More MLAs ditch Vancouver mining conference

MLAs Cory Vanthuyne and Kieron Testart are joining Kevin O'Reilly in opting out of mining event.

Three leaders to skip trade show estimated to cost territorial government $236K in travel expenses

Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart says the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment planned to discuss whether the money spent on attending the conference is being used effectively, but those meetings were cancelled. (Radek Adam/CBC)

Two more MLAs have opted out of the territorial government's trip to a mining conference in Vancouver later this month.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne and Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart have decided not to attend the Association for Mineral Exploration's annual Roundup, which runs from Jan. 22 to 25.

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly says he's not going to the mining conference because he believes that by attending, the government is spending too much on too little. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly announced he wasn't going earlier this week, saying the government is spending too much money on too little.

It's estimated to cost more than $236,000 to send government employees, MLAs, all cabinet members except Health Minister Glen Abernethy, Indigenous government representatives and the NWT Chamber of Mines to the conference.

Last year, the territorial government spent $193,000 to send all seven cabinet members and 24 officials to the conference; in 2016, it spent $137,000.

"I'm not sure if every member of cabinet needs to go," said Testart.

"I think cabinet works as a team and they can have one lead, you don't see this in other governments."

Testart is a member of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment. He says the committee had planned to hold meetings about whether the money being spent on this conference was being used effectively, but those meetings were cancelled. He added he felt he could be more productive in Yellowknife.

Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne says he supports the conference, but is not going because of personal reasons. (CBC News )

Testart has never attended the conference, but believes it is valuable for the N.W.T. government to be there. However, he wants to know if it's making enough of an impact on the territory's mining industry to justify the growing cost.

"I think if the Government of the Northwest Territories wants to send a clear signal to industry that the North is open for business, they need to do so on a policy level, by investing local resources such as the mining incentive program," he said.

"That shows industry that we want them here, we want to get moving on this, and that does a lot more good then just attending an annual conference."

Testart says the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment plans to review how much this year's trip costs to assess whether the government is getting enough value for its money.

Vanthuyne, who chairs the standing committee, says he supports the conference, but is not going for personal reasons.