In March, the NWT government announced an economic advisory council would be created to help the territory’s businesses get through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two months later, the territorial government says it can’t yet reveal who is on that advisory council and does not know when, or if, that information will be made public.
On Tuesday, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce said it had been asked to submit the name of a representative to the council on April 29, but had heard nothing since.
“It certainly is taking a while,” said Deneen Everett, the chamber’s executive director.
In the legislature on Wednesday, Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland said: “It is now 10 weeks later and this council still does not exist. Now is the time to get a plan in place.”
Cleveland continued: “To begin building resilience, we need to make it to tomorrow. We cannot start our business recovery plan willing to lose longtime northern businesses. Not every business has the resources or ability to make it on their own.
“This government must do more, on an urgent basis, to help our local businesses.”
The advisory council was first announced on March 20 as the NWT rolled out $13.2 million in initial economic support related to Covid-19.
At the time, the territory said the council would work to identify the coronavirus pandemic’s economic impacts, ensure the business community is represented, and make sure “items most critical to local economies and jobs are targeted for medium and long-term government support.”
Meeting ‘by the end of next week’
Industry minister Katrina Nokleby, who along with finance minister Caroline Wawzonek announced the creation of the advisory council that day, said she hoped the council might meet before the end of next week.
Nokleby told Cleveland she could not definitively commit to making the council’s membership list and terms of reference public, but hoped that would be the case.
“I appreciate it has now been over two months since we first announced the proposed establishment of the council,” Nokleby said. The minister said there had been a delay as two further councils – one for the health and social sector and one for Indigenous groups and governments – had since been created.
“We are working hard to ensure there is a broad, diverse representation on the council. Admittedly, this has taken longer than we anticipated,” said Nokleby.
“We have contacted the organizations we are using to staff, or populate, the councils. The idea is to organize, by the end of next week, a membership meeting with them.”
Renee Comeau, executive director of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, told Cabin Radio this week: “We are waiting to hear that the membership is being finalized. We do understand that this has taken some time in part due in part to the establishment of all three councils.
“I expect we’ll hear of the details soon.”