With the federal and territorial elections looming, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce has spelled out where it stands on key issues of interest to Northerners.
Deneen Everett, the chamber’s executive director, and its president Kyle Thomas presented their wish list during a Sept. 3 city council meeting.
The chamber developed the list by engaging with almost 400 local businesses, said Everett.
The five key issues include liquor licensing, community government underfunding, post-secondary transformation, land availability and fibre optic redundancy.
“We’ve identified five key issues and propose solutions we believe strengthen the Yellowknife business community and contribute to long term prosperity,” said Everett.
The chamber wants to make it easier for businesses to obtain liquor licenses.
To that effect, the chamber wants the territorial government to:
- Allow minors, with parental supervision, to be allowed in liquor primary class A permitted businesses until 8 p.m. to allow families to dine together.
- Review all documents such as handbooks and application requirement check lists to ensure information is specific and detailed.
- Conduct a review of the NWT liquor licence board to determine the most common reasons for why liquor licenses are denied and to impose legislative regulations or administrative solutions.
- Improve access to information about certification programs including course availability and training options.
- Implement a service standard so businesses can expect a response within five businesses days.
- Implement a server training program similar to other jurisdictions with online study materials and tests.
- Implement a work order process to ensure orders are on time and in full.
- Give the savings that have resulted from the closure of the city’s liquor distribution warehouse to businesses and consumers through the lowering of prices.
- Establish an appeal processes for businesses that disagree with the liquor board’s decisions.
In the wake of a pair of outages that greatly affected Yellowknife businesses, the chamber is recommending that an additional fibre optic line be constructed by December 2020.
A major outage in August caused hardship for Yellowknife businesses and affected phone services across the North.
The RCMP are investigating the incident as vandalism. A second outage in July disrupted phone, internet and TV services to Yellowknife during the Folk on the Rocks music festival.
“One law firm lost 100 billable hours during the last outage,” said Everett. “Retail businesses were able to stay open while being cash only but had daily sales less than half of average. Some did not even make enough to cover wages of employees.”
The chamber estimates that a total of $4.75 million in GDP is lost every full day of a telecommunications outage in Yellowknife. So far this year there have been two.
The chamber recommends the GNWT put aside $1.5 million in the 2020 budget to ensure the fibre optic project will be “shovel ready” next year and seek federal funding for the $20 million cost of installing a second line.
The chamber also believes Aurora College should be made into a polytechnic university.
This institution would be based in Yellowknife with specialized campuses in Fort Smith and Inuvik.
Everett and Thomas also brought up the chronic issue of underfunded communities and pointed the finger at the GNWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
In addition they recommended that all Commissioner’s lands within municipal boundaries be transferred to the City of Yellowknife.
“We ask that all candidates in the seven Yellowknife ridings make bold commitments and after the election we intend to follow up with each elected official to ensure these remain priorities during the 19th Legislative Assembly,” said Thomas.
Many city councillors were vocal in there approval of these recommendations, including Julian Morse, Shauna Morgan, Robin Williams and Cynthia Mufandaedza.
“I couldn’t have come up with a better list myself,” said Williams.
Morse was especially supportive of the plan to turn Aurora College into a world class post-secondary institution, as it would attract investment to the North.
“I’ve seen a few candidates express support but I have not seen many people identify this and doing this as a complete transformation,” said Morse.
Council will also be putting their own questions to MLAs and publishing their answers in a four-part column with Yellowknifer.