It may come as a surprise to some people, but Wally Schumann is still the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) – at least until a new territorial cabinet is sworn in on Oct. 25.
So Schumann was asked about Small Business Week from Oct. 20-26.
“As the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Small Business Week is definitely on our calendar,” he said. “It’s something that makes up a good majority if business in the Northwest Territories. Beside the mining sector, it’s probably one of the bigger employers. It’s a very important sector to our economy, especially in some of these smaller communities where there aren’t large industry players.”
Schumann is no longer the MLA for Hay River South after losing the seat in the territorial election earlier this month, but he can still sign off on housekeeping matters with ITI until a new minister is sworn in.
“I’ve signed off on some stuff, some of the day-to-day stuff, but some of the bigger decisions we’re definitely leaving for the next person,” he said.
Schumann was asked if he had any advice for the next minister on how to promote small businesses in the NWT.
“I think we do a lot,” he said.
The outgoing minister listed a number of initiatives and programs, such as the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) policy, Community Futures, support for tourism and agriculture, an initiative to help entrepreneurs deal with red tape, mentorship programs, and more.
“If you look at the whole gamut of what ITI has to offer small businesses in the Northwest Territories it’s a significant amount,” he said, noting it is probably well beyond what is done by other jurisdictions in Canada.
Schumann was asked if he would like for the next minister of ITI to be a small business owner, like himself.
“I think it brings some value to it, for sure,” he replied.
Schumann said entrepreneurs can’t be grown.
“Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs,” he said. “And I always tell the same story. I was very fortunate growing up in Fort Smith, where my Dad always had his own business. And when you grow up in that type of environment everyone in our family owns a small business – my two brothers, myself and my sister. You just don’t wake up one day and decide you’re going to be an entrepreneur.”
Schumann said he believes Hay River is probably a little bit more entrepreneurial than most places in the NWT.
The former MLA, who noted he first owned a small business when he was 17, will now be returning to that sector.
However, he won’t be returning to Poison Painting, the company he put into a blind trust when he entered territorial politics and was chosen for cabinet.
Schumann said he is in the process of selling Poison Painting.
Instead, he has a couple of other ideas he may work on bringing to reality.
Schumann said one of those ideas is to produce deep-fried potato chips for the NWT, noting there are a lot of potatoes grown between Hay River and Norman Wells.
“I think that would be a viable business,” he said. “It’s something that I would seriously consider.”
His other idea is a cannery for fish, which would produce food for humans and maybe cat food.
“There’s all kinds of different opportunities once you get a cannery going,” he said.
Schumann stated he will definitely be getting back into business in some way.
“I’m not just going away and going to do nothing,” he said. “If it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood.”