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GNWT business advisory council has lost 'faith' in Cochrane, cabinet

The Northwest Territories business community said Thursday it is disappointed that a plan to restart the economy is apparently not on the radar of the premier or her cabinet.

In a press release, Jenni Bruce, NWT Chamber of Commerce president and co-chair of the 17-member Business Advisory Council (BAC) formed by the GNWT earlier this year to advise it on economic matters in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, said Premier Caroline Cochrane is not focused on the economy.

As a result, the BAC won't be meeting regularly anymore.

Several programs that offer grants to NWT businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic are ongoing. NNSL photo
The Business Advisory Council (BAC) announced in a Jan. 21 news release that it is ceasing its regular meetings as planning for an economic recovery does not appear to be a focus of Premier and the Executive Council. 
NNSL file photo

“The members of the BAC are very dedicated to advising the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment on economic recovery and the Emerging Strongly plan,” stated co-chair Jenni Bruce in the release. "We believe that ITI is a good partner in this endeavour.

"However we do not feel that a plan for economic recovery is a focus of the current Executive Council."

Bruce added that the council is open to meeting again with the department if there are matters which the GNWT seeks specific guidance. 

“In the meantime, the BAC members will continue to advocate on behalf of their respective memberships together and through their own memberships.”

BAC's news release also included their top priorities for the GNWT and the federal government to focus on to help business recovery based on a Face-to-Face Strategic Planning Meeting on Nov. 17. 

Bruce told NNSL Media earlier this week that despite frequent meetings, there has been frustration among business owners who want to see the government address some of their priorities, which include opening up the NWT border in time for the summer.

"Disgruntled might be an extreme way of putting it, but there's definitely frustration because these are frustrating times," Bruce said of prevailing feeling among business representatives. "Anytime private industry goes up against government, private industry tends to move at a much faster pace."

Drew Williams, spokesperson for ITI, said in a Jan. 21 email that the department has been facilitating meetings between the BAC and senior officials within the government and has ensured that concerns during the pandemic from the business community have reached senior leadership with the GNWT.

"Members of BAC have made their positions well known to the Department of ITI and the government overall," Williams stated in a Jan. 21 email. "ITI has facilitated meetings specifically between BAC and the CPHO, cabinet members, Covid Secretariat and the premier."

Changes in membership 

Earlier this week, Bruce said there had been changes among the BAC membership after its last  meeting on Jan. 14 when chair Paul Gruner stepped down due to commitments in his role as president and CEO of Det'on Cho  Corporation.

Donna Lee Demarcke, who was a representative of the Hay River Chamber of Commerce, has departed because she's now CEO of NWT Tourism. She was replaced by Terry Rowe, the new president of the Hay River chamber.

Trevor Kasteel is now on the board as a member of the NWT Construction Association. He replaces Duc Trinh.

NNSL Media was unable to reach the premier for comment before deadline.