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Government should support Northern airlines
NWT News/North - Monday, September 14, 2009

Canadian North and First Air are in the middle of a dogfight with national giants WestJet and Air Canada.

Flight costs between Edmonton and Yellowknife have plummeted. Good news for the common traveller who can now afford to fly south more often, but it puts the squeeze on our Northern-based air carriers.

As a result of lost revenue from that major route, there are fears airfares on the smaller Northern routes - to Inuvik, Norman Wells, Hay River and Fort Simpson, for example -- could increase to compensate for losses in the Yellowknife market. It's not a threat Northerners in the communities should have hanging over them.

Tracy Medve, president of Canadian North, which is partially owned by the Inuvialuit, is asking the government to follow the Business Incentive Program (BIP), which favours Northern-based business. That program essentially allows First Air and Canadian North to corner the market on government travel.

Medve's suggestion that all government contracts conform to BIP makes sense. In fact, all travel and cargo on any contract paid for by the government should fly a Northern air carrier, North or South.

It's clear any money government might save using cheaper carriers would be done on the backs of communities outside Yellowknife.

A fishing we will go
NWT News/North - Monday, September 14, 2009

Commercial fishing is hardly the first thing people think about when the NWT is mentioned. However, the Great Slave Lake fishing industry has, in the past, contributed to the livelihood of a good many Northerners.

The catch in Great Slave Lake drastically decreased to 300,000 kilograms last year from 760,000 kilograms in 1996. Consequently, the Hay River fish plant is the last of three processing plants remaining on the lake. That is due to the plummeting number of fishers working the waters. The number of vessels fishing on Great Slave Lake dropped to 45 boats last year from 60 many years ago - split between steel boats and skiffs.

We commend the federal government for trying to save the NWT fishing industry from a slow death. This year the Department of Fisheries and Oceans began making fishing vessel certificates available to non-residents in an effort to revitalize the industry.

Six of the 10 available were taken, and the Department of Fisheries assures NWT fishers will never be pushed out by non-residents. Presently, competing for fishing permits is not a concern. With nearly 100 certificates available in total and an annual catch limit of 1.7 million kilograms, the industry has a long way to go toward recovery.

In a territory searching for economic diversity, the fishing industry is a perfect place for investment. It has plenty of room to grow, the potential to employ hundreds of Northerners and creates an opportunity for the mass and cheap marketing of a homegrown product, namely whitefish.

All levels of government need to take a serious look at supporting the fishing industry. Building renewable-resource based industries is vital to the territory's future.

Municipalities should welcome airline competition
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 14, 2009

One of the announcements made by Elisapee Sheutiapik, the newly re-elected president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, has left us scratching our heads.

At the association's annual general meeting in Cambridge Bay a few weeks ago, its members pledged not to support an incursion into Nunavut airspace by southern airlines such as WestJet or Air Canada.

Now, neither WestJet nor Air Canada has expressed any interest in flying to Nunavut. But the arrival of WestJet in the Yellowknife market in May has reduced the cost of airfare to Edmonton on all airlines. A round-trip ticket that used to cost more than $800 can now be had for about $200, or even less.

The drop in ticket prices on the Yellowknife-Edmonton route may reduce the profits gained by First Air and Canadian North, which are owned by Inuit, employ Inuit, and which make many contributions to community events.

But if WestJet were to begin flying, say, the Iqaluit-Ottawa route, we think most Nunavummiut would gladly welcome a big drop in the cost of airfare and the resulting freedom to travel more frequently outside the territory, even if it results in smaller dividends for Inuit-owned corporations.

Northern airlines recently urged the NWT and Nunavut to adopt a "buy local" policy. In an ideal world, the choice to buy local would be an easy one. But most of us don't have the cash to spare to pay quadruple the going fare for the choice of flying a Northern airline - except when we have no choice.

With its stand on this issue, the Nunavut Association of Municipalities may be defending Northern businesses contrary to the interests of the regular people in the communities it represents.

The Akitsiraq of accounting
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 14, 2009

Lillian Aglukark was called to the bar on Sept. 1 in Arviat, allowing her to practise law in the territory.

Aglukark is one of 11 graduates of Nunavut's Akitsiraq Law Program delivered in conjunction with the University of Victoria Law School.

The program, which graduated its students in 2004-2005, has so far been the only one of its kind. Teaching and nursing remain the only professional degrees attainable without leaving the territory.

Besides lawyers, the territory has a dire need for accountants, doctors, engineers and myriad other professionals.

There are plans to run another law program, but there should also be a similar educational opportunity for professional accreditation in accounting or commerce.

Reports by Canada's auditor general consistently find fault in bookkeeping practices in Nunavut's public institutions, resulting in questionable accounting of the money needed desperately by communities for housing, health care and education.

Instead of continuing to hire professionals from the south - for jobs like those coming through the Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor -- programs like Akitsiraq give Nunavummiut the tools they need to build their territory. There should be more like them.

Access should be equal
Yellowknifer - Friday, September 11, 2009

It's been several months since Centre Square Mall closed off easy access to the wheelchair ramp on 49 Street.

The locked glass partition erected in the lobby of the Yellowknife Inn, leading into the upper part of the mall, has made Centre Square less inviting for the disabled, as well as moms with strollers and elderly people in need of an easier access route.

When hotel staff are extremely busy with customers at the desk, buzzing the door open for someone often takes a backseat, according to Bill Burles, who uses a wheelchair and has experienced the inconvenience first-hand.

The excuse from the inn's general manager, Derek Carmody, that he's still waiting for an estimate from a contracting company to build a ramp at the Franklin Avenue mall entrance shows it is not a priority. Skilled tradespeople are in high demand in our city, but it shouldn't take six months to get a quote to build a ramp.

What's more inexplicable is the fire marshal allowing the upper level of the mall to violate the National Building Code standards for so long by not having direct wheelchair access.

It's clear the mall owners see no rush to get the ramp built.

People in wheelchairs and those pushing small children in strollers deserve the same treatment at the mall or anywhere else in Yellowknife.

If everyone had to wait to be buzzed into the mall, most wouldn't bother going.

Coaching icon still contributing
Yellowknifer - Friday, September 11, 2009

Yellowknife's athletic community has suffered a real loss with the departure of Ian Legaree, head coach of the Yk Polar Bear Swim Club, who has left the position after 10 years.

Yellowknife is missing a lot of the advantages that southern communities enjoy, such as top-notch training facilities financing for athletics. Despite those hurdles, sports are a wonderful thing for kids to be involved in. Children and young adults in the North benefit from being part of a team.

People like Legaree help Yellowknife's youths reaching their potential as athletes. The coach has shown immeasurable dedication and support to the swimmers of the community. While the NWT doesn't have the best training centres, it does have some great coaches who act as mentors.

Despite NWT athletes not shining at the recent summer games, there are athletes that come out of the North – like speed skater Michael Gilday for instance – who can take on the country, and that wouldn't be possible without great coaches.

Although the community has lost what Legaree's fellow coaches call an "icon of swimming," Yellowknife and the NWT may still be able to gain from the loss. Legaree will be taking a new position with Swim Canada and Swim Alberta as a trainer for new coaches, helping ensure his legacy may carry on for another generation of Northern athletes.

Ottawa is very far from the North
Editorial Comment
Tim edwards
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, September 10, 2009

The fight for parliament continues with the Liberals vying for an election this fall. The question we Northerners should ask ourselves is where will we get the most bang for our vote?

The Liberals have released their corny television ad which displays leader Michael Ignatieff in the middle of a forest for unexplained reasons while he speaks about a vague new direction for Canada.

The ad is complete with an almost Christmas-carol-like fanfare of strings and bells.

The Conservatives are using their traditional counterattack - launching a smear campaign against Ignatieff, portraying the leader as a selfish incompetent who knows nothing about Canada and wants to raise taxes.

The NDP, meanwhile, have stayed pretty quiet, other than saying they do not want a fall election but also cannot work with the Harper government. They do, after all, hold the balance of power, and they could gain popularity by opposing an unpopular election.

Ignatieff was recently in Yellowknife to support the new Liberal candidate Joe Handley. Ignatieff basically restated Handley's platform - revenue sharing, devolution, and settling land claims.

Stephen Harper, on the other hand, has paid the North a lot more attention than Liberal leaders have done in the past.

Although for the most part it has been to announce developments in his strangely Cold War-like Arctic sovereignty strategy - building up a military presence in the North to show Russia and the U.S. that we mean business.

Harper, though, has also shown his partisan favouritism by putting the North's economic development centre in Iqaluit, even though it would make far more sense to put it in a more central location, one that is easier to get to and with a much larger population - Yellowknife.

The reason, it seems, is to reward Nunavut for voting Conservative.

Though revenue sharing, devolution, and land claim settlements are important issues, we need to consider the fact the Conservatives don't play well with other parties and if we want things done under a Conservative government, we need a Conservative MP.

On that note, if the Liberals do push through the unpopular election and oust Harper, a Liberal MP would bring the territory a lot of good.

Though our current NDP MP Dennis Bevington is popular and seems to care about the North, we may be able to get more done for the NWT with the Liberals or Conservatives - especially the ones that end up in power.

I'll be keeping my eyes on the polls and the news. When the time comes, I'll place my vote on whichever party looks like it'll be the winning team.

Taking action to help youth
Editorial Comment
Andrew Rankin
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, September 10, 2009

It would be fair to call Geo Pascal a great role model for youth living in the North or in any remote community in Canada for that matter.

By making the roster for the Ontario-based Junior A Sioux Lookout Flyers earlier this month, his achievement speaks to the power of a great work ethic, an unwavering commitment to excellence as well as the importance of having a solid community support group.

Pascal's special achievement comes at a particularly appropriate time when the town has seen its fair share of youth crime in recent months and struggles to deal with the most challenged youth. Here's someone they can look up to.

My brief encounters with Pascal have left me with a good impression of the teenager. Apart from his obvious discipline and dedication, he's a well liked, polite, soft-spoken guy who's tried to contribute to his community by getting involved with local youth, among other things.

No doubt many of these qualities are innate and come instinctively but it's probably safe to say a lot of it has to do with his upbringing and the fact that he's been given a lot of community support and encouragement from coaches to former high school teachers.

In my short career as a journalist I've probably never spoken to a mother more proud of her child than Sandra was about her son making the Flyers. It's difficult to say whether he would have reached his goal without such a strong network of support. He'd probably be the first to admit he wouldn't. But, obviously, he's a talented guy.

Common sense says that there are young residents that have the potential to succeed in the same way Pascal has.

Some may be facing serious adversity, especially at home, which reduces their ability to achieve success. Many, many residents tell me that the number one reason kids stay out late at night, far beyond curfew, and break the law is because there's trouble at home, whether it's alcohol or physical abuse.

It's difficult to see what many of these same people are doing to try to help disadvantaged youth in the community. I understand there are a number of residents who volunteer with kids, especially with minor hockey. That's great, and I know people are busy.

But maybe some of these "delinquent" youths need more adult role models instead of being chased around town by RCMP or town bylaw officers after curfew.

Some adult residents could organize a late evening floor hockey or basketball league for them while offering some moral support. That's just an idea.

It's easy to complain about teenagers and vent about the cause of youth crime in town. It's much harder to come together as a community and figure out a way to help struggling teenagers get back on the right path while giving them the support they need.

No time for political apathy
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nominations for a variety of elected civic posts close Monday, and if more names aren't added to those submitted as of yesterday, everyone who has declared their candidacy will be elected officials by next week.

That's because the number of nominations handed in to city hall so far is dreadfully small.

As of yesterday, only one person has put her name forward to run for the seven-member Catholic school board, and four are vying for Yk Education District No. 1.

City council nominations present almost a complete package with six candidacies declared - eight are needed to make a full council - and Gord Van Tighem is on his way to making history as the only mayor in the city's history to be acclaimed three times in a row.

If more people don't sign up to run soon we may be heading for a repeat of 2006 when there were just enough candidates for the public school board to acclaim the seven nominees, only 11 candidates signed up for city council, and Van Tighem was the only person seeking to be mayor.

People may say so what? If there are few nominees for our civic offices, that only means people are content and potential candidates have no fuel for ammunition.

But they would be wrong. The fewer choices voters have the more likely we will wind up with poor government. And we can think of a few good reasons why people ought to be throwing their hats into the ring.

For potential school trustees, their very existence is at stake. They were on the chopping block earlier this year when the territorial government was contemplating amalgamated and appointed super boards. If we don't have a strong crop of nominees for the city's two elected school boards, the GNWT may be emboldened to try again.

Specifically for the Catholic school district, supporters should want to see some credible candidates to help rehabilitate its image, which took a battering after trustees attempted to bar non-Catholics from running in 2006.

As for city hall issues, there are still many and it will take a diverse slate of candidates to address them: the rush to re-zone Tin Can Hill as green space, the crazy pace of spending which has nearly doubled in just five years, council's bungled attempt to re-zone Phase VII of the Niven Lake subdivision, the halting attempts at waterfront development.

Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce president Patrick Doyle recently complained about council's green agenda and its potential to damage mining investment. When are business and industry community members going to step up to the plate and run?

Now is not the time for apathy, we need some candidates.

Repaying some respect
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, September 9, 2009

For more than a decade this humble scribe has known him; outgoing Community and Government Services (C&GS) assistant deputy minister Shawn Maley has never made any bones about being a company man.

But don't ever mistake Maley's definition of a company man with that of the popular yes man.

Or, in the lowest common denominator of the English language, a butt kisser.

Maley is about as far from that description as one can be.

His definition of the company man is one I share, in that it encompasses loyalty, dedication, hard work, solid performance and the belief clocks only tell you what time you start work each day.

And, yes, one can live up to those standards and still be one's own person.

In the hundred or so times I've interviewed him, I don't know how many times Maley toed the party line and gave me the answers he was instructed to give from above.

I do know, however, he never ducked a legitimate question and the term sugar coating rarely applied to any of his responses.

I also respected the fact many times when I phoned him, he understood I already knew the answer to many of the queries I sent his way and never tried to distort the facts.

If he couldn't answer, he told me so. No fuss, no muss and no make-believe.

Maley also took the time to walk this old ink pusher through some of the deeper technical aspects of projects I questioned him on, without coming across as condescending or exasperated.

For someone whose career reputation is on the line with every fact they put to print, such professionalism is always greatly appreciated.

I don't expect to interview Maley nearly as much in the future, once he's settled into the role of director of Nunavut Airports.

That probably means my bull-droppings quota is about to increase in the coming months, but that's how it goes.

There are a number of personalities I deal with on a semi-regular basis in various levels of government who could learn a lot from the outgoing ADM.

In journalist speak, there's the game players, the time wasters, those who play dumb, and, of course, the three monkey types who rarely see, hear or speak of anything of any importance at all.

And, worst of all, are those who will look away from corruption, wrong-doing and mistake-making at all costs.

To them, that government paycheque is more important than Nunavut or anyone who calls it home.

It really is quite amazing how comfortable some people can get at the public trough.

I sincerely wish Mr. Maley good fortune in his new position, and hope some of those who shared the same building space during the past decade, or so, were paying attention.

There is far too little candour to go around in most government departments, and I suspect C&GS just a lost a good chunk of its.

And, to those who may think I'm being a little too glowing in my appraisal of Mr. Maley, nothing could be further from the truth.

I am simply repaying the respect and honesty he's shown me during the past 11 years.

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