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Nunavut businesspeople unite

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 02, 2008

NUNAVUT - After years of dormancy, the Nunavut Chamber of Commerce is showing signs of life again.

The chamber ceased its operations approximately five years ago, but due to recent developments, the territory-wide chamber will soon be giving Nunavut businesses a unifying voice.

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Ellie Cansfield, president of the board of the directors of the Kivalliq Chamber of Commerce, thinks a reinstated Nunavut Chamber of Commerce will give greater weight to the business' industry's views on such issues as Northern tax benefits - NNSL file photo

Hal Timar, executive director of the Baffin Chamber of Commerce, said after talks a couple of years ago with the Kivalliq chamber, it was decided it would be in the best interest of the territory to again have one representative chamber.

"It will be a single source," said Timar. "When the territorial or federal government's looking for business opinion or input on policy on a territorial basis, we'll be someone they can go to."

Timar said a Nunavut chamber would have come in handy when the Government of Nunavut approached the Baffin and Kivalliq chambers for advice on some of its initiatives, including Barriers to Business, a study outlining the difficulties facing Nunavut businesses, and the Northern Trade Development Strategy.

"That was a real pain because there was no Nunavut chamber, and every time the government would ask for businesses' opinion, we'd have to figure out who was where, try to get them together and come up with an opinion."

Making matters more difficult, until April, no chamber operated in the Kitikmeot region - a sticking point with the Kivalliq chamber, which maintained all three regions should be represented under the Nunavut chamber, according to Timar.

With the Kitikmeot now on board, the only remaining obstacle is the approval of the Nunavut chamber's bylaws - the rules governing the operation of the chamber.

A subcommittee of the Kivalliq chamber is reviewing the bylaws, according to Ellie Cansfield, president of the Kivalliq chamber's board of directors.

"We hope to have that (completed) ... by late summer or early fall," said Cansfield. "Once the subcommittee has submitted it to the board, we'll then forward it to the other two regions and they can have their crack at it."

Cansfield said reinstating the Nunavut chamber brings another advantage: an additional seat representing the North on the board of the directors of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the most powerful lobbying group for Canadian business interests. That position will help strengthen the Nunavut chamber's position towards issues like the Northern Residents Tax Benefit, she added.

"If we have the Canadian chamber's support in that area, it's better than if we just stand by ourselves," she said.

Charlie Cahill, manager of CAP Enterprises, a construction and heavy equipment company in Gjoa Haven, said he welcomed the creation of the Kitikmeot chamber and its participation in the Nunavut Chamber of Commerce.

"I think it's a good idea, because for the smaller communities like Gjoa Haven, which has about 1,100 people, it seems sometimes that the regional centres have a stronger voice or a louder voice because of their proximity and access to government," said Cahill.

"This will allow us to present our concerns to whoever in a more fair and balanced platform."