Minister David Ramsay’s opening remarks: Hay River Chamber of Commerce AGM
(Check against delivery. This event took place February 24, 2012.)
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you to Brian Lefebvre for the invitation to join you and for the opportunity to say a few words this evening. It is a pleasure for me to be here this evening. I hope this is the first of many opportunities I have to talk with members of the Hay River Chamber of Commerce. I always enjoy coming here to Hay River, where you can feel a very strong entrepreneurial spirit that is evidenced by the people in this room.
Your work as a Chamber and the leadership provided by your executive team is so important for business growth in Hay River. As an organization, the Hay River Chamber of Commerce plays an important role as a voice for its membership.
I want to specifically acknowledge Brian Lefebvre and your contribution to the Hay River Chamber over the past several years. As Chamber president, you have been a strong supporter of small business – and under your leadership the Chamber has been a strong advocate for businesses in the community. I also want to welcome incoming President Ms. Janet Marie Fizer and wish you the best of luck in your work with the Chamber going forward.
I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues Mrs. Jane Groenewegen and Mr. Robert Bouchard, your representatives in the NWT Legislative Assembly. Both of them are working hard for their constituencies here at home in Hay River and the NWT overall, and I believe Hay River is very well represented.
I am sure Jane and Robert will agree when I say that, as a Government, we rely heavily on the input of organizations such as this Chamber when developing programs and initiatives relevant to our territory – and in particular to our business environment and the advancement of economic development in our communities.
The 17th Assembly has a vision for the long-term future of the Northwest Territories. We have also set priorities to help us achieve that vision of a unified, environmentally sustainable and prosperous territory. Although our current fiscal situation is tight, we must still ensure we move forward and explore ways to unlock the potential and grow the NWT economy. We need to dream big! And vigorously pursue opportunities that will help us realize our potential.
Mining has long been a cornerstone of the NWT economy. As a government, we have made it a priority to come forward with an environmentally sustainable economic development and mining strategy. Mineral development must not only be responsible and sustainable, it also needs to yield substantial economic benefits to NWT residents, communities and businesses.
Another key component to unlocking the mineral potential in our territory is devolution. Devolution will give the GNWT and the people of this territory management control of public lands, water and mineral resources. A priority of the GNWT is to continue to work in partnership with Aboriginal governments to negotiate and implement a final devolution agreement – an agreement that will mean that people who live in the NWT and know it best will make decisions about how these resources should be managed and developed.
And as our fiscal situation improves, another priority is to make strategic, targeted infrastructure investments that will help support economic development and growth.
Although we are early in the life of this government, we have already made some progress on these priorities, and will continue to work toward them over the next few years.
The world’s economy has taken a hit over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, the economy of the Northwest Territories – and Hay River was no exception – we were not immune to the impact of the global economic crisis. However, I recall the words of Mr. Lefebvre during Small Business Week in October of last year: “It is during these difficult times that small businesses get creative.” Hay River businesses have been no exception, and, time and time again, leverage this creativity into successful ventures.
Examples of success in Hay River are plentiful. Great Slave Lake Tours thrills guests with summer and winter fishing trips; Poison Painting continues to excel in the sign shop manufacturing business; and Doug Lamalice, a cultural guide for the “Walk a Mile in My Moccasins” hike between Alexandra and Louise Falls, wows visitors with information about the area and its history. And for over forty years, Buffalo Airways has served the north and I want to recognize Buffalo Joe for his contribution to the aviation industry. These are only a few examples – there are many others and we could spend the evening showcasing the success of the Hay River business community.
It is this creativity and passion that drives business in Hay River, and I want to commend you all tonight for your hard work and dedication to the Hay River private sector.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a vision that is characterized by the title: “Believing in People and Building on the Strengths of Northerners”. Our goal – in part – is a vibrant and diversified economy that will mean more choices for our people and more opportunities for our businesses. We are confident that, in time, we will rebound from the challenges that now exist.
In the interim, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is focussing its support on the small businesses and entrepreneurs that are the backbone of our northern economy. I want to take a moment to highlight some of the initiatives and programs the GNWT provides that can help NWT businesses, and other potential areas that will boost the Hay River economy:
- Working in partnership with the town of Hay River, the GNWT implemented BizPal. The amount of administrative red tape involved in opening a business can be daunting – BizPal is an online tool that provides prospective business owners and entrepreneurs with one-stop access to permit and licence information across NWT and Canada.
- The Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development Policy – commonly referred to as the SEED Policy – provides financial support for entrepreneurs looking to start a business or improve their capacity or skills, as well as to small communities seeking to expand their local economies.
- Tourism workshops – two weeks ago NWT Tourism, with support from ITI, held a workshop with local tourism operators at the Ptarmigan Inn. NWT Tourism brought in their North American General Sales Agent, Jackie Fredericks, to provide attendees with information on how to package and price a multiple product tourism package – like how to combine transport, accommodation, and tourism activities. We heard it was well received and resulted in the development of two new tourism packages.
- Our parks and campgrounds are a draw for visitors, and the GNWT recognizes the importance of keeping these facilities in top shape to attract visitors and keep them coming back. The 60th Parallel Visitors Centre at the border is only one example. The group camping area at Hay River beach was recently opened and we will continue with more improvements. As well, the ITI South Slave office is working on installing interpretive signage at parks in the area.
- Events draw visitors to Hay River each year, and ITI is proud to provide funding support for the upcoming Polar Pond Hockey Tournament, which will be combined with a fishing derby this year.
- The NWT Manufactured Products Policy encourages local production and provides an incentive in favour of NWT manufactured products in a manner that recognizes the higher cost of operation and manufacturing in the NWT.
- ITI is working with the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in combination with the Northwest Territories Fishermen’s Federation, and has an industry support program that provides various forms of assistance for those in the fishing industry on Great Slave Lake.
- Also, the hydro-potential of the Northwest Territories cannot be overlooked. Our northern rivers have the potential to provide us with 11,000 megawatts of electricity.
- The Deze Energy Corporation’s proposed Talston Hydro Expansion Project is currently on hold while business cases are further explored. However, the project is well positioned to resume negotiations and proceed to construction relatively quickly. This Project has been viewed as a way to enhance economic development in the South Slave region, establish Aboriginal partnerships and build critical infrastructure to the Slave Geological Province.
- Mining has long been a cornerstone of the NWT economy, and mining projects that come on-stream have the potential to create jobs and inject money into the South Slave region. The Tamerlane lead-zinc project at Pine Point continues to move forward and could be on-stream within the next few years, resulting in 160 direct jobs and numerous business opportunities to the communities of the South Slave.
- Last but not least, we are promoting the development of Avalon’s Nechalacho Rare Earths mine project, including the proposed construction of the first hydromet processing plant in the NWT, located at Pine Point. The South Slave Region could see annual benefits from the hydromet between $37.7 to $53.8 million, of which an estimated $8 million would be wages.
We all know there is great potential for business in Hay River. The Government of the Northwest Territories is relying on the Chamber of guidance and advice, particularly during this period of economic uncertainty. We recognize the Chamber’s strong and healthy working relationship with the Northwest Territories’ business community.
As we continue to move forward, we will seek your insight and guidance in the development of programs and initiatives that will be relevant to our territory’s business community and will effectively advance economic development in the community.
And if you are thinking of starting, expanding or diversifying your business, I encourage you to visit the ITI office here in Hay River to see how we can help.
I would like to conclude this evening by thanking each of you – as members of the Hay River Chamber – for your continued hard work and commitment in the interest of our Territory’s businesses community.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening and weekend.