Advocacy & News
Procurement Review Written Submission
Over the last 4 months, the NWT Chamber has been engaging its membership, the general business community, and Procurement Panel discussing the 10 questions raised in the Executive Summary. We have fielded several written submissions, businesses in regards to their opinions on the 10 questions and their experiences with the current procurement process. We also took the opportunity to speak with the Procurement Panel twice during this time.
Thank you for this opportunity to allow the NWT Chamber of Commerce to provide feedback to the Procurement Panel regarding the Procurement Review. The NWT Chamber of Commerce is the largest and most broadly-based business organization North of 60, with representation from every NWT region. Working in association with the network of community chambers in Norman Wells, Fort Simpson, Hay River, Thebacha, and Yellowknife, the NWT Chamber represents members' interests across the NWT. For over 45 years, we have been the only pan-territorial voice of businesses across all sectors of the northern economy.
Government Procurement, whether it is the content of the tender document, the application of BIP, the evaluation criteria and process, is one of the most addressed topics from our members. We applaud the Panel for taking on this very contentious topic and attempting to find a balance between supporting and growing the NWT business community as a whole and being responsible with the spending of public dollars. We would also like to thank the Panel for allowing the Board to speak with you on two occasions, February 17, 2021, and again on April 15, 2021, to share our comments and member's comments on all ten questions listed in the Executive Summary.
Through our conversation regarding all ten questions, there were some common themes that provided the basis for our recommendations. Looking at our discussions and the themes that emerged allowed us to focus on four key questions and one additional topic:
- Question 2: "How can the transparency of GNWT procurement and contracting data be improved?";
- Question 3: "What constitutes an NWT business?";
- Question 6: "What are your thoughts with respect to the key purpose of BIP and preferential procurement?"; question 8: "What ideas or input do you have with respect to the establishment of a GNWT Indigenous procurement policy?" and
- Finally a lengthy conversation in regards to the downgrade in amount for sole-sourcing of general services that occurred during the review. "
To review the full submission please the link
To follow all of our COVID-19 related Advocacy - link
Budget 2021 Highlights
Earlier this week on Monday, April 19, 2021 the federal government released their first budget in two years. This past year has seen unprecedented economic strain as we move through this pandemic. Many businesses have had to pivot on a dime both in time and cash. As fortunate as we have been in the NWT during all of this many businesses are still operating with restricted capacity but 100% of operating costs. Though there are many opportunities for rebound in the new federal budget there were also a lot opportunities of relief missed.
Overall, the 2021/22 Federal Budget provides the NWT with several opportunities to rebuild our economy providing the funding flows and flows through to those who need it. We are disappointed that there was no specific relief funding for the food and beverage sector (F&B) which is one of the hardest-hit sectors during this pandemic and have had the most closures. Though there have been a few pots that the F&B could apply to, specifically the Northern Benefit Relief Fund (NBRF) this has actually created further losses for this sector as the federal government required them to operate on a month to month break even after 3 months of no revenue and no end of minimal revenue. Funding pots like this need to request a business to operate on an annual break-even to avoid the evitable where many F&B had their small revenues earned over 3 months of a whole year, clawed back.
NWT Chamber Submission to NWT Housing Review
Thank you for this opportunity to allow the NWT Chamber of Commerce to provide feedback to the Standing Committee on Social Development regarding the NWT Housing Review – Homeowners and Private Landlords. On behalf of our 110 members, 5 Community Chambers, and over 6,000 businesses in the NWT, we have been advocating for many of the stated questions. Changes to homeownership and private landlords outside of Yellowknife are an excellent way to develop positive social outcomes and economic diversification for our communities.
We are facing a real housing crisis in the NWT, one that is for all of us to solve, private industry included. But we need a level playing field for the private sector to enter into the rental market. Currently, the NWT Housing Corporation holds a monopoly on the rental market in every community in the NWT except Yellowknife. There is no private company, regardless of size, that can compete with these rental prices and provide utilities at no cost. Currently, we have professionals in housing units as there is nowhere else to house them. In one community, you have had teachers living in the old age home. These professionals are more than capable of paying fair market rent plus utilities. As we move towards settling land claims and self-government, there will be an even higher demand for professionals to move into our communities. Private industry has repeatedly attempted to purchase abandoned and derelict homes from either the federal government or the Housing Corp with minimal success. If so, they cannot afford the project as they can not compete with the market rent as dictated by the Housing Corp. Norman Wells & District Chamber and ourselves have highlighted the issues and concerns in a letter from 2018 to then Minister Alfred Moses. We have also included the rental rates per community which are nowhere near what market rates are. This is a great example of private industry taking over the burden of liabilities for the Housing Corp as well as adding not only continued skilled labour, but a stream of economy into a community
Deployment of Rapid Screening
This morning the Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued the below letter to all Provincial and Territorial Premiers. We are very pleased to add our signature to this letter as did every Provicinal and Territorial Chamber, we have also shared this letter with Honorable Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services
Re: Deployment of rapid screening
As Canada enters a new and more dangerous phase of the pandemic, our priority must be to protect the health of our population as we permit the safe operation of our economy. Achieving this goal will require close collaboration among governments, public health authorities, and other organizations, including businesses.
The increasing rollout of vaccinations has brought hope to Canadians, but it will be several months before everyone who wants the vaccine is fully immunized. Until then, we need to aggressively implement a range of measures to break COVID-19’s transmission chain.
Rapid screening, which enables people who may be infectious to be identified and directed towards a confirmatory PCR test, is critical to keeping the disease in check. Unfortunately, the use of this essential tool that can save lives and help the reopening of our economy has been slow and uneven across Canada. When millions of test kits sit unused in warehouses, they are not protecting Canadians or helping them resume more ordinary lives.
Minimum Wage Letter
Together with the Hay River Chamber of Commerce and Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, the NWT Chamber of Commerce has issued a letter to Minister RJ Simpson in regards to the recently announced increase to the minimum wage on September 01, 2021:
The NWT Chamber of Commerce represents over 100 members and over 3,500 businesses of every size and sector throughout the NWT. We are writing to you in regards to the recently announced minimum wage increase.
This past year has been devastating to businesses where most of them went three months or longer with no revenue and have now been operating at a maximum of 50% capacity. Based on recent comments by the CPHO and the GNWT, businesses can assume they will be operating in this climate for the foreseeable future. And while they have been operating in this manner, business' operating costs have had to be paid at the total amount and, in sometimes instances, at an increase.
The NWT Chamber is concerned about the timing of this increase and the necessity of it. Currently, there are only 400 individuals in the NWT that make minimum wage; over 200 are 18 and younger and the remainder are students, with a majority living at home. Thus, there is no reasonable reason to increase the minimum wage while the country is still in the middle of a pandemic where businesses are barred from operating at total capacity. A majority will be affected by this increase, operating purely on subsidies and grants. Many of these businesses relied on the Canadian Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to bring back as many employees as possible and grant programs like Northern Benefit Recovery Fund (NBRF) to cover operating costs. Unfortunately, businesses that max $100k wouldn't cover off even two months' worth of operating expenses. Many are now having their grant proceeds clawed back because, in an already challenging year with only a few months of revenue, CanNor was only looking at monthly break-even, not annual.
For the full letter - link
Minister RJ Simpson's response - link
Letter of Support for Application to the National Trade Corridors Fund
The NWT Chamber of Commerce gladly provided our letter of support to Minister Diane Archie, supporting the GNWT applying to the National Trade Corridors Fund for funding in regards to the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor including the replacement of the Frank Channel Bridge
Letter of Support - link
The Monkey Tree
On January 27, 2021, the NWT Chamber issued a letter addressed to Premier Caroline Cochrane, cc'ing all MLAs, in regards to the recently detailed treatment by an individual Health Inspector by The Monkey Tree. The NWT Chamber has several concerns as to how this one particular business and how the Food and Beverage sector, in general, is being treated. From the feedback, we have been receiving from our members this is extremely troubling for the business community.
To view our full letter - link
Response from Hon Premier Caroline Cochrane, Minister of COVID Secretariat - link
Pre Budget Consultation 2021
The NWT Chamber along with all the provincial and territorial chambers signed the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's Pre Budget Consultation letter. The focus of the letter is workforce supply and demand matchup.
As the Government of Canada continues to work our country’s collective way through the crisis, you can count on Canada’s businesses to help lead the way in economic recovery.
To support the government’s commitment to support the creation one million jobs and restore employment numbers to pre-crisis levels, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and all provincial and territorial Chambers of Commerce from coast to coast to coast are submitting the Workforce Supply and Demand Matchup (WSDM) initiative as part of the 2021 pre-budget consultations.
The WSDM is designed to help Canadians get back to work and support a resilient and inclusive economic recovery. It is a national, bilingual program that will be a collaborative game-changer in workforce ecosystems at all levels.
Please see link for full letter - link
Federal Alcohol Escalator Tax
On April 01, 2021 the federal government is set to automatically increase the Alcohol Tax. Escalator taxes set a dangerous precedent, increasing year after year without being voted on or studied by Parliament. It’s time we freeze this unfair tax and give Canadians a break. Did you know taxes make up nearly 50% of the price of each case of beer, 65-75% of each bottle of wine, and 80% of each bottle of spirits? And the federal government still wants to raise the tax on alcohol. #FreezeTheAlcoholTax and give Canadians a break.
We have sent a letter to Minister Caroline Wawzonek asking for her support in ensuring the escalator tax be frozen in the next federal budget, giving all Canadians a much-needed break via a letter to Minister Crystia Freeland. Full Letter - link
Minister Wawzonek's response - link
For more information on this please visit the Canadian Chamber's webpage - Freeze the Alcohol Tax
Open Letter re: COVID-19 Secretariat
In response to the joint Press Release issued earlier this week from the GNWT and Business Advisory Council (BAC) regarding the COVID-19 Secretariat, we would like to assure our membership that the NWT Chamber has not changed its position on the COVID-19 Secretariat. Where we agree that there needs to be efficiency and clarity in the GNWT’s response to this pandemic, we do not believe that additional funding is required to do so.
The NWT Chamber believes many of the costs budgeted for the COVID-19 Secretariat could be better spent. We have also taken the opportunities that have been granted to us to speak candidly to the Secretariat regarding this. The sole-sourcing of the isolation centers needs to be rectified, as does the blanket covering of costs for any NWT resident who chooses to leave the NWT for vacation/non-essential. This line item is more than half of the Secretariat budget. No other jurisdiction, including Nunavut, blindly pays for their residents to isolate, which costs $4-5,000/resident, over 14 days that equates to $5,600 - $7,000/resident. There also needs to be better enforcement of those abusing this system, which we all know is happening.
Tourism Accommodation Sector Supplement
The NWT Chamber sent supporting letters to MP Michael McLeod and Minister Caroline Wawzonek on behalf of a member, The Explore Hotel requesting the consideration of a Tourism Accommodation Supplement program similar to the one introduced in Yukon in late 2020
Letter to Minister Melanie Joly from the Hotel Association of Canada - link
Letter to MP Michael McLeod - link
Letter to Minister Caroline Wawzonek - link
Response from Minister Caroline Wawzonek - link
Call to Action - COVID-19 Secretariat
To date, the Premier has not responded to our original letter dated September 08th though we were advised we would receive a response by September 24th
The communications on the COVID-19 Secretariat has been difficult to follow and figure out what is facts and what is not, the number of jobs; the percentage of jobs in Yellowknife vs communities; the cost; etc. All have changed almost daily. Bottom line is the GNWT has chosen to use our emergency state to spend this money for the COVID-19 Secretariat before it has been approved which is not right and goes against their pledge for better transparency. Wordsmithing to convince the NWT residents that these are not new jobs and the true monetary ask is irresponsible during this time.
Our call to action is supported by NWT Tourism; NWT Manufacturers Association; and NWT & NU Chamber of Mines:
When the COVID-19 Secretariat was announced, it was reported that “$36.1m is for wages only for 150 positions, of which 124 will be located in Yellowknife, and only 24 spread through Fort Smith; Hay River; Fort Simpson; Norman Wells, and Inuvik. 125 of those positions will include "members of the current compliance and enforcement task force, staff protecting the border at airports and highways, and isolation center employees and staff Protect NWT and its 8-1-1 hotline". link
Based on their release, "19,043 self-isolation plans have been submitted since March 21 – of which 784 are currently pending approval, and since April 15, the 8-1-1 hotline has received a total of 2,281 calls from 29 communities, while 458 emails related to COVID-19 have been sent. Enforcement officials have issued 265 written and verbal warnings and 19 summary offense tickets". link
To put this in perspective, if we repeat the same numbers over the following next five months, each employee will be tasked with 18 calls/each over the full five months and approximately an application a day/employee for the entire five months. Currently, anywhere from 10-20% of GNWT employees can not return to the office. This equates to 529 - 1,057 employees working from home.
On September 24, Premier Cochrane was quoted as saying: "Like the programs and services, only 10 of the 150 positions required are new and, prior to the establishment of the Secretariat, we had 163 positions from across government working to deliver these services". In the GNWT eyes, these may not be "new" hires, but the backfilled positions will be. During this time of uncertainty, we do not need politicians playing word games to justify an end. The GNWT has indicated on multiple occasions in the media as well as in the Standing Committee of Accountability and Oversight, that the business community has asked for this Secretariat. We have never asked for additional staff; or the creation of a new department. We have repeatedly asked for clarification; consistency; collaboration; and a response within a reasonable timeframe as 2-3 weeks to answer an email is not reasonable.
To protect the NWT, we do not need more people to answer phone calls and emails. We need our HealthCare system bolstered as every other judication has chosen to do with their federal funding. We could save the territory $36m+ if we stopped paying for self-isolation centers for those residents who voluntarily left the territory for personal non-essential travel. We could be issuing more fines to those not complying to drive home the seriousness of our current situation. We could stimulate our economy if the GNWT invested even a fraction of this money into supporting our drowning sectors such as hospitality, tourism, and mining. There are so many more essential mandate items that this money can be spent on with a larger return than creating unnecessary middle management positions. As previously stated, it doesn't take money to return a phone call or respond to an email.
The NWT Chamber is not naïve to think that it will be government employees answering calls and responding to emails that will flatten our curve. It will be our dedicated healthcare workers; and frontline staff that will be instrumental in our ability to flatten the curve.
Our call to action is if your MLA has not already announced a constituency meeting before the sitting in October, ask them why. Question your MLA on how they plan to vote on the approval of this funding that has already been spent and why they feel the permanent creation of these new jobs whether it's at the COVID Secretariat or backfilling, instead of transfer-in assignments and/or contracted term positions.
COVID-19 Secretariat Open Letter
The NWT Chamber of Commerce issued an open letter to all MLA's this morning in regards to the COVID-19 Secretariat and what $62.6m would do for the NWT economy if that money was spent on even one of the mandate items. The letter was signed and support by:
- Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce
- Thebacha Chamber of Commerce
- Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce
- Norman Wells & District Chamber of Commerce
- NWT Tourism
- NWT & NU Chamber of Mines
- NATA (Northern Air Transport Association)
Together we represent over 3,500 businesses across the NWT of all sizes and sectors.
Letter regarding the COVID-19 Secretariat
The NWT Chamber of Commerce has sent the below letter to Premier Cochrane with supporting signatures from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, Thebacha Chamber of Commerce, and Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce
The NWT Chamber has issued this letter after receiving several concerns from our membership regarding the money being spent on a new level of bureaucracy when several businesses in the NWT are struggling to stay open and being forced to wade through unnecessary red tape and delays due to inconsistent applications of rules and lack of response from the GNWT
Joint Business Association Statement on the importance of a Coherent Privacy Framework
Today (09/11/20) along with 25+ business associations, joined the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to highlight the importance of a coherent national approach to privacy rules for Canadian businesses. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Minister Navdeep S Bains to deliver on this important agenda - full letter
Protecting Canada's Arctic Interests - a Losing Battle
The NWT Chamber is very excited to announce that we have submitted a policy resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's submitting committee. On September 08, 2020, we were notified that our policy on Protecting Canada's Arctic Interests - a losing battle was approved to be debate and hopefully approved at the Canadian Chamber's AGM in October. This policy was co-sponsored by Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Board of Trade - full policy
Location of Day Shelter
In support of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and Black Knight Pub; Overlander Sports & 974200 NWT, the NWT Chamber issued the City of Yellowknife a letter in regards to the location of the proposed Day Shelter full letter
Ongoing recovery of our restaurants and food service industry across Canada
The NWT Chamber, along with all the other provincial and territorial chambers, joined the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlining the struggles that our hospitality industry is facing and the importance they deliver to our economy. - full letter
For more information on the movement please visit - Our Restaurants webpage
Balancing Health and Economics
Together with NWT Tourism; Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce; NWT & NU Chamber of Mines and NWT & NU Construction Association, the NWT Chamber has issued an open letter indicating that NWT businesses want a more balanced approach to protecting public health and supporting economic recovery - full letter
July 09, 2020 - Premier Cochrane's response - full letter
Letter to Minister Miller and Minister Morneau requesting a roll out of Indigenous Business Supports
The NWT Chamber of Commerce with support from the NWT Indigenous Leaders Economic Coalition and Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce; has issued a letter requesting our official ask to have the program(s) for Indigenous Business Support announced April 18th to be rolled out as soon as possible.
Full Letter - link
Joint Letter to Washington Companies LLP
Together with the NWT & NU Chamber of Mines and the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, the NWT Chamber sent a joint letter to Washington Companies LLP in regards to Dominion Diamonds Mines ULC - full letter
Joint Senate Submission
Together we are stronger through this difficult COVID-119 situation and we know this is a very difficult time for you. Together the NWT Chamber of Commerce and NWT Tourism have been working collaboratively to advocate for the NWY business community. Both of our originations are working together on your behalf pushing for programs and services that will enable you to survive and revive as we come through this unprecedented health and economic storm.
Attached, is an issues document (click here) that we have been using together to identify gaps in federal programs and to provide poignant examples from the NWT. We are using this docuemtn to speak and write to Parliamentarians, CanNor, GNWT, and most recently Senator Anderson's office. Senator Anderson approached both of us to provide input to help the three northern senators understand NWT challenges and issues so they can be advocates in parliament for northern businesses at the Committee of Finance and on Social Affairs.
If after looking at this issues brief, you have other examples of where federal programs are not working for your business, please get in you with one of us and share your examples. We are committed to continuing to work on your behalf.
Letter to Premier Cochrane requesting immediate moratorium on commercial evictions
An urgent letter from Chambers of Commerce to Canada' Premiers Re: May 1 commercial rent payments
Today the NWT Chamber of Commerce released an urgent letter to Premier Cochrane requesting a moratorium on commercial evictions due to the issues and gaps in the Canada Emergency Rent Assistance
Our Full Release - link
Follow up Letter issued May 07, 2020 - link
Response to Premier Cochrane issued May 12, 2020 - link
Press Release: NWT Chambers response to the Canadian Survey of Business Conditions
Canadian Chamber of Commerce/Stas Canada national survey on the conditions and impacts on businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic
Today the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Stats Canada released its national survey on the conditions and impacts on businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were able to be drilled down by province and territories as well as by industry; employee size; private vs public and ownership style. The NWT Chamber of Commerce is appreciative of all who have responded and looks forward to utilizing this valuable data to better serve our membership and the businesses of the NWT recover from this unprecedented time.
Full Release -
Letter of Support for the Aviation Sector
The NWT Chamber of Commerce with the support of the Northern Air Transport Association, Thebacha Chamber of Commerce, and Norman Wells & District Chamber of Commerce has issued a letter to Minister Vandal in regards to the need for a financial relief package specifically for the NWT aviation sector
Full Letter - link
Request for Northern Relief Package
The NWT Chamber of Commerce with support from the Thebacha Chamber of Commerce, Hay River Chamber of Commerce, Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce, and Norman Wells & District Chamber of Commerce has issued a letter to Minister Melanie Joly requesting a Northern Relief package for all sectors of the NWT
Full Letter - link