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No 'special treatment' on pensions
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teachers at Yellowknife Education District No. 1 are about to be given a defined benefit pension plan, putting them on similar footing with Yellowknife Catholic Schools and others across the country.

The Yk1 board made a request to the GNWT to help cover the cost of the pensions but so far have received no answer.

Board chair John Stephenson has assured teachers the pensions will happen with or without government help, a move that will cost the board $400,000 a year and brings the 2013/14 budget to $32.1 million.

In return, teachers have agreed to give up their sabbatical leave benefit and a pay increase retroactive to 2013.

The silence on territorial funding has left many wondering if the GNWT is playing favourites again. Teachers in all the communities outside of Yellowknife get government pensions. Yellowknife Catholic Schools started their pension benefits in February 2013,

Friday's Yellowknifer editorial questioned the motives of the government in asking the boards to pay for the new junior kindergarten program with their surpluses, money which could have been reinvested in other areas, such as paying for pensions.

The new kindergarten programs outside the city are fully funded by the GNWT.

While the territorial government has an obligation to help support smaller communities and encourage teachers to live there by offering incentives, it should not being done by sacrificing fairness and ignoring equality of employment benefits.

Such dependencies eventually breed resentment and will drive people away from the capital to the south which also costs the GNWT, contributing to the already dropping population numbers and reduced transfer payments.


Supervision at beach addressed, now deal with holes
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beach-goers with children no doubt rejoiced to hear David Ramsay, the minister responsible for parks, firmly commit to "eyes and ears on that beach" - referring to the public space at Long Lake, the site of a drowning tragedy last summer.

Though it remains uncertain which option Ramsay will pursue - lifeguards or waterfront attendants, a lesser designation but still capable of performing CPR - a vital need is being addressed. There will be employees on the beach dedicated to keeping their eyes on the water as children frolic. This will greatly reduce the risk of further tragedies.

Ramsay is on the right track. But there is another problem.

As pointed out by Yellowknifer last summer, although the water remains shallow almost all the way out to the buoy markers, there are deep, unmarked holes as close as 30 metres from the shore. The sudden six-foot drop can be a shock to adult swimmers, let alone children who can't swim. These holes have the potential to completely submerge most adults, meaning that younger beach-goers are even more at risk. A child can suddenly be engulfed and disappear, even with eyes and ears stationed on shore.

It should be repeated that in the absence of any other explanation as to how seven-year-old Lodune Shelley drowned, the most obvious one is that he fell into one of those deep holes close to shore - as demonstrated by Yellowknifer in video and pictures. .

If people continue to ignore the role of what the coroner briefly alluded to as "bottom terrain," there can be no doubt that there will be more tragedies in future.


Still quacking for big bucks
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chicken Little, a.k.a. global warming, a.k.a. climate change, lost more feathers to a stinging article by Friends of Science communication manager Michelle StirlingAnosh this past week.

The vast majority of the article debunking the climate change carbon baggers kept me rather comfy, as I trucked around Rankin Inlet on a balmy spring day with a windchill of 43 C.

I have devoured more information on climate change and humanity's contributions to it during the past five years than I ever would have believed I could digest.

Long story short, I continually see and hear doom and gloom prophecies from those who stand to make oodles of cash off of a scared 'silly' (and I use the word literally) population.

The science in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth the 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary that jump-started worldwide panic over global warming -- has been judged as everything from accurate to junk science by socalled experts around the world and the media.

The one thing many agree on eight years later, however, is that the dire predictions and time frames in the documentary were grossly overestimated to create instant global warming alarmism under the guise of instant action.

You have to give Gore credit (no pun intended) he hit a home run with that swing.

People forget another inconvenient truth about Al Gore and his jet-setting around the globe to promote the documentary.

He had arranged some of his business affairs around carbon credits so he was balancing carbon offsets with himself as chairperson of a firm he helped found in Generation Investment Management.

And, the whole carbon credit fiasco benefits the average bear nothing.

As StirlingAnosh correctly points out, the World Bank might make a billion bucks in under 30 minutes buying and selling emission credits, but not a single ordinary investor has made a dime from carbon credits.

That makes sense, since ordinary investors are not able to sell or trade the carbon credits they acquire.

The inconvenient truth is -- to those still trying to convince you your grandkids are going to be baked or fried thanks to global warming -- there's been a natural pause on global warming for more than the past 16 years (acknowledged by NASA).

As StirlingAnosh correctly writes, earlier this month the U.K.'s Global Warming Policy Foundation reported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has "significantly overstated" the impact of carbon dioxide on climate change.

If you require further credibility on the report, it was endorsed by renowned American atmospheric scientist Judith Curry, who agreed to pen its forward.

Big business continues to fan the flames of global warming alarmism, and quack for Canada and the U.S.A. to implement carbon taxes.

This despite the fact similar moves in Europe have led to electricity rates rising 37 per cent in the past nine years, and an economic atmosphere created that has seen one of the biggest transfers of wealth from poor to rich in modern European history.

No offense to Chicken Little, but if it looks like a duck and walks a duck ...


Schooling from anywhere
NWT News/North - Monday, March 24, 2014

Northern and isolated schools have always been at a disadvantage when it comes to the variety of classes they can provide at the high school level.

For that reason, many students in the NWT who travel to southern universities after graduation find the road to higher learning a steep one littered with obstacles. Students from the territory's smaller communities often need to upgrade courses before beginning their post-secondary programs because classes required to take their program of choice weren't available during their high school years.

Although the NWT attracts enthusiastic and talented teachers, low school population means limited resources, smaller faculties and hence fewer options beyond the regular curriculum.

Ideas ranging from regional schools to better funding have been floated to help correct the problem but both are impractical for their own reasons. Regional schools take students away from much needed family support, while more funding is difficult to justify from a per capita standpoint.

E-learning, however, could be the solution to bridge all the gaps in our current system. With the fibre-optic link up the Mackenzie Valley promising to radically improve Internet connectivity in communities up the valley, the time is right to capitalize on technology-facilitated education.

Through E-learning, access to teachers, classes and peers becomes nearly limitless, allowing students in even the remotest and smallest communities to access virtually any education opportunity they can think of.

Schools in the Beaufort Delta are already taking advantage of the opportunities that E-learning can offer, with reportedly excellent results. As the department of education prepares to implement its education renewal plan, a territory-wide E-learning program should be looked at as one of the priorities to enhancing the education system and as a means to better prepare our students to succeed at the post-secondary level.

Northern students have enough challenges to contend with following graduation - such as the shock of leaving the North for the daunting world of the south and being isolated from family due to distance and steep travel costs. The fewer obstacles and frustrations our students face after graduation, the greater their chance of success. Their level of education, dictated by factors beyond their control, should not be the thing that holds them back from pursuing further studies.


An example of transparency
NWT News/North - Monday, March 24, 2014

Last week the Mackenzie Valley Review Board and the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board released, upon request, the travel costs paid to members of the federally-appointed boards.

The number is high - more than $1.6 million over the past five years for approximately $325,000 a year.

Alone, the numbers do not say much. We know one former staffer is suing the review board, alleging wrongful dismissal after raising concerns about overspending by senior board members.

Without a full breakdown of what the money was spent on, it is difficult to determine whether the costs were unjustified or were a product the distance and cost of travel associated with conducting business in the NWT.

What is notable is that the two boards freely released the figures and that kind of transparency should be the norm.

The public will draw its own conclusion about whether the expenses of the two largest environmental oversight bodies in the North were justified and we encourage the boards to release a more detailed picture of the spending so those opinions can be based on fact and not assumption.


Tide turning on abuse of alcohol
Nunavut News/North - Monday, March 24, 2014

It is a majestic beast, a wonder to behold, beautiful, speedy and dangerous. So revered, in fact, that its image is depicted as a symbol of the North, on company logos, licence plates, used in the names of sporting events and recognized across the world as an inhabitant of the Arctic.

That is why recognizing the potential impact of outside influences on the future of the polar bear is so important as the government of Nunavut looks at a new way to manage the harvest of the animal.

Environment Minister Johnny Mike wishes the territory wasn't subject to outside forces. But that is the reality.

"Polar bears are an iconic species being heavily scrutinized by animal rights groups in the southern locales, and there are still many misinformed zealots who want to place the polar bear in the threatened category," said Mike.

It is encouraging that the territorial government realizes it must take an approach in developing a polar bear management strategy that finds a balance between misinformed animal rights advocates and the reality of the animal's importance to the Inuit. After all, Ottawa labeled polar bears as a species of concern under Canada's Species at Risk Act in 2011. It is because of that designation that Nunavut is in the process of developing a management plan.

On the other side of the balance sheet is the fact that many Nunavummiut depend on the polar bear for food, clothing and money. It has been hunted and harvested for years as a vital part of a traditional way of life. The polar bear population in many parts of Nunavut is thriving. Arviat has an abundance of the animals. In fact, there are so many that it becomes a safety concern from time to time.

The approach being taken by the Department of Environment's wildlife division realizes the importance of the animal to the people and, in its community consultations, is gathering information from those closest to the polar bears about how they are to be harvested.

Essentially, the division is preparing a made-in-Nunavut plan to be presented to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board for approval. It proposes that people in the communities will get to decide how many polar bears can be hunted in a season, based on the population of the bears in the area and scientific research.

We applaud this approach which, unlike attempts by the Government of Northwest Territories to manage caribou, gives prominent consideration to the grassroots - the people who possess the traditional knowledge about the health and status of the polar bear population.

The goal of the management plan is a healthy, viable population of polar bears. That is achieved by keeping a firm grasp on the numbers, which is accomplished by working closely with Inuit hunters, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and regional wildlife organizations.

We are hopeful the polar bear management plan, with its emphasis on community consultation, will be approved and put into practice. With the plan in place, the polar bear can be assured of its continued revered place in the minds of people in Nunavut and around the globe.


Perfection is not an option
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, March 21, 2014

When one is smart with their money - whether it be an individual or a larger entity - there's usually some cash left over from their budget.

That money can either be reinvested in other ventures or be put away for a rainy day. Depending on the amount of the surplus, both can be done. Such is what Yellowknife's two public school boards have done, with thousands of dollars saved. That's being fiscally responsible.

So why is it that the territorial government is targeting these school boards with its roll-out plan for junior kindergarten, asking them to use their surpluses to pay for the program? Rather than putting up new money to fund this influx of young students, the GNWT is turning to the school boards to pay for it.

Education Minister Jackson Lafferty and his territorial department are expecting the school boards to do more with less, and this isn't the first time either.

Take a look at the Yellowknife Catholic school board's Do Edaezhe program that helps support at-risk students. Previously, the program had been supported by the feds, with $1.5 million coming in every year to fund it.

When that cash dried up, the GNWT came in to help with this on-the-land program for at-risk children. In fact, the territorial government thought the program was so great that others in the NWT should have the same opportunity, as well they should. But the caveat on all this? The Catholic board is expected to expand the program's mandate to three other communities, but with less than half of the money it was receiving from Ottawa - $623,000.

So again, the model of the GNWT has become to expand programs, but to either not put up the money to pay for it, or to drastically cut the funding - unless it's for a party to celebrate the legislative assembly's birthday, as was seen last fall.

In that case, spending $100,000 for a one-day shindig was no big deal.


RCMP best-equipped for arresting drunks
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, March 21, 2014

Once again, local politicians are being asked to consider giving bylaw officers the authority to arrest people for being intoxicated in public.

Dennis Marchiori, the city's director of public safety, said the city is asking the territorial government for the authority to do so.

It's not a new idea. Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny pitched it last fall after a ride-along with RCMP and municipal enforcement officers.

Then, as now, Yellowknifer has the same response: this is a job for the RCMP, not bylaw.

Whenever physical force is applied, even by the most well-intentioned officer, there's a very real risk posed to the person being arrested, the officer doing the arresting, and the public. It only makes sense that the most-experienced, best-trained, best-equipped officers are the one asked to take on that challenge.

Putting bylaw officers in potentially dangerous situations would change the scope and requirements of the job. Municipal enforcement officers would need to be armed to safely perform the new duties and that comes at additional cost for equipment and training. .

According to Marchiori, the problem is that the Mounties aren't always available to respond because they're dealing with more serious crimes. But by seeking to expand the responsibilities of bylaw officers to include potentially dangerous situations, the city is overlooking a much simpler solution.

RCMP G division Chief Supt. Wade Blake has already said he would welcome the opportunity to hire more officers - if provided the funding.

We should take him up on that offer, rather than reinvent the wheel.


Wise women of the Deh Cho
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, March 20, 2013

Once again, a woman from the Deh Cho has been honored by the Status of Women Council of the NWT.

Harriet Geddes of Fort Providence is the recipient of this year's Wise Woman Award for the Deh Cho. The awards are given to women who are dedicated to improving the status of women and who support, lead, advocate and give their guidance and wisdom to others.

The awards have been given out since 1992 and Geddes is the latest among of a number of Fort Providence women who have received the award recently, including Margaret Ann Landry in 2013, Margaret Vandell in 2012 and Sylvia Nadli in 2011. The award only goes to one woman in the Deh Cho each year, but it can serve as a broader reminder of how many deserving women there are in the region and how much women contribute to the Deh Cho.

There are wise women in each Deh Cho community. It's not necessarily their years that make them wise and they don't all share wisdom in the same area.

The classical definition of a wise woman would be someone like Geddes who has a strong base in traditional and cultural teachings and is able to share those with the people around her. Wise women can share knowledge on things like medicinal plants, but it can also be a woman who runs a sewing program and shares how to pick the best piece of tanned moosehide or how to make perfect pleats in a moccasin.

Wise women can be women who serve as role models for younger girls. There are many women in the region who are part of First Nations and Metis councils either as councillors or as chiefs and presidents.

There are also many women who hold high level positions in local businesses and organizations. Women keep many of the communities in the Deh Cho functioning whether through their work at First Nations' or hamlet offices.

There are also wise women who share less traditional skills like the women who coach speed skating, soccer, snowboarding and other teams. These women give their time to support youth, both boys and girls, in being physically active and developing leadership and other skills as well as self-confidence in themselves.

Geddes, the 2014 recipient of a Wise Woman Award, should be acknowledged and thanked for all of the work she has done for the people of the Deh Cho. Residents should also take the time, however, to give some words of thanks and praise to the women who are wise in their own ways and who, though they may never win an award, contribute so much to the region.


Devaluing democracy
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, March 20, 2013

In the wake of the decision by members of the legislative assembly to seek a possible one-year extension to their term in office, many residents might well be wondering how and when the North hit that slippery slope of devaluing democracy.

Most people who pay attention to politics would say, rightly, that any such move should never be made by those currently in office who will benefit most.

That certainly includes the two veteran MLAs, Michael Miltenberger and Jane Groenewegen, who would qualify for a maximum GNWT pension for politicians if their term is extended by as little as 10 months.

It is certainly telling that those are the same two MLAs who introduced the motion. Miltenberger, who was offended by a question about whether his pension situation factored into his decision to support the motion, at least responded to it. It's up to individual opinion as to whether you find his answers acceptable or believable.

The GNWT became a laughing stock at the Town of Inuvik committee of the whole meeting on March 10, when several councillors made jokes about the situation.

Deputy mayor Jim McDonald and Coun. Alan Mero, a keen political observer, were clearly both amused and a little appalled at the situation.

The joke around the council table was that they would prefer to shorten their term rather than extend it.

That suggestion generated a considerable amount of cynical laughter.

If the Government of the NWT was genuinely concerned with public opinion and fairness, any extended term would have been discussed only for the next legislature.

More to the point, it should have only come from an arm's-length advisory body, not by elected officials who appear to have a closer eye on their own interests rather than the public's interests.

When anyone is voted into office with a fixed election date, the implicit promise says you will work for the public interest for the term indicated and no more. Anything else is an insult to democracy.

Any changes to that by politicians who ran under that condition displays, at best, a fundamental misunderstanding and loose grasp of democracy. At worst, it smacks of the kind of thing dictatorial governments do.

Those who voted for the motion should be ashamed of themselves. Perhaps the NWT � and Canada � does need some kind of recall mechanism.

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