Chamber of Commerce takes a beating over council motion

Proposal for new business commission defeated



Iqaluit city council defeated a motion to establish a one-window community economic development agency, during its regular meeting May 27.

The concept, put forward by the Iqaluit Chamber of Commerce, involved the grouping of several business organizations into one agency acting as a business development commission.

The motion requested that the city transfer its community economic development position to the commission. In addition, two more city representatives would sit on the commission.

The mere mention of the motion sent councillor Stu Kennedy into an emotionally charged diatribe denouncing the competence of the local Chamber of Commerce, calling it “dysfunctional.”

“I don’t have faith in the Chamber of Commerce to manage this. The city’s public funds deserve a better job at being managed,” Kennedy said staunchly.

Kennedy also claimed the Chamber had “membership issues,” that they “don’t even hold meetings,” and “don’t recognize Inuit business.”

“I don’t feel we should advocate our power to the Chamber of commerce which really hasn’t done anything itself in the last year,” he added.

Councillor Glen Williams defended the motion, suggesting a commission may be more efficient than council at handling issues of community economic development. He remarked that without a process for making decisions in council it’s often difficult to find speedy solutions to these issues.

“We’re not just dumping this on the Chamber of Commerce – they’re only one member. This would be a more formal establishment of our community economic development,” Williams said.

He also argued that it would help council by providing a report councillors could review and discuss – “something to work off of.”

Councillor Keith Irving joined the debate, adding that the motion was “premature,” and that a better solution was for council to get a better handle on the process itself.

“We really need to get down to [making decisions] at a city level,” he said.

Preceding his next comment with a nod to the work being done at the Chamber, Irving said he felt it had “a history of going up and down with the times.”

“This is about community economic development. The Chamber of Commerce represents businesses and is motivated by increasing their [member] businesses,” he added.

“I’m also nervous about advocating control or responsibility to an outside organization. Two seats [on the commission] is not enough.”

Councillors Kennedy, Irving and Elisapee Sheutiapik voted against the motion, while councillors Williams and Chris Wilson voted in favour.

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