QP: Consultations on Energy and Climate Change Strategy

Consultations on the upcoming Energy and Climate Change Strategy are being held in Hay River on March 7th and 8th, 2017. Because small businesses will be some of the hardest hit by a new carbon tax, I had the following questions for the Minister.

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have questions for the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. They are related to the consultations being done on the NWT Energy Plan and Climate Change Strategic Framework. The Hay River consultations are taking place this Wednesday and Thursday. For those who don’t know, it is a two-day workshop, and there are a couple of hours in the evening when the public can come in and participate.

On multiple occasions, I have asked the Minister of ENR to ensure that small businesses are specifically included in this consultation. When I look at the list of invitees, I see six GNWT departments, a federal department, non-profits, NGOs, municipal governments, Aboriginal governments, and two private businesses, neither of which, I am sure, are actually a small business. Independent, small businesses are among the hardest hit by energy costs and utility costs, especially given our aging infrastructure. Why aren’t small businesses being invited to the recent consultations? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Masi. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

HON. ROBERT MCLEOD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the format for each workshop included an invitation meeting during the day and then there will be an open session during the evening of day one. The regional Chamber of Commerce, they were invited to participate at the workshops. The evening event is open to all residents and businesses including chamber staff, board members, local business, and community residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SIMPSON: I heard the Minister say that it is open to Chamber staff and board members. Luckily in Hay River, the Chamber has sent out the invitation to their actual membership, so there are small businesses that will be attending. That is just by accident and not by design. I would like to ask the Minister what the engagement has been like in past workshops? Has there been a lot of attendance and input by them?

HON. ROBERT MCLEOD: In the other previous meetings that they have had, the same format was used for all six workshops that they have had across the Northwest Territories. There is an opportunity, I think, through some written submissions that they can make their issues known. There is an opportunity in the evening sessions, as well, to make their issues known there again.

MR. SIMPSON: I know that it can be tough if you are an entrepreneur, if you have a small business, to get away from work for two full days to attend one of these. In addition to the written submissions that you can make, I know that one of the Aboriginal governments has a schedule conflict and is getting a private one-on-one consultation. Has the department made this kind of consultation available to small businesses as well?

HON. ROBERT MCLEOD: The Member is correct. There was a scheduling conflict with one of the local Aboriginal governments. They were given an opportunity to have some input. We have had no requests from any other business or any other Aboriginal governments for some one-on-one time. That is what I know so far. I am sure there is opportunity if there are some scheduling conflicts to meet with our folks. Again, I go back to the written submissions and the evening sessions where they just have to take the evening off and provide some comment on how this is going to affect them.

MR. SPEAKER: Masi. Oral questions. Member for Hay River North.

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will make sure to advertise the fact that they are accepting written submissions. In the past, Arctic Energy Alliance and ENR have worked together on programs for small businesses to cut some of these costs. Is ENR looking at continuing these energy conservation incentive programs for small businesses, and if so, how is the input of small business being received? How are they being directly engaged on this? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HON. ROBERT MCLEOD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Public Works and Services is responsible for overseeing the funding of the Arctic Energy Alliance. I will work with my counterpart to see what type of incentives that they have and what they will continue to provide. I will work with the Minister of Infrastructure to see what their plans are to continue this program.