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$4 million industry at risk

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 22/06) - Government lip-service on enhancing tourism and encouraging local businesses paid little dividends to regional outfitters this week when the environment minister proposed tag-limits allotted to the $4-million-a-year industry be cut by 70 per cent.
NNSL Photo/graphic

2005 North Slave outfitting industry by the numbers

  • Outfitters earned revenues of $4 million and made expenditures of $2 million
  • Non-resident hunters spent $1.4 million on goods and services in the NWT
  • Contributed $4 million of the territories' Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • Generated $2.2 million in labour income for NWT residents
  • Generated 313 seasonal jobs for NWT residents
  • Generated $427,000 in federal taxes, $247,000 in GNWT taxes and $92,000 for local governments
  • More than 40,000lbs of game meat was donated to communities and the food bank

  • - Source NWT Barren-Ground Caribou Outfitters Association

    "In other areas we've reduced (the resident and outfitting caribou hunt) down to zero," said Michael McLeod, Environment and Natural Resources Minister of such bans in the Sahtu and Inuvik regions. "Unfortunately, these proposed actions will create economic hardship... similar actions must now be considered for the Bathurst caribou herd."

    But outfitters dismissed any comparison of ENR's proposal to reduce North Slave outfitters' caribou tags from 1,243 to 350 with the Sahtu and Inuvik regional bans that affected 100 caribou tags.

    "Up there those outfitters do polar bear, muskox and grizzly hunts, too," said local outfitter Gary Jabe adding that caribou was the bread-and-butter of the industry here. "We can't survive on fishing and wolf hunts alone."

    Tuesday outfitters gathered at a meeting to organize a lobby urging McLeod to change his position.

    According to the outfitters, more than 500 hunts are already booked for next year, and while the industry appeared to hang in the balance, the official line from Industry, Tourism and Investment was wait and see.

    "We're aware the number of tags will have a direct effect on business," said Peter Vician, deputy minister of ITI. "But the nature of the (government) measures will govern the nature of the response."

    Vician added there were, "A number of government programs to assist businesses that would be considered."

    However, this was of little solace to Jabe who has invested more than $750,000 into his outfitting business.

    "I've got $780,000 sitting out there and government, with this (proposal), is having it pissed away," he said.

    Dave Ramsay, Kam Lake MLA - one of six MLAs at the Tuesday meeting - said the region needs an active tourism industry rather than financial compensation for failure of government policy.

    "I didn't see a proposal of this magnitude coming," he said of the drastic tag-limit reduction. "And I don't see any ITI reps here, which is surprising."

    According to Vician, he had no knowledge of the meeting and ITI Minister Brendan Bell was on Christmas leave.

    Wednesday, Great Slave MLA Bill Braden wrote a letter to McLeod in support of the outfitters.

    "The consequence of this action -- if adopted by the Wek'eezhii (Renewable Resources) Board, and accepted by you -- is that this very viable sector of our tourism industry will be wiped out, virtually overnight," wrote Braden.

    "The outfitters have been responsible players in caribou harvesting and management, and want to continue to be... their record of delivering new tourism dollars, employing northern and aboriginal residents, distributing meat to communities and promoting good harvesting practices is commendable."

    - Please see next page for related story