The issue: Covid business council
We say: What took so long?

 Yukon’s pandemic response committee was meeting for weeks before the GNWT even announced the roster of its own Any casual stock exchange watcher knows how much speculation plays into a company’s worth.

The pandemic has provided a new lesson for the uninitiated. When the virus first showed up, stocks and currencies crashed with a violence that drew comparisons to Black Tuesday and the Great Depression that followed.

When governments, in particular that of the United States, opened the floodgates and started propping up businesses and sectors, the stocks rebounded.

Information and perception are king here. So, too, with a sector like tourism, which projects an image of the destination in order to attract consumers. But it’s not just the pristine wilderness or the great fishing that tourists consider when they’re deciding where to visit. That’s why outfitters were probably cringing at the contradictions coming out of the legislative assembly on who can or can’t enter the territory and under what conditions, and whether they would have to self-isolate for two weeks (they would). 

This year is a total write-off for tourism but the uncertainty and confusion projected by the GNWT is bound to turn off would-be travellers even after Covid restrictions have been lifted.

Speaking of other territories, a recently released report had troubling economic data showing the Yukon and Nunavut were set to emerge from the pandemic on stabler ground than the NWT. 

The news came on the heels of the first meeting of the business advisory council Industry Minister Katrina Nokleby announced in March and which as recently as May 28 still didn’t have a final roster. Now that the members of the council are known, it’s plain to see the GNWT has a stacked deck to draw from – a credit to whoever recruited them and a testament to the level of expertise present in the NWT’s business community.

But the time it took to get rolling is concerning. Pointing to the Yukon one more time, their business council was announced March 25, five days after the GNWT’s was, but with a complete roster of its 21 members. They’ve been teleconferencing weekly and gathering their own feedback from the wider community ever since.

There still isn’t really any concrete explanation for why MLAs felt compelled to (nearly) vote Nokleby – who oversees the economy-obsessed Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, as well as the closely linked Department of Infrastructure – out of cabinet last month. After the motion was abruptly withdrawn, there was talk of cabinet and MLAs working together better and dealing with communication issues.

If the business community received the same treatment, the projection from our political leadership will be that of more barriers for business and pitfalls for entrepreneurs. Each one that gets tired of banging their head on a wall and heads south is about $30,000 in federal funding the GNWT won’t get next year, to say nothing of the economic impact their business would have had.

The NWT’s economy was running out of road before Covid-19 shut down the world. The GNWT must be more responsive if it wants to avoid being left in the dust completely.

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