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ITI minister 'disappointed' with business council's cabinet criticism

NNSL file photo

The minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment said last week she was disappointed to see a statement from the Business Advisory Council critical of the premier and her cabinet.

The council was created in mid-2020 to advise the GNWT on economic issues for the purposes of relief and recovery from the pandemic.

It declared Jan. 21 that its membership believes the Executive Council is not focused enough on economic recovery, and therefore would no longer meet. The criticism was tempered with praise for ITI, calling the department a "good partner."

Caroline Wawzonek said in an interview on Jan. 28 that the business council's response was a letdown in light of the positive work she felt had been done between the territorial government and the business sector.

"Honestly, I was disappointed by that," Wawzonek, minister of ITI and Finance, said. "I've had a lot of meetings with BAC as had the premier and the Covid Secretariat. There has been a lot of work done to engage and respond to some of their ideas. "

Wawzonek pointed to the NWT Business Advisory Council Strategic Planning Retreat report she received on Jan. 16, which provides the government short, medium and long-term recommendations from its major business sectors. This report had been based on face-to-face meetings in November with representatives from aviation, tourism, food and beverage, accommodations and traditional economy, among others.

"I think (BAC's news release) takes away from the message of collaboration and takes away from the conversation about recovery," Wawzonek said. "I wasn't necessarily surprised that they were going to stop having their regular meetings. The reason they were (formed) in the first place was to be able to do an analysis of the relief measures, as they were to identify areas where there were some gaps and then also to speak to what they would see as being recovery efforts going forward and where we focus our attention."

Wawzonek pointed specifically to the report's calling for the federal and territorial government's need to focus on tweaking some of the relief programs and some of the specific priorities for short and long-term needs from specific sectors as the territorial government prepares the next budget.

"I think this report really accomplished what we were hoping to get from the establishment of this advisory council," she said.

Wawzonek said she also appreciated that members on the advisory council were volunteers and busy with their regular private business responsibilities.