NWT cabinet ministers are defending a recent trip to Vancouver for a mining conference after some regular MLAs questioned how much it’s going to cost taxpayers.
All seven ministers and another 23 delegates traveled to Vancouver this week to attend AME Round Up 2017, hosted by the Association for Mineral Exploration.
Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne, who chairs the standing committee on economic development and environment, also made the trip.
It’s estimated that the trip came at a cost of $75,000, or $2,500 per head – a cost that some regular MLAs say is too much.
Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green and Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly both took to Twitter this week to question the government’s spending priorities in a time of fiscal restraint.
“All seven cabinet members are attending the BC Mining Association’s annual meeting this week,” Green said. “Is this how you want your tax dollars spent?”
O’Reilly added: “Where is cabinet? All gone to Vancouver for the roundup mining conference. So much for economic diversification and fiscal restraint.”
‘[Mining] is part of our legacy’
For the territory’s cabinet ministers, the conference presented an opportunity to meet with mining executives and investors from abroad, including representatives from the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce.
Premier Bob McLeod said it was important for all of cabinet to attend the roundup to reaffirm the territory’s commitment to the sector.
“The NWT has huge mining potential, that if developed sustainably and economically, will drive prosperity for the NWT for generations to come,” he told delegates in Vancouver.
“We are looking to the long-term future of the NWT and that is one of the main reasons why we are here. We rely on mining in the NWT like no other sector.
“It is part of our legacy and without a doubt, part of our future.”
While Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann admits the sector is in a slump right now, he says the GNWT can’t lose sight of the success it’s had in the past.
“Our territory was built on mining,” he said. “We are the jurisdiction which put Canadian diamonds on the map.
“I am confident that we will be returning to the North with the solutions that will define the next generation of exploration and mining in the NWT.”
The issue of government spending and fiscal restraint will surely be a hot-button issue during the next legislative session, which is set to begin on Tuesday.
— Julie Green (@juliegreenMLA) January 24, 2017
Where is Cabinet? All gone to Vancouver for the Roundup mining conference. So much for economic diversification and fiscal restraint.
— Kevin O'Reilly (@kevinframelake) January 23, 2017
According to Mining in the NWT public opinion survey 89% of respondents say mining is good for the NWT https://t.co/TY52Mw5xQz
— Glen Abernethy (@GlenAbernethy) January 24, 2017