'The location is certainly a &#39d;ifficulty;,' Brock Junkin says

NBCC should move from Dorset, ex-boss says

By Jim Bell and Chris Windeyer

The Nunavut Business Credit Corp. should move its office from Cape Dorset to a more centrally-located community, says Brock Junkin, a former GN official who in 2003 and 2004 served as acting CEO of the troubled lending agency.

"The location is certainly a difficulty. I would suggest a change of location," Junkin said last week in response to questions from MLAs on the legislative assembly's standing committee on government operations and accountability.

In a sitting held last week in Iqaluit, the committee heard evidence from a long list of former NBCC employees, including Junkin.

Junkin, who now works as CEO of the Sakku Corp., told MLAs that the NBCC's location in Cape Dorset made it extremely difficult for its depleted staff to get things done.

"Even with a full complement of staff, it would be a challenge to do business," Junkin said.

He said, for example, that his attendance at a business meeting in Cambridge Bay required seven days of travel to get there from Cape Dorset and back.

"It took eight days to conduct one day of business in Cambridge Bay," Junkin said.

He also said the NBCC's location is directly related to the agency's biggest problem: finding qualified financial workers.

Junkin, a certified management accountant with extensive prior business experience in Nova Scotia, says he wasn't interested in a permanent job at the NBCC.

"Living in Cape Dorset wasn't part of my plan," Junkin said.

Junkin said that when he arrived in Cape Dorset, the only other employees were Rajan Jhaveri, the comptroller at the time, and Lucie Ottokie, an administrative worker.

Junkin also told MLAs that Rankin Inlet could be a good location for the agency because the hamlet is already home to two commercial banks and the Atuqtuarvik Corp., the Inuit-only lending agency set up with funds from the Nunavut Trust. It's also the hub of a booming mining sector and is home to Nunavut Arctic College's accounting program.

"Certainly there's a high number of accountants in Rankin Inlet because of that program," said Peter Ma, the deputy finance minister, under questioning from MLAs.

"Rankin Inlet would be a good choice," Ma said.

Last November, David Simailak, who then still served as minister responsible for the economic development and finance portfolios, said in a statement that the GN would not move the NBCC from Cape Dorset.

Simailak said that's because he believes such a move would start the GN down a slippery slope that would lead to the collapse of decentralization.

Rosemary Keenainak, the GN's deputy minister of economic development and transportation, repeated that position during last week's hearings.

She said both a consultant and the department's own staff have been looking at ways to fix the NBCC. But she was uncommitted on whether moving the agency is an option, saying that's a policy issue that's up to cabinet to decide.

This answer didn't sit well with Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley who said moving NBCC from Cape Dorset wouldn't undermine decentralization if the government moves other public sector jobs into the community.

And committee chair Hunter Tootoo said he doesn't understand why the GN rejected a motion by the NBCC's board recommending a move out of Cape Dorset.

"How can the government support that location if the board doesn't support it? If we want this organization to succeed, everything needs to be looked at," Tootoo said.

Junkin, who in 2003 was serving the GN as regional superintendent of economic development in the Kivalliq, first took on the acting CEO job at the NBCC as a temporary assignment, following the departure of Michael Sanagan, the first CEO.

That turned into a 10-month stretch after no qualified applicants responded to the GN's first job advertisement, Junkin said.

Junkin left the NBCC after the GN recruited Mel Orecklin in the summer of 2004, after a better-qualified person turned down the job because of its low pay and location in Cape Dorset.

Orecklin told MLAs last week that in his job interview, he told them he had no previous financial experience and that it's not surprising he was unable to meet the standards demanded.

The government is also mulling a merger between the NBCC with the Nunavut Development Corporation, which is based in Rankin Inlet.

That's what the Government of the Northwest Territories did. In 2005, the NWT government merged its development corporation and business credit corporation to create a new entity called the NWT Business Development and Credit Corp.

In its annual report the new NWT agency now publishes the names of every loan client, the amount of the loan, and the purpose of each loan.

But Tootoo said it wouldn't be wise to merge an agency intended to lend money to profitable private sector companies with a stable of money-losing crown corporations.

Curley and Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson also accused Keenainak of shutting MLAs and the business sector out of the reform process.

Peterson said the department should be consulting with Nunavut business owners on ways to change the NBCC, and likened Keenainak to the "Great Wall of China."

"It was built too keep out the Mongols. You're trying to keep the MLAs out," he said.

For informaton on the NBCC, go here: edt.gov.nu.ca/english/about/agencies.htm.

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