Time to take action on the north is now

(July 20, 2017)

As the weeks spin on, there are still no solutions in sight for that growing swarm of problems facing communities in northern Manitoba.

Problems such as closing the port in Churchill, cutting back and then suspending the rail service, a shrinking time frame for winter ice roads and limited local access to healthy food, medical care and quality education — even just having clean drinking water — are like the insects that make life miserable, but not impossible, for northern residents who live far from the Golden Boy.

News of some upgrades to cellphone service or access to the internet seem like public-relations maneuvers, leaving the main swarm untouched.

Foot-dragging on the problems of northern communities is inexcusable. Further, whatever the competing federal responsibilities might be, First Nations communities are equally part of our life together in Manitoba, and the provincial government should also address their basic needs.

First, the north is warmer than it was, and that trend is going to continue — likely even faster than has been predicted, because people are not transitioning to a lower-carbon lifestyle. We can blame that on other people, elsewhere, but in fact we are doing no better ourselves. The Manitoba government is not only shirking its responsibility to provide leadership on greenhouse gas emissions, but through cuts to public transit subsidies it is actually making things worse. Something constructive and substantial must be done, immediately.

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July Cruel Month For North

(August 5, 2016)

July was not kind to the North.

A heat wave made the north coast of Alaska as hot as Key West, Fla. Barry Prentice lost his airships when that savage windstorm hit St. Andrews Airport. Omnitrax, with a stroke of a pen, became Nullitrax, as it cancelled grain shipments to Churchill and put the skids under both the port facility and the town.

All three reactions to these events really need to be viewed from a perspective where we can see what’s left of the forest, not just the side of one tree — and considered in a time frame that goes beyond next Tuesday.

Of course, weather fluctuates — but the July heat wave in the North follows a year of record-breaking temperatures across North America and around the world. (However hot it was here, it cracked 54 C in Iraq.) Ice in the Arctic is vanishing, and Greenland’s glaciers are receding at a rate far beyond projections. All this means rapidly rising sea levels and extremes in local weather — such as the 85 millimetres of rain in two hours that flooded out parts of fire-ravaged Fort McMurray at the end of the month.

Climate change is real. The trends we are seeing are not going to reverse themselves — things will only get worse. We need to adapt to changing climatic conditions and to do whatever we can to mitigate the causes of global warming — at the very least to buy ourselves more time.Arctic

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Bus Companies Provide Essential Service

(July 20, 2016)

When the last Beaver Bus went by my house on June 30, it had a hand-made sign attached to the back that thanked Selkirk for 68 years.

That’s a long time for the wheels on any bus to go ’round and ’round.

Beaver Bus Lines ended its run between Winnipeg and Selkirk with about as little fuss and fanfare as it had always demonstrated driving through every kind of weather Manitoba throws at us.

Forty years ago, that bus made it possible for me to live at home and go to university — just as it made the same thing possible for my own kids. Even when we drove to the city, in bad weather (or when the car packed it in), we always had the option of “catching the Beaver.”

You could pretty much set your watch by it, regardless of the time of day or road conditions. When the Beaver Bus was late, there was a problem somewhere — and when weather took the bus off the road, everyone with any judgment at all stayed home and waited until the roads were plowed.

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