Finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven countries will be holding serious talks in Iqaluit this week, and not just sightseeing, said Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq.
Aglukkaq, who is also federal health minister, responded to recent criticism about the G7 finance ministers gathering, which will bring together finance ministers and central bank governors from Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States on Friday and Saturday.
Some financial observers say the two-day talks, which will mark the first international leaders meeting to be held in the Nunavut capital, may carry little weight because of its different approach from past meetings.
Federal officials have said the Iqaluit G7 gathering will be informal, and leaders will not issue the communiqué that is traditionally prepared at the end of such meetings.
But Aglukkaq said the G7 meeting will have serious discussions and decision-making about the state of the world economy, including reforms to the financial sector.
"It's a huge undertaking, and I can tell you that these are working conferences and ones that are very important," Aglukkaq told CBC News.
Analysts have said the Group of Seven meetings are intended for informal discussions, while G20 leaders, including those guiding the emerging economies of China, Brazil and India, are now largely formulating global economic policies.
Some discouraged from going
The first of several hundred expected guests began arriving in Iqaluit this week, including the various G7 delegations and support staff as well as about 100 accredited journalists from around the world.
But some non-governmental organizations say they are being told not to travel to Iqaluit for the G7 gathering, mainly because the city's hotel rooms are fully booked.
"We've been discouraged to come up to Iqaluit because of the nature of the location," said Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Georgetti would not say who discouraged his organization to come north, but he cited the lack of accommodation as a primary reason.
At the Navigator Inn, staffer Mike Praught said all 44 rooms are booked. People trying to make last-minute bookings are being told there is no vacancy until Feb. 9, he said.
"We just have to let them know that we're completely full and that everywhere in town … has been booked up for probably a month now," Praught said.
Aglukkaq said nobody has been told not to attend the G7 meeting, but added that it's been clear that a lot of people will be converging on the Nunavut capital.
"I think it has a lot to do [strictly] with the … capacity of the community to have hotels and so on," she said.
Should inclement weather prevent the G7 delegates from travelling to Iqaluit later this week, the meeting will be held in Ottawa instead, officials have said.
Assuming the meeting goes as planned, G7 delegates are being invited to attend a community feast Saturday that will include a sampling of Inuit traditional foods, games, music and dancing. A snowmobile parade will follow the feast.
Aglukkaq and Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak will attend the feast, which will start at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who is hosting the G7 meeting, will stay in Iqaluit after the talks wrap up to visit the city and better understand some of the issues in Nunavut, Aglukkaq said.