MLA grills Nunavut premier about money spent on Ottawa trade show

"You have to spend money to make money"

By JANE GEORGE

John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, rises in the Nunavut legislative assembly May 25 to question Premier Paul Quassa about the money spent by the Government of Nunavut to attend this year's Northern Lights Conference and Trade Show in Ottawa. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)


John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, rises in the Nunavut legislative assembly May 25 to question Premier Paul Quassa about the money spent by the Government of Nunavut to attend this year’s Northern Lights Conference and Trade Show in Ottawa. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa faced lots of questions in the Nunavut legislature May 25 about the large amount of money his government spent earlier this year on the Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa.

But Quassa defended the $570,000-plus that the territorial government spent to send more than 60 people to the event and host other delegates at an evening of Nunavut food and music.

“You have to spend money to make money,” Quassa said.

That’s after Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main repeatedly questioned Quassa about the money the Government of Nunavut spent on the conference and trade show.

According to a breakdown furnished by Quassa to Main, in response to a written question, the GN spent a total of $385,046.69 on the event.

But that figure rises to more than $570,000 when government contributions to the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce are included.

Delegates at the Northern Lights event, which takes place every two years, included the three northern premiers, presidents of the Inuit regional and national organizations and representatives from Greenland, along with Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs and other government officials and business leaders from Nunavut, Nunavik and Labrador.

The contingent that the GN bankrolled included cabinet ministers, public servants, ministerial staff, the commissioner of Nunavut and Quassa’s spouse.

The GN also paid for “Nunavut Night,” billed as an evening of Nunavut entertainment, art, and food, where guests sampled dishes such as caribou sliders and sliced maple cold smoked Arctic char, and listened to music from Riit, Silla + Rise, and the Inuuqatigiit Band.

The response to Main’s questions revealed that the GN paid:

• $137,236.51 in airfare and charter expenses.

• $61,318,74 for accommodations.

• $32,683.89 in per diems.

• $66,253.30 in registration fees.

• $87,554.25 in other expenses.

The GN also gave the regional chamber of commerce $166,650 from the Department of Economic Development and Transportation’s strategic investment program, as well as $25,000 as a sponsorship for the trade show.

Main, who spoke in the chamber, while holding a GN document on an action plan to tackle food insecurity in Nunavut, where the majority of Inuit adults don’t get enough food to eat, questioned the amount of money spent in Ottawa on the event.

Bur Quassa said that the conference and trade show provided a chance to show off Nunavut and build interest in Nunavut.

And bringing everyone to Ottawa was a good way to introduce the leaders of the new Nunavut government, he said.

“We were a new government; we were just starting,” he said. “This gave us an opportunity to introduce those interest groups to our ministers. This also gave us an opportunity to meet various federal ministers.

“Certainly we don’t take this lightly at all.”

Quassa also said that for the next Northern Lights Conference and Trade Show, “it will be different.”

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