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Constructive criticism

Dear editor:

As candidate for chief in the next Couchiching election, I feel compelled to respond to your recent article in the Fort Frances Times where Chief Chuck McPherson asks, “How much is too much?” concerning expenditures on the Borderland Thunder.

While that question is for him and his council to decide, you have to weigh that against other factors. When we overspend by about $122,000, not counting the previous year’s losses, there must be better spending of the money.

We probably could create four or five jobs, or send another six or seven people to college or university. Those four or five jobs take care of entire families. Either that or we could increase students’ education allowance, which in my opinion is inadequate. The training allowance would have taken care of more families.

But in all, we could have increased services to our people.

I know both Ian and Clayton (I either played hockey or golf with them). Good young men who bring pride into our community. They would agree that was too much after having a thorough understanding of the issues, especially if the job or education opportunity affected their family.

With Andrew playing, that should not provide the chief and council reasoning to justify increasing our losses to $150,000 this season. Andrew being drafted by the Belleville Bulls had nothing to do with the Borderland Thunder. It had more to do with the support and sacrifice of his family.

In business, it is difficult to predict how much you are going to profit or lose. However, we also have some history. We lost money the first and second year. Why? Because we are spending more than we are bringing in.

So what needs to be done? We have to reduce costs or bring in more money. Some areas where costs can be reduced are equipment, billets, free tickets or other products, advertising, pre-game meals, and ice rentals.

With equipment, the players had the ability to go to Skates and Blades and pick up any kind of stick they wanted without asking. If I got free sticks, I would be using all manner of expensive sticks costing about $200 each.

I would practice with them and not care if I broke it because they are easy to get. They should have practice sticks.

We also billet these young men. Some are eligible for income support. That money has an intended purpose and Couchiching should not subsidize them. Where parents can afford to pay the billet, they should. I don’t think paying a billet for someone whose parents are wealthy and out of town, and their kid is staying at their house, should qualify.

Clayton was out of town in Northern Ontario playing hockey and it cost his family money. If a player can’t pay in any form, then we should help.

Another solution is to utilize more local players where billets are not needed.

Free tickets and merchandise giveaways cost us money. We lose the initial cost and the revenue it generates. Sometimes you have to tell people no. We must establish controls of revenue-generating activities.

The game advertising has to be thought out more prudently. Most people are aware when games are and word of mouth is a huge factor now that the product is known.

We pay for pre-game meals. This should be the responsibility of the billet or family. Meals are with Carol’s Canteen. She is the person benefiting from Thunder games. The Thunder have no share in the canteen revenues. The Thunder cannot compete in the arena. And still, she is the business providing pre-games meals for the Thunder.

We have a business known as The Kitchen and Bakery that could provide the meals. To me, if I agreed with the pre-game meals, that would be a more appropriate meal provider, since it is a portion of the $122,000.

Another area is ice rental. We spend money making sure the team is competitive. It is with a lot of practice that this happens. We don’t rent prime ice. If the general public in Fort Frances is so concerned, how come the ice rental fees are not reduced for practice or games. This would contribute to the viability of the Thunder.

The town would not want their revenue reduced to zero from this revenue source if the team folded.

Another area is the corporate community. We generate some “donations” from various sources, but overpaying for products and services so that corporate sponsorship happens can’t be good for us.

Our support activities include Bingo and the latest being a golf tournament. These are great ideas if the money was not coming from Couchiching in the first place. Those funds could be used to reduce our debt, which is getting out of hand because the chief and council are not actively pursuing capital funds from government to reduce the amount of commercial financing we need.

Or they are borrowing our future allocations from DIA, which hampers our future development.

Asking people in town to help is a good idea were it not such a bad experience with the Dudley Hewitt Cup, where it seems anyone was able to obligate the First Nation. That loss is not a part of the $122,000.

Good ideas come forward but control of the money must rest with one person so we know who needs replacing or praise. When anyone can spend my money freely and I don’t prudently control it, then I deserve to lose money.

They might have a way of getting to the real corporate sponsor or revenue-generating activities. Those making money as a result of the team must also become good corporate citizens without prompting.

I support the Borderland Thunder. I’ve been to games, I enjoy the calibre of hockey, and like to see our community members and our players. I could probably name 10 players from Couchiching who could play for the Thunder in the next seven years.

We need a program which is not a major liability to the community. Something for our children to aspire to or beyond.

I having nothing against Chuck and I hope he takes these as constructive criticism and some direction during the next year to avoid a repeat of our money-losing ways. Hopefully, I do not have to run against relatives or someone who’s vote eventually means a vote for the other guy.

But I know where I will put my ‘X’ when I know he has to ask, “How much is too much?”


Harry Morrisseau

Couchiching First Nation

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