Last week’s announcement by the Business Advisory Council expressing a loss of faith in the GNWT Executive Council’s commitment to economic recovery elicited disappointment from the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment this week.
The council, which was created in mid-2020 to advise the GNWT on economic issues for the purposes of relief and recovery from the pandemic, sent out a news release late on Jan. 21 stating that although council members were “very dedicated to advising the minister of ITI on economic recovery and the Emerging Strongly plan” and that the department “is a good partner in this endeavor,” the government was not focusing on economic recovery as expected.
“We do not feel that a plan for economic recovery is a focus of the current Executive Council,” the release stated.
The business council announced that it would cease regular meetings as a result.
NNSL Media was unable to get a response from the GNWT on this development last week, given the late timing of the news release. However, ITI Minister 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 said of BAC’s criticism of government. “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 specifically 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.