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Northern money for Northern business
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 2, 2013

Yellowknife's business community is calling for changes to the city's policies when awarding contracts. Late last month, a southern construction firm won a $30-million contract to build the new water treatment facility.

Two Northern construction companies - Det'on Cho and Clark Builders - also made bids and both came in under 10 per cent more than the winning bid made by NAC Construction, an Ottawa-based company. In fact, the Det'on Cho bid was only three per cent more expensive than the winning bid.

As it stands, an inter-provincial trade agreement makes it impossible for the city to choose anything other than the lowest bid. But it's a poor excuse considering council had the ability to request amendments to either the Inter-provincial Agreement on Internal Trade or the GNWT's Business Incentive Policy (BIP). The latter would be the easiest. An amendment to the BIP allowing municipalities to give preference to Northern businesses during the tendering process would be all that is required.

We are flabbergasted by the fact council has been dragging its feet on this. Coun. Bob Brooks made a motion in 2011 to investigate policies to favour Northern companies. The motion was approved unanimously and then seemingly ignored.

Bob Doherty, president of the NWT and Nunavut Construction Association, said the previous administrator and mayor's lack of commitment to the issue was frustrating. We agree.

Mayor Mark Heyck said more recent discussions on the issue, which arose in relation to the water treatment plant, failed to generate a consensus.

Really? How hard is it to agree that Northern money should stay in the North?

The fact that a southern company bid lower than Northern companies can also be considered a major cause for concern. City- and Northern-based businesses are best suited to understand the costs of working here. We also hope their connection to the community leads them to bid fairly. With that in mind, can we trust that the bid by NAC Construction will work out?

Carl Bird, director of corporate services, said the agreement is a fixed-term contract and the chances of costs going up are unlikely. However, when asked by council, he admitted a cost increase could be possible. However unlikely, in the event additional funds are needed, what choice would the city have but to approve the additional expenditure?

Leslie Campbell, executive director of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, could not have stated it better when she said, "The bottom line is that Northern companies should get Northern contracts."

This project is costing the city nearly $10 million more than it was originally estimated and associated costs to upgrade peripheral infrastructure is going to heap more cash onto the pile.

Yes, the city is being forced to build the new facility. While there is no getting around that fact, it's unfortunate that at the end of the day everyone is losing, including taxpayers, Northern business and Northern workers.

Awash in opportunities
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ah, to be a teenager in the Deh Cho.

Not only are teenagers in the area growing up in an amazing region of Canada, they also have an astounding number of opportunities offered to them.

A case in point is the trip the Canadian Canoe Foundation is offering for 10 teens in grades 9 to 11. The trip is completely free, apart from the fact that participants who are accepted need to find their own way to Fort Simpson to start the trip and a way home from Wrigley at the end of the paddle.

While on the Mackenzie River, the teens will learn about canoeing, water ecology, and the issues facing Canadian rivers. In more populated areas of the country, teens would be clamoring for this opportunity.

Also related to sciences and the environment, 15 youths from the ages of 12 to 18 just finished spending eight days at Cli Lake where this year's Dehcho Youth Ecology Camp was held. The camp, which is open to youth from the Deh Cho, exposes participants to environmental sciences and traditional knowledge.

For youth who want to go a bit farther afield, there are other options.

Northern Youth Abroad offers young people aged 15 to 22 hands-on work experience and high school credits through cross-cultural work and learning experiences both in Canada and abroad. Five teens from the Deh Cho are currently participating in the Canadian phase of the program.

Youth who want to see the west coast and get a glimpse of what life in the Canadian Forces is like can apply to participate in the Raven Aboriginal Youth Initiative. That program is designed to build relationships with aboriginal communities and make youth aware of potential civilian or military careers with the Department of National Defence.

For athletically-talented Deh Cho youth, there is the annual Mackenzie Youth Summer Games, which was just held in Fort Liard, and for a select few basketball players, the chance to go to the Native American Basketball Invitational in Phoenix, Ariz.

Teenagers in the Deh Cho have an astounding number of opportunities presented to them that are often free or heavily subsidized through fundraising. The ones mentioned here are just a small selection of the opportunities available.

Youth need to be encouraged to seize as many of these opportunities as possible. Every space in each of the programs should be filled.

By attending the programs, teenagers expand their horizons, learn more about themselves and about how they can create a successful future for themselves and the region.

Seize the chance to create archives
Editorial Comment by T. Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 1, 2013

The exhibition of the contents of a time capsule by the Inuvik Girl Guides at the Inuvik Centennial Library this week brings up an interesting and timely question about the town's history.

Inuvik, Candace Seddon pointed out, has nothing like a proper archive. That's why the contents of the time capsule from the 1980s is now heading for Alberta where it can be preserved for posterity and put on display for the public.

Seddon said that she's bothered by the need to send the items there instead of preserving them here at home where they belong. She'd much prefer for them to stay here.

She's exactly right.

Inuvik, because it's a "designed" or "artificial" community a little more than 50 years old, has a unique chance to record its history.

Much of the history right from the establishment of the community should be available to be documented and archived. But it seems, in the rush to construct the town and get it running, that chance is falling by the wayside.

Not many communities of any size have had such an opportunity to preserve its full history. More typically, municipalities spring up because they're close to good fishing or hunting land. Or perhaps it's because they were in an advantageous position to tap into some economic opportunities.

None of that really applies to Inuvik, which was created specifically to be a government centre. That being the case, it's perplexing how government types, with their mania for bureaucracy and paperwork and systems and organization, could have let this chance slip through their fingers.

Perhaps it's because of a lack of an identity for the community in some socio-psychological manner. You can make the argument, after all, that not very many people are truly from Inuvik in the typical sense. After 50-some years, there's been a chance for approximately two generations of people to have been born here. It's unclear how many of them have stayed on, while a large percentage of the population continues to be transient.

So perhaps the organic identity of the town is still coalescing into something more solid, and that's been an influence on the lack of archives.

Whatever it may be, it's time for the town to devote some attention to a local archive. A government one, if it exists, is better than nothing, but there is a need to document and preserve the specific local history of Inuvik right here at home.

Let's see if the town is prepared to listen to Seddon's observations and to act on it.

Seniors' assistance needs booming
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A surprising announcement came earlier this month as AVENS senior housing administration released plans for a $33-million expansion to its senior's housing complex in Yellowknife.

The need for seniors housing is not surprising, although the scope of need is staggering. The population of elders who need living assistance in the NWT is surging as the Baby Boomer generation ages. In fact, AVENS CEO Jeff Renaud estimates the population of NWT residents aged 65 to 74 will double by 2026 - and in Yellowknife that number is expected to triple within the same timeframe.

To put this into perspective, there are currently 173 long-term care beds in the territory with a 19-bed waiting list. Thirteen years from now, it is expected that 600 such beds will be needed.

As Maureen Hall, president of the Yellowknife Seniors Society, told Yellowknifer last week, she would not have been able to afford to stay in the North if she had not secured a seniors housing unit at Aven Ridge after nine years on the waiting list. Her monthly rent before moving into the subsidized facility was $1,600.

Aside from the cost of living, most elders require regular medical and housekeeping support. For this and so many other reasons, the new Aven Pavilion is wonderfully designed to offer everything from semi-independent supportive living units to palliative care beds.

What was most surprising about the announcement was who is expected to pay for the proposed 60-bed facility. Through a campaign called Moving Forward, AVENS hopes to attract private and government donations.

While we should encourage the public to help with fundraising, as has been done in the past with projects such as the Betty House, is it not ultimately the government's responsibility to ensure there are infrastructure dollars to support seniors who want to stay in the North?

With an annual budget of roughly $1.5 billion, let's hope our government can find it in their hearts and their pocketbooks to "donate" a healthy portion of the funding needed for such an important facility.

Address the causes of homelessness
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On July 12, the city lost one of its most visible citizens: Walter Edgi. A look into his past found a treasured history for Edgi, but what most people will remember about him was that he had no home. Like many in the city of Yellowknife, Edgi was homeless.

It's hardly a secret that Yellowknife, along with other communities in the North, has a homelessness problem. It's near impossible to walk downtown without encountering it.

Study after study has shown the homeless population of any town is made up of people who tend to have or in the past had issues with addiction, alcoholism and abuse.

A report by Nick Falvo of Ottawa's Carleton University made a number of recommendations about solving homelessness in Yellowknife and the NWT, including setting up a secretariat for homelessness, develop better shelter standards so as to not repeat a tuberculosis outbreak that hit the men's emergency shelter in 2007 and 2008, and to help create affordable housing.

That same report found that as many as 400 families were on the waiting list for affordable housing.

In the meantime, the GNWT has filed reports and findings on what to do about homelessness and poverty in Yellowknife and the rest of the territory. But what about action on the problem?

The creation of the city's day shelter was a good start but more must be done to address the core issues of why these people are homeless in the first place. Services need to be made available to help those on the streets with their issues, which often include addiction and alcoholism. Perhaps the GNWT's new plan for mobile addictions treatment programs will help in that area.

At the end of the day, we're talking about helping people. People with a story, such as Edgi's. The sole solution can't be to just put them in a shelter at night so that they're out of view. The core of the problem needs to be addressed.

Scolding my own profession
Editorial Comment by Miranda Scotland
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Every child deserves some fanfare to mark their birth but the hype around the arrival of Prince William and Kate Middleton's little bundle of joy went too far.

Really, the world doesn't need to know how the Queen's visit with the new baby went or that he cried when he met Prince Harry.

And it certainly wasn't necessary for the media to stake out the hospital for weeks waiting for little Prince George to be born. (Frankly, it was an embarrassment to the profession.)

Hundreds of thousands of babies are born into the world every day.

All it takes is a sperm and an egg - people don't even have to have sex for a woman to get pregnant anymore.

The point is, there are so many other topics that are truly newsworthy and that deserve the attention of the masses.

Instead of CTV National making its top story the birth, how about putting some real attention on high food prices in the North?

Canadian media can even stake out the local Northern store while I do my shopping.

I'm happy to put on a polka dot dress and emerge with my receipt all wrapped up in a blanket if that's what it takes to get some coverage on the issue.

I can see the headline now: "It's a big one!"

How about filling people's Twitter feeds with stories of a mother going to bed hungry because she wanted to make sure her children were fed first?

Why not discuss the ongoing request from politicians in Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to have Nutrition North investigated by the auditor general because it isn't working?

Talk about how the program is benefiting big retailers, not the citizens it's supposed to be helping.

Or maybe cover Northerners' struggle to pay the ridiculous costs they face for housing.

No doubt many Canadians are unaware that a single bedroom apartment typically costs more than $2,000 a month up here.

They should know that for some residents, if they don't receive assistance, it means living on the streets in -40 C to -50 C temperatures.

These are the stories that need to be told. They are the stories that can make a difference.

Only one article or clip about the baby prince was needed. He was born, it's a boy, yay, the end.

Save the ink for something that matters or at least until little George makes a gaffe or gets a little too wild with his uncle Prince Harry.

Miranda Scotland is interim editor of Kivalliq News while editor Darrell Greer is on vacation.

  • Miranda Scotland is interim editor of Kivalliq News while editor Darrell Greer is on vacation

A failing grade on education
NWT News/North - Monday, July 29, 2013

The annual report that determines where NWT students stand when it comes to education and attendance was released earlier this month and the results weren't stellar. The numbers weren't a surprise either, which was bad news in itself.

The report gives a historic snapshot of how students in the NWT fared over the years. The proportion of students at or above grade level has stayed quite consistent since 2006/07, falling or rising by a per cent or two over the school years. The lowest figures, in the smaller communities, were hard to swallow.

Thirty-eight per cent of Grade 9 students in the communities were performing at or above grade level in 2011/12. More than half are slipping through the cracks of the education system, and have three more years to go before they are supposed to graduate.

Attendance rates didn't bring anything to celebrate, either. The average attendance for NWT students is 84.4 per cent. The report puts the numbers into perspective.

A student with 80 per cent attendance means they might have missed one day a week for the entire year, and adding that up, miss one year of schooling over five years.

There might be a silver lining. The kinks are being looked at under a microscope. The government's Education Renewal Initiative is currently attempting to revamp the education system in the territory through research and analysis of what must be improved or changed all together. And at the rate grades and attendance are going, major improvements are needed. This project will hopefully shed light on how the NWT's young academics can perform better. The students are our future and without a good education, the ripple effect is far reaching.

As the Department of Health and Social Services did with the recent Minister's Forum on Addictions and Community Wellness, the department of education should act quickly on recommendations that will come from the renewal initiative. Money is constantly being pumped into the structures that hold the students, such as Inuvik's East Three School and its whopping $126-million price tag. It's time to invest in who is inside these buildings - the young residents of the NWT bettering themselves for a successful future.

A chance to swing in the big leagues
NWT News/North - Monday, July 29, 2013

It wasn't all about scores when it came to picking the NWT boys golf team for the upcoming Canada Summer Games. This factor allowed all participants to be on more common ground when competing for spots on the team during the Golf NT Championships in Fort Smith.

Jake Roche of Deline, Jeffrey Groenheyde of Hay River, and Brandon Tuckey of Fort Smith are now practising their swings harder than ever before heading to Sherbrooke, Que., next month.

If the team had been formed based on scores alone, Gray said it would have given the Fort Smith players an advantage, since they know the course better than the other NWT golfers.

Instead, Gray looked at each athlete's development, how they performed on the golf course, and how close they came to attain a number Gray wanted them to shoot.

Gray isn't setting athletes up for failure by not choosing the top scorers for the boys team.

He looked at their progress and their game, fair and square. It's a refreshing system that will hopefully be used again.

Gray knows what he's looking for in the team and the boys he's chosen have a right to be there. The boys heading to Sherbrooke are ready for the experience of a lifetime, seeing the best junior golfers in the country compete and being a part of the action.

Balance corporate interests with traditional Inuit values
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 29, 2013

Diametrically opposed forces are butting heads in an Ellesmere Island community in a battle that smacks of David vs. Goliath kind of controversy.

On one side is the tiny Inuit community of Grise Fiord, home to about 130 residents, according to the 2001 federal census. On the other is Canada Coal, a Vancouver, B.C.-based company which is publicly traded on the TSX Venture Exchange and whose president and CEO is a chartered accountant with training in South Africa, England and Wales, and 17 years of corporate finance experience, much of it in the mining industry.

At issue is the company's 75 exploration licences on the Fosheim Peninsula, located on Ellesmere Island not far from the Eureka Weather Station, and on Alix Heiberg Island. Both locations are within traditional Inuit hunting areas. That's why residents of Grise Fiord, the closest community to the exploration area are up in arms. Beginning with a community consultation meeting in October 2011 and continuing to meetings in June 2012, the message from community leaders was clear -- resource exploration would not be allowed or tolerated in the area.

The problem for residents of Grise Fiord is that as long as the well-financed company does everything by the book, it will likely get the authorization it needs to proceed with exploration drilling, the next step on the property.

There is no question that an abundance of coal exists, with at least 21 billion tonnes of inferred resource in the licence area, which spans an incredible 2.4 million acres.

On the other side of the equation are the animals the Inuit use during their traditional hunting and trapping activities, including Peary caribou, muskox, Arctic wolves, Arctic foxes, lemming and ptarmigan.

Although the hamlet of Grise Fiord is perched on the southern tip of the island, and the exploration area is close to the Eureka weather station in the northern region, Inuit travel far and wide during their hunting trips and migration patterns could put herds at risk. With that in mind, there are legitimate concerns about the impact of further exploration.

Despite the opposition, Canada Coal was granted its exploration licences and its chief executive officer is confident the company will be able to proceed. The next step, he told News/North last week, is in regards to minimizing the impact on wildlife. A followup meeting is being planned with mayors and local representatives to deal with their concerns.

Given that Canada Coal's exploration is intended to eventually result in a mine, it would be well advised to listen carefully to the concerns of the people in Grise Fiord and make a sincere effort to develop a relationship with people in the interest of meeting its corporate goals while embracing the Inuit traditions of caring for and respecting the land and all its inhabitants.

The people of Grise Fiord must also ensure they make their voices heard and ensure any development does not do more harm than good. Jobs are great, but you can't eat coal.

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