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Uffish Thoughts: Waiting as the River Flows November 26, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Waiting as the River Flows

By Dan Davidson

November 1, 2012

–  710 words –

The Yukon River fascinates Dawsonites at this time of year. Just a fortnight ago at this writing people were cruising by daily just to see if the ice was beginning to form – trying to get some idea when the ferry would be pulled.

It wasn’t easy to judge. One day there were circular lenses of frazil ice in the river; then they were gone and nothing appeared for several days, although the surface had that glassy appearance that makes you look twice.

When the lenses came back again they we more numerous and they had frosting, but it still seemed as if we might get close to last year’s October 26 date before the George Black ferry got pulled out.

The ferry schedule gets chopped back from its 24-hour service once the tourists go home, and it can get extracted from the river any time after Thanksgiving, but that was early this year, so people weren’t expecting a great rush. Sure, the cable spools had been placed on the dyke, ready for the block and tackle to be attached and the heavy equipment to move in, but the little ice pans weren’t that thick yet.


Even knowing that the crossing service sort of runs on a day to day basis after the first third of the month, people expect the usual 24 hours notice before it actually gets pulled. This year unpredictable Mother Nature only provided about 6 hour’s warning – on a Sunday afternoon of all things.

The very next day, Oct. 22, the Highways crew was out with all its equipment, doing the job in quite chilly weather. It took the entire day shift and then some to extract the boat from the river, which seemed destined for a really quick freeze-up this year.

What follows is always the wait for the river to stop flowing completely and the first tentative footpaths to form on the icy frosting. People drop down daily to see how things are progressing. I know that because I do, and I’m never alone for the 5 to 10 minutes that I sit and wonder.
The river is nothing if not a source of drama however. While delivering copies of our bi-weekly newspaper on Hallowe’en I dropped down to the ferry landing again to see what had changed this time.So imagine my wonder on October 30, when the main channel was almost completely clear and I was faced with a glassy mirror in which only the a few glittering ice lenses were floating slowly north. Gone was the mass of heavily frosted pans that had been floating by for days. I was shocked and so were the folks who looked at the 25-second video I posted on Facebook later that afternoon.  Six other vehicles arrived while I was there and they left quickly, as if disgusted with the view.

Only everything. Where there had been open water the day before, there was a solid blanket of icy white from bank to frozen bank. There were a few small open pools, but none of them were in the path of the traditional ice bridge. More significantly, the surface wasn’t moving.

A couple of days before I had jokingly remarked that it was too bad we couldn’t figure out some way to have an ice bridge pool to go with the breakup pool we have in the spring.  That wouldn’t work, of course, because the transition from footpath to ice bridge is gradual and determined by human effort. A pool like this has to have a natural basis, something out of human control.

If we could figure out a way to determine just when the river stopped moving, that might be an option. In the spring it’s easy (more or less) as the movement of the ice stops a clock. Determining the hour and minute when the ice stopped moving would be a trickier proposition. Maybe some kind of video surveillance would do it.


I’m sure I don’t have an answer, but I’m throwing the idea out there for comments.



* IMG_0556 – Open water on October 30.






* IMG_0560 – Frozen Yukon River on October 31.










Uffish Thoughts: Tourism Cuts Reconsidered in Nova Scotia November 25, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Tourism Cuts Reconsidered in Nova Scotia

By Dan Davidson

September 17, 2012

– 726 words –

(Lower Cornwall, N.S.) After the tenth or eleventh “I don’t suppose you’re coming home this year” from my octogenarian aunts and uncles, we decided we had better check out our Aeroplan points and see what we could do. So here I am, writing from Nova Scotia, where it seems that it’s not only the federal government that can make really stupid policy decisions when it comes to promoting tourism.

I’ve written here before of the Ship Hector, a magnificent reconstruction of the 18th century vessel that brought 189 displaced Highlanders to a spot near present day Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 1773. In the 1980s and 90s a replica of the Hector was constructed and established on the Pictou Waterfront, which is quite pleasant when the effluent from the pulp mill across the bay isn’t blowing that way. There’s a commemorative museum, the Hector Heritage Quay, which is as good a site as anything comparable that I’ve seen, and a tourist store to go with it.

We’ve visited the site several times and were shocked, two years ago, to discover that people could no longer tour the actual ship. The Town of Pictou, faced with a hard choice of building a sewage treatment plant, had cut its funding as the quickest means to meeting its other obligations.

It’s open again now. After a year of this, a local non-profit group purchased the site from the town for $9 and took over the running of it. They are heavily in debt and running mostly on volunteer labour, but they are determined that the town’s main tourist attraction should not have a padlock on its gangplank.

Ironically, the town still advertises the Hector in a major way on its own website (http://www.townofpictou.ca/hector_heritage_quay.html) and attempts to bask in its reflected glory, but the real credit goes to the Hector Quay Society (www. shiphector.com) for taking the project out of the hands of people who lacked vision.

I’m not suggesting that a similar plan might salvage the damage done to tourism in Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Dawson City by the cuts to Parks Canada operations in all three communities, but it does inspire one to seek solutions outside the box.

Leaving Pictou we motored to Yarmouth, where a motel just north of town bore the following sign: “No ferry. No visitors. No business. 50 wasted years.”

The short version of this story is that the ferry from Yarmouth to the USA was cancelled by the current government (NDP) in 2009 and tourism from the USA has fallen off quite dramatically since then. Apparently the traditional route was to land at Yarmouth, drive around the Maritimes, and then head home by road via New Brunswick – or the other way around. Either way there was a loop.

An older, aging ferry was replaced by one that really wasn’t suited to the route. The passenger load dropped and instead of addressing the problem the province cancelled the subsidy that kept it running and the ferry service shut down.

Now someone seems to have realized that this was a mistake and there is talk of getting the service running again. A feasibility study, which should probably have been done three years ago before the service was scrapped, has concluded that with a revamped business model and a ship better suited to the type of traffic it needs to haul, the service could be successful.

Of course, even if it isn’t, it could be the sort of loss leader that actually creates hundreds or thousands of other economic opportunities from Yarmouth down to Pictou and beyond as a result of its existence.

The math is interesting. The province has saved $6 million a year since the ferry service ended, but it’s going to cost them an investment of at least $21 million to get it underway again, not to mention the cost of the study. In the end, was there an actual saving? It doesn’t seem so.

Like so many cost cutting initiatives, by so many levels of government, these ones seem to have been ill considered, less effective than intended, and freighted with lots of apparently unforeseen collateral damage.





* Hector Quay – The Hector Heritage Quay and the Hector are the centerpiece of Pictou’s waterfront.




Uffish Thoughts: Parks Canada Needs Your Help November 25, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Parks Canada Needs Your Help

By Dan Davidson

September 4, 2012

– 930 words –

The news that Parks Canada is concerned about the lack of visitors to Aulavik Park on Banks Island (70 in the last five years) and that they intend to do something to correct this terrible situation, to lure more tourists 1,800 km north of Yellowknife for a two week river trip that can cost $10,000 per person, strikes me as way beyond ironic given the recent round of cuts to the Parks system right across the nation.

One of the actions Parks intends to take, according to spokesperson Diane Wilson, is to perhaps cache canoes in the park so that people who arrive there by plane (the only way they can) won’t have to lug their own craft along, thus decreasing the cost of the plane trip to get there.

Gee –maybe they’ll double those numbers to 140 in the next five years.

I have nothing against promoting remote northern parks, but when you’ve just finished gutting the infrastructure that supports the parks the average person can get to without needing a free canoe subsidy, you have to wonder where some people have cached their brains. Clearly they’re not actually using them.

Parks employees who still have their jobs have been muzzled from talking about the situation, and even those who are departing with a payout seem to be on some sort of a leash, but I can tell you that Dawson has been having a series of private farewell dinners for downsized staff all summer and it’s been quite depressing.

When the Parks unit whose leader won a national award (the CEO’s Award of Excellence) for its stellar work on the Revival of the Discovery Claim attraction last summer (2011) is completely shut down and the employees released less than a year later, something is wrong.

When curatorial staff, historians, and maintenance personnel all across the country are let go and only the front of house staff that meet the public and sell the product remain at strength, something is wrong.

Parks has several themes in its mandate and providing a satisfactory visitor experience is only one of them. Preservation, conservation and interpretation are among the others.

Klondike National Historic Sites has about a quarter million artifacts and, thanks to decisions taken in Ottawa, no longer has the in-house capacity to look after them. That includes the other Parks artifacts in the territory, which were managed from here. Two specialists from Ottawa will be flown out from time to time to look things over.

Parks, it appears, will be concentrating on pleasing those visitors.

Not that they’re actually going to manage to do that, except in a reduced way. They will put their best public face forward on the sites that they are allowed to maintain, but the loss of tours on attractions such as the S.S. Klondike, the S.S. Keno and Dredge No. 4 cannot do anything but damage the overall Parks experience.

On top of budget slashing it turns out that the money to cover the payouts that go with the layoffs also have to come out of the local operating budgets. That’s a double shock to the system.

So Parks management is forced to go cap in hand to other levels of government to find ways to make ends meet, and by this means the public learns some details that we’re probably not supposed to know.

The gentleman whose comments I am summarizing here has a name, but I’m not using it in this article. While these comments were part of the council cable TV broadcast that evening, there’s nothing to be gained by using his name here.

In Dawson Parks is hooked up to a fire monitoring system for its two dozen or so buildings, insuring that the fire department knows if anything goes wrong in these nationally recognized sites. It costs a little over $11,000 annually to use this service. Parks is asking to be forgiven those costs for up to three years.

Parks hires a security firm to make the rounds and insure that no one is breaking into buildings and doing damage. That contract will probably not be renewed when the season runs down.

Parks has been spending about $6,000 a year on landscaping fees to maintain the splendid grounds at the Commissioner’s Residence. Council was informed that this won’t be happening next summer unless somehow the local community steps into the breach and arranges something.

The financial situation at Klondike National Historic Sites was characterized as being “broker than broke” as a combined result of the budget cuts and the cost of payouts. This goes to the extent of management needing to be concerned over whether it has the necessary funds to heat the buildings it is using this winter.

The local superintendent made the pitch that while these resources belong to the federal government they are really part of the community as well, and the community may have to take on some of the burden to keeping them going.

It’s no reflection on him that this is an absolutely pathetic way to try to run Parks Canada. The current federal government is not the first one of any political stripe to download its responsibilities to lower levels of government, but it is perhaps the most shameless.



* The S.S. Keno is just one of the sites on which Parks Canada has spent many millions of dollars, only to close them to public tours at the end of the current season.

Uffish Thoughts: The Current Search for Franklin’s Ships Comes at a Bad Time November 25, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: The Current Search for Franklin’s Ships Comes at a Bad Time

By Dan Davidson

August 29, 2012

– 750 words –


“Oh for just one time

I would take the Northwest Passage

To find the hand of Franklin

Reaching for the Beaufort Sea …”

– Stan Rogers


Now as much as I love Stan Rogers’ music and enjoy covering some of his songs myself, including the a capella “Northwest Passage” if I can find a couple or three good voices to work the harmonies with me, Stan got it wrong, as do most of the monuments to Franklin around the world.

He did not discover the Northwest Passage. He was a poor example of a Northern Explorer whose results seldom justified the expense lavished on them. He led four expeditions to the North. On the first he was defeated by pack ice and had to turn back. On his second he lost half his 20-man crew and it is probable that some of them staved off starvation by cannibalizing their dead mates.

His third expedition was a river journey on the Mackenzie and seems to have been his most successful.

Before his next he was briefly the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and, while the record seems to say that he was an enlightened fellow there and did good work, the government terminated his appointment after just seven years.

He is remembered primarily for his disastrous fourth Arctic Expedition, in which all hands and his two ships, the Erebus and Terror, were lost. Trapped in the ice in 1846, they never sailed again, and a note that was eventually found indicated that Franklin died the next year. The entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.

This was confirmed by a study of some of the bones from the crew in 1997, but Dr. John Rae, exploring on behalf of the Hudson’s Bay Co., found out what happened to them in 1854. However, his report included evidence of cannibalism (also confirmed in 1997) and Lady Franklin enlisted the assistance of no less a wordsmith than Charles Dickens to make sure that no one took Rae’s report seriously.

Over the next 40 years no less than 25 expeditions, some of which also came to grief, went in search of Franklin’s missing ships and crew. As mentioned, some remains were discovered on Beechey Island, along with remains of material goods which certainly called the sanity of the crew into question.

Now we’re off looking for Franklin again – well, for the ships at least. Prime Minister Harper referred to them recently as “our greatest undiscovered national historic site.”

I don’t object to searching for these ships. I’m sure there’s a great deal of oceanographic data than can be collected during this attempt, Science, and perhaps even our knowledge of history, will be advanced, no matter what the outcome.

But this year? Now? It is surely fiscal folly to engage in this type of expense in the same year that the federal budget has gutted Parks Canada across the nation, reducing staff, eliminating the capacity for onsite curatorial care across the nation (Dawson’s hundreds of thousands of artifacts will be looked after by two persons from Ottawa), shutting down visitor access to Dredge No.4 and both the SS Keno and the SS Klondike (which are National Historic Sites of which we do know the locations), and terminating skilled workers left, right and center.

Apparently, under the new rules, Parks will retain the ability to tell the stories that make up the history of our nation, but lose the ability to know if they continue to tell the story correctly, or add to it by significant new finds.

Parks Employees who have not yet been terminated have been gagged by order of the Minister, Peter Kent, but when the local superintendent is forced to go to Dawson’s town hall to ask the council to consider forgiving Klondike National Historic Sites the $11,000 bill than it costs them to be part of the town’s fire monitoring system on its two dozen buildings, and further notes that he will probably have to downscale the security contract on KNHS properties when the current season expires, then you have to conclude that something is massively wrong and that Mr. Harper, Mr. Kent, Mr. Leef and Mr. Lang need to give serious thought to their policy on Parks Canada and revise their talking points.

I’ll be happy to lend a hand, pro bono.




Uffish Thoughts: Travelling on the Top of the World August 17, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Travelling on the Top of the World

By Dan Davidson

July 17, 2012

– 663 words –

There was a predictable exchange of opinions between two levels of government last week regarding the state of the Top of the World Highway. The opinion of our local council was pretty much like the one I overheard coming from an Australian couple at one of our restaurants a couple of night ago.

They’d ridden the Tetlin Junction to Dawson route on a rainy day and didn’t have much nice today about it.

Mind you, there’s been some rain and some wear and tear over there since I drove it during the first week in June, so it may not be as good as it was that day. In addition we had a sunny day and that tends to give you the sort of view that makes up for a lot of other deficiencies.

Fifteen years ago you could say without fear of contradiction that the Top of the World part of the route was in better shape than the American Boundary Spur and Taylor Highway portion. Four years ago I learned that this was no longer the case.

As far as Chicken the Taylor was in pretty good shape in early June, and quite a bit of it has a paved surface. From Chicken to the border the dirt and gravel road isn’t really bad, but it’s dusty when it’s dry and can be slick if it rains. There are still a lot of tight corners where creeks run down into gullies. My 51 feet of truck and travel trailer didn’t have any problem with it, but I can see where longer, wider vehicles might.

The Top of the World on the Canadian side was more disappointing than bad. The BST treated surface, which I have been told didn’t set well due to wet weather after the last application, has had a rough time. It is full of potholes, damaged hardtop and lots of stretches where the surface is simply a patch of gravel on one side of the road or the other. I wouldn’t say it was dangerous, but you have to keep adjusting your driving to the road surface, and it certainly slows you down.

We had a nice day and it was pleasant to watch the play of shadows across the forested hills and view the more jagged peaks off in the distance. They had fresh snow on them then, while there were lots of places along the highway where the hard pack left on the sides of the hills by the ploughs just a few weeks earlier still clung to the shadier sides of the road.

That was similar to what I had seen in the high Country on the South Klondike Highway going to Skagway the week before, though that road was in far better shape.

I was not surprised to learn that Dawson’s council had drafted a letter complaining about the state of the road. This is the artery for our rubber tire solo traveler and bus traffic after all, and the fate of Eagle this year is a solemn reminder of what can happen if companies and families decide that your road isn’t safe.

The response of the Dept. Of Highways, which was essentially “we’re working constantly and as fast as we can” was also what could have been anticipated. In a summer that has included major washouts on every road south of Teflon and another at Kluane Lake, the highway crews have certainly been worked to capacity and behind this summer, and route that still be travelled might just need to wait in the queue for a bit while the urgent needs were met.

We’re reminded at times like these, to borrow a phrase from Sting, just how fragile we are.



* Canada Customs – The Little Gold Creek / Poker Creek border station.

* Inuksuk Hill – Shadows dapple the hills as Inuksuks welcome travellers to Canada just above the border station.

Uffish Thoughts: What is the Federal Government Afraid Of? August 16, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: What is the Federal Government Afraid Of?

By Dan Davidson

June 18, 2012

– 649 words –


As the organization we used to refer to as the Government of Canada gets thrown under the omnibus (bill) by the group that styles itself the Harper Government, it seems time to ponder what, exactly, the Reformatories are so afraid of.

They did, after all, win the election, and they have a legitimate majority government. Oh, I know they only got 39% of the vote and all that, but whose fault is that? How many people failed to vote and therefore helped to hand victory to them?

Where was the actual strength of opposition that might have prevented that outcome? Despite the Orange Wave, the NDP were not quite ready for prime time, and the Liberals had yet to get past the post-Chretien hangover to combat a government that was in full campaign mode at all times (remember those parliamentary mail-outs and the constant attack ads?).

Grant all of that and you really have to wonder why the Harperites continue to act as if their near-death experience of late 2008/early 2009 was still something they had to fear. It’s as if they were afraid that someone was going to catch them with their hand in the cookie jar and call them on it. (Are you listening Dean Del Mastro?)

As a result they work overtime shutting down any possible trace of opposition – anyone who might contradict the party line.

Got a problem with Atomic Energy of Canada? Fire the person in charge.

Information from Statistics Canada doesn’t support the party ideology regarding crime statistics, immigration or any one of a dozen topics? Eliminate some of the information gathering tools that the agency needs to work properly and then trim all the regional offices.

Government scientists might just give people actual facts instead of toeing the party line? Cancel the speaking engagements, insist on vetting their speeches and articles and, if that doesn’t work, fire them.

Express legitimate environmental concerns over the rush to build more pipelines and you get branded a “radical with an agenda.” As if all groups that organize for any reason (especially political parties) don’t have agendas.

Be upset over government plans to peek at your email and get told that means you are siding with the pedophiles.

If you are still a government employee (after the most recent round of cuts) and you have any concerns that run counter to the talking points issued by your political masters, keep them to yourself.

Members of Parliament themselves are not immune from this type of censure, as a BC backbench member of the governing party discovered when he allowed himself to be videoed expressing his concerns about the manner in which certain legislation was being brought forward. His opinions were retracted and rephrased within a few days, and it seems clear he is unlikely to express them quite that way again.

The latest group to be muzzled (at this writing anyway) seems to be Parks Canada employees. While we all know that recent cutbacks are all about reducing the deficit, people at Parks were issued boilerplate letters with hastily conceived talking points built in.

These aren’t reductions, they’re reallocations based on a redefinition and repurposing of the mandate. Parks is simply restructuring its operations in order to serve us better, never mind that it will have to accomplish this miracle with fewer economic and personnel resources.

Oh – and be sure to mention the War of 1812 in all your correspondence for the next two years or so, because, although Canada as we know it did not exist then, and it may not have anything to do with the bit of Canadian history you are charged to interpret, it’s part of our redefinition of what Canada is all about and you need to get on board, Clear?




Uffish Thoughts: The Feds Ponder the Cost of SIN July 5, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: The Feds Ponder the Cost of SIN
By Dan Davidson
May 16, 2012, Star, May 18/12
– 573 words –

My SIN card is wearing out. I’m not sure why, because it has been years since I’ve bothered to carry it around and I hardly ever need to refer to it. The last time I needed it for anything was when I applied for a passport, and then I had to mail it off with a whole bunch of other nearly irreplaceable ID documents in order get one.
I’ve been nervous about letting go of my copies of original documents ever since the territory’s Dept of Education contacted me some 30 years ago to tell me that my file, with all my high school and university transcripts, had somehow gone missing. Would I send them my copies of these so they could rebuild my file?
I thought it over for a few seconds and decided that was a bad idea. If they lost them again I would be up the creek. Instead I got notarized copies of my own files made and sent them those. That way I could do it again if there was ever a need.
But I digress.
I’m not saying the passport office damaged the card while they had it, but it developed a crack not long after that, and I now have it splinted together with a strip of scotch tape to keep the crack from going all the way through and the card from falling apart.
I’ve been thinking about ordering a replacement for it, but that may be neither necessary nor possible in a little over a year. The latest news from the national capital is that the plastic SIN card will soon be joining the penny in the dustbin of history.
It’s just the card that’s going to be vanishing in 2014. You’ll still be issued a number and you’ll be notified by mail as to what it is. Since you need a SIN to access a whole panoply of government services at all levels, not to mention paying your income tax and other fun things, you’ll still have one.
Apparently eliminating the actual plastic card will save the government the magnificent sum of $1.5 million annually, which hardly seems worth the effort to make the decision in the first place, especially considering the light-hearted abandon with which the government ignored billions in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II estimates.
I suppose this will help to pay for the creative thinkers who have to keep coming up with new excuses every time a federal minister needs to explain why the Parliamentary Budget Officer or the Auditor General is wrong about the errors in the latest government spending estimates.
Or maybe it will help to pay for the upkeep on the 32 legacy projects that got built in Minister Tony Clements’s riding during the G-20 Summit in Toronto. Huntsville, the site of some of these projects, is some 220 km from Toronto, but it was always possible that some of the delegates might have wanted to take a two and a half hour drive north of the summit city to look at the new gazebo, or the new Olympic-size hockey arena and aquatics centre.
I don’t know though. With all this fuss about SIN cards it just seems to me that perhaps, to use a phrase that will soon be meaningless in this country, the government is penny wise and pound-foolish.


Uffish Thoughts: Parks Canada Cuts are a Disaster July 5, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Parks Canada Cuts are a Disaster
By Dan Davidson
May 10, 2012, Star May 11/12
– 725 words –

The news from Parks Canada last week could have been worse. Dawson could have been hit like Louisbourg, Cape Breton’s crown jewel of Parks restoration and interpretation. There they lost ten full time positions. That might seem better than the twelve we lost in the Klondike, but with it went the announcement that there would be a shorter season for 110 seasonal employees.
Why so many? Well, at Louisbourg they’ve reconstructed something like a quarter of the old French fort and town, and the interpretation style they use is to have it occupied by people in costume who are doing things that would have been done at the time: carding wool, spinning, carpentry, making things, These are seasonal jobs in an area of high unemployment. They are also student jobs. A shorter season means less chance of qualifying for Employment Insurance in the fall and a smaller bank balance to see a person through the winter, either as a resident or as a student.
In addition, quite a few of these jobs are actually part of the annual maintenance routine that is very much needed at a site that suffers from the same seacoast deterioration that plagued the place when it was new. Repairs are a constant necessity there.
Maintaining artifacts is a constant challenge anywhere, and the Yukon will now be without any specialists in this area as a result of the cutbacks that have been imposed. Parks has the largest collection of material in the territory and there will not be anyone on staff who knows the collection. Institutional memory will be lost.
So far the public statements on this matter have been nothing short of fatuous. This distresses me on several levels, not the least of which is that I am acquainted with the people who have made them and have more respect for their intelligence than that.
When Parks Field Unit Superintendent Ann Morin writes to Dawson’s town council that recent actions (i.e. – layoffs) have been taken to “improve internal efficiencies, and reduce costs while focusing on agency priorities and quality service delivery to Canadians” I do realize that she is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. I also realize that she is not in a position to bite the hand that is feeding her. She has been given her orders and has carried them out as instructed.
It does not make the weasel wording any less annoying.
From our MP, Ryan Leef, comes the surprising news that living corporate memory is not important. His comments on the layoffs seem to imply that the various experts in the Parks family have been doing us a disservice by accumulating expertise and experience and, in his words, locking it up in their heads.
Mr. Leef in his various incarnations, from the RCMP to forestry officer to correctional services officer, runner, mixed martial arts contestant, and newly minted Member of Parliament has surely, at some point, run across the notion of mentoring. That’s when a living, breathing person who knows more about your subject than you do, takes you in hand and brings you along to make you the next generation of expert.
Mr. Leef says directly that “archiving this information and being able to have it documented” is sufficient; that it avoids the pitfalls of having experts with information locked in their heads and actually improves on the preservation of our heritage.
This is patent nonsense. While documents and records are useful, the last step in transmitting knowledge between the generations of persons entrusted with safeguarding our institutions requires people with experience who are willing and able to pass on what they know about sites, operations and history to those who will carry on when they are gone.
When you wipe out the entire Yukon curatorial staff of Parks Canada you sabotage that process.
When you toe the party line and make implausible excuses for actions which actually harm the territory, you are making the same mistake you accused your predecessor of making in terms of the long gun registry – putting the needs of the party before the needs of your constituents.
Parks Canada cuts are a disaster for the Yukon. Any attempt to explain them away just rubs salt in the wound.


* Dredge #4.jpg – After spending vast sums of money to repair Dredge #4 and make it safe for guided tours, Parks Canada will be reducing it to self-guided status with signs in the parking lot starting next summer.

Uffish Thoughts: Breaking Up is Hard to Do June 2, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

By Dan Davidson

April 24, 2012

Star, April 27, 2012

When the Yukon River ice decides to dissolve a bit earlier than usual it can create some interesting problems for people. This year, as noted in my regular news filings, the ice bridge softened and was well on its way to becoming unsafe for anything but foot traffic quite a bit earlier than last year and that left some people in West Dawson and Sunnydale rushing to get their supplies in for the interim until the ferry can be launched.

Facebook traffic told me of person after person who had either succeeded and declared they had made their last trip of the season, or had found a place to stay on the town side of the river for a few weeks.

Then there are the intrepid ones.

This is the time of year when watching the river is an attractive community past time.

We cruised down there last night to check out the gap and saw an odd sight. Three figures were coming across the slushy ice. One was walking. One was in a canoe, polling or paddling along in what seemed to be a pretty open channel. The other was a dog.

Arriving at the edge of the ice, the canoeist paddled across to the shore. We’d wondered why his friend wasn’t in the canoe with him until he started unloading backpacks and duffels and all manner of stuff. Clearly there had been room for only one person.

Unloaded at last, the paddler made as if to push the canoe into the water and shove it across the open channel to the ice on the other side of the lead. His friend got a bit frantic at that notion, and the current that we could see made it easy to see why. That canoe would never have made it across with a simple shove.

There was a bit of yelling back and forth, and then the first fellow paddled the canoe back to pick up his friend. They both paddled to the shore. The dog, not to be left behind, jumped in the water and gamely swam along after them. The guys shouted encouragement and it really made a strong effort, but the current drifted it downstream a bit before it could make the shore, confirming that shoving the canoe across the lead would never have worked.


The dog came out of the water looking cold and tired and its body language seemed to say, “Why did I do that?”

The first guy went to a sedan that was parked on the Dawson side, backed it down to the shore and began loading up his goods. The other guy paddled back to the ice and prepared to return to wherever he had come from.

He didn’t take the dog in the canoe, but began to call it as soon as he was under way.

The dog, having a very clear memory of just how cold that water had been, was having none of it.

It sampled the water and backed out.

It danced around the first guy, as if deciding it would rather be in the car.

It came over to our truck and reared up against my driver’s side window as if asking me to come up with a better idea.

It clearly had no interest whatsoever in swimming across that open lead again.

It could hear its master’s voice, but its barking reply and its frantic movements, if translated, would have been something like, “Are you nuts?”

I can’t tell you how this story ends. We had an appointment to get to and another stop to make before we got there. What I hope happened is that guy number two paddled back across and took the dog home in the canoe. While I’m sure it could have swum across safely, the poor thing deserved the ride.





* Crossing 1 – Crossing the remaining ice on foot and canoe.





* Crossing 3 – Paddler and loaded canoe.








* Crossing 6 – Two paddlers and the dog.

Uffish Thoughts: Sometimes those phone calls are from the Conservative Party March 19, 2012

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Uffish Thoughts: Sometimes those phone calls are from the Conservative Party

By Dan Davidson

March 4, 2012

March 6/12

– 685 words –

I had a call from the Conservative Party of Canada last week.  Well it wasn’t actually from the party. It wasn’t a “robo-call” either; there was an actual person on the line. It wasn’t a long call. She thanked me for my time and signed off as soon as I told her that, no, I wasn’t a fan of Mr. Harper’s merry band.

It’s not the first such call I have had. There have been at least a couple of others over the last four years.

I wondered, later, whether I should have told her as much as I did. Now I’m in some ReformaTory database and could be the target of a misleading telephone message a few years down the line.

As luck would have it, the Klondike riding always has its polling place in the Yukon Order of Pioneers Hall, so it would be hard to mislead anyone.

I’ve been listening to the news and the chattering pundits about this tale of electoral skullduggery and can understand why it’s so easy to assume the Harperites might have done this. After all, they were the ones who broke the rules related to campaign spending in the previous election, using an “In/Out” ploy to allow themselves to spend more on campaigns than was legal.

In that case we know for certain they did it because they plead guilty and paid a small fine for their sins. Unfortunately none of the MPs or Senators involved were required to resign or serve time.

That was considered a kind of misdemeanor by Elections Canada. Actually depriving voters of their franchise by sending them to phantom polling stations would be a much bigger deal.

While close to 31,000 of these incidents, involving 40 some ridings, have been reported in the news as I write this column, only the ones attributed to the amusingly named “Pierre Poutine” and the ones where the call centre staff caught on that they were being used to do something wrong and stopped doing it are definite cases.

A change of 40 some seats probably would not change the government. If they all came from the Conservatives and went to the Liberals, Mr. Harper would still have at least a minority government, and he behaves much the same way whether he has a majority or not.

With both the Liberals and NDP currently in search of new leadership, neither would have wanted to provoke a new election during the last eight months, so things would have worked out much the same as they have since last May.

So far the Conservatives are responding to the polling station issue by doing what they usually do: denying first and then trying to spin the messaging into a counterattack.

Hearing the Prime Minister declaim that all the calls actually came from the Liberals made me laugh. If most of the voters targeted were Liberal supporters, as so far seems to be the case, why would the Grits want them to be unable to vote?

Granted that the Liberals have been plagued by some abysmal lapses of judgement in recent years, there really haven’t been any indications that they were actually suicidal.

Mr. Harper seemed to be suggesting that they did it do that they could complain about it later. Makes no sense at all.

Later, when one of the Tory MPs tried to connect the Liberal Party to the calls, it turned out that his information was wrong and that the Liberals weren’t using the US based call center he had said they were. I noticed that it was not Mr. Harper who rose to apologize for this error.

Say what you will about the Liberals, it was their Acting Leader Bob Rae who took upon himself the task of apologizing for the “Viki-leaks” affair, even though it was someone else in his Party that did the deed of harassing The Public Safety Minister Vic Toews after his over-the-top defense of the Internet spying bill.