The Kwanlin Dun First Nation wants to assume control for educating its people.
That is, it wants to be treated like a first-order government.
Well, it should start acting like one.
More than a year ago, the First Nation asked the city to service the future site of its heritage centre at Black Street and First Avenue.
The $892,000 job was completed.
City officials sent an invoice to the aboriginal government in November 2006.
The Kwanlin Dun still has not paid Whitehorse for the work.
That means the city has carried the First Nation’s debt for 13 months.
Based on terms laid out on the invoice, the Kwanlin Dun now owes the city more than $235,000 in compound-interest penalties.
But, though those penalties were clearly spelled out in the agreement, the city may not seek to recover the interest.
And so we enter the realm of inter-government diplomacy.
While the city may be hungry for cash — to the point its considering a 7.5 per cent property tax increase this year alongside municipal fee increases — sometimes pushing another government for money owed can cost you more than you recover.
Penny wise, pound foolish, as they say.
That is, it may be worth more for Whitehorse to waive the interest penalties to maintain good relations with a government that shares its borders, services and residents.
That’s the calculus Whitehorse officials are engaged in.
But they have been put in that position because Kwanlin Dun officials put them there.
If there’s a reasonable explanation, Kwanlin Dun has refused to give it.
Chief Mike Smith runs a public government. He should offer an explanation.
The Kwanlin Dun is ambitious, as seen by its stated goal to draw down education for its people.
But with such power comes responsibility.
And, as a government, the Kwanlin Dun is relatively new.
It will have to demonstrate it’s capable of running a school system before parents will enroll in its system.
That is, it must build confidence.
And it’s hard to take a government seriously when it doesn’t pay its bills on time. (RM)