After that it drops to 272 positions in Hay River.

We want to avoid going the way of the Yukon where Whitehorse has more than 24,000 people while the next most populous community, the renowned gold rush town Dawson City, has fewer than 1,900. Only one other Yukon community has more than 1,000 people, Watson Lake at around 1,550. The locales outside the capital generally aren't faring well and have very few government jobs to fall back on.

In the NWT, statistics show most of our smaller communities are continuing to decline in population, with residents moving to Yellowknife or, more often, going south.

In Nunavut the intent of decentralization has largely been embraced by many in the communities.

"Ever since decentralization of the GN, it has brought a lot of jobs to the community," said Colin Saunders, an economic development officer in Pond Inlet.

"I've been up here since the creation of the territory and the differences in the community before and after are still visible and evident. Having decentralized government here in Pond Inlet has done nothing but bring positive economic benefits to the community."

We need to do the same here in the NWT.

We must stem the tide of shrinking communities before we drain our regions of their human resources, and government jobs are a primary means of countering that.


Time to put the pedal to the metal
NWT News/North - Monday, June 18, 2012

Transportation Minister Dave Ramsay has been jostled in the legislative assembly on plenty of occasions over the past several months.

On June 1, he was bounced around in a different place - in a vehicle on the highway to Fort Liard, better known as the Liard Trail.

Trail is an apt name for the gravel road, riddled with potholes and series of bumps better known as "washboard."

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche invited Ramsay on the road trip.

In Fort Liard, Chief Harry Deneron expressed frustration over the state of the highway, emphasizing the danger it poses to motorists, but also shared his skepticism that the GNWT is going to do anything about it.

"I know he's broke. I know I'm talking to an empty box," Deneron said of Ramsay.

It's true that money is tight for the debt-laden territorial government and it would take more than $200 million to fix the road, according to Ramsay.

However, what is truly aggravating is that even the small pot of money earmarked for highway maintenance isn't being spent in full.

This year's budget for the Liard Trail is a mere $1.7 million, but that money is carried over from last year. Similarly, this year's pot for Highway 1 through the Deh Cho is $4.7 million, which includes $2.7 million from last year.

Every available dollar to keep the road in the best shape possible should be used, not left to collect dust.

We hope Ramsay doesn't forget that as he returns to the capital, where he drives on smooth roads to and from the legislative assembly.


Opportunities Nunavut
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 18, 2012

Nunavut is leading the country in economic growth while its residents protest the high cost of food and suffer the many ills created by housing that is not only incredibly expensive but just not available, period.

Economic growth can bring jobs, providing Nunavummiut with more money to spend on food and family. It can bring money into the territory, fueling infrastructure development which should include new housing.

But drugs and alcohol can follow the money, and a territory of isolated communities and bored youth is fertile ground, as we've already seen, for substance abuse, which aggravates mental illness and leads to family and street violence.

Despite the downside, without responsible development - mainly mining - we will be operating forever at the whims of Ottawa, through the allowance it gives the GN to run social and education programs. We need our own money to have full control over our decision-making. Social problems thrive regardless of any mining boom but having the financial resources for education and treatment can make all the difference.

Devolution will be key to this, if it happens in a timely matter and the territory gets a good deal, but devolution will only be of real benefit if industry flourishes. Opportunities North, News/North's 72-page special business report tucked into last week's paper, paints a picture of an economy gaining momentum.

As well, in last week's paper, new census data released by Statistics Canada shows that a third of the territory's population (33,322) is under 14. This is the time to start, in high school, instilling in the minds of students the opportunities to come.

Nursing and teaching programs are increasingly popular at Nunavut Arctic College, which will benefit the territory socially, but there is so much potential for resource development employment, Nunavummiut should have every opportunity to get involved, so they can one day take the lead on mining projects in Nunavut.

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