North

N.W.T. posts minister meeting list but lack of detail raises questions

Some MLAs say the N.W.T. government's first report listing meetings held between ministers and outside groups isn’t transparent enough and was released too quietly.

MLA Daryl Dolynny, who called for lobbyist registry, 'disappointed' by bare bones report

Some MLAs say the N.W.T. government's first report listing meetings held between ministers and outside groups isn't transparent enough and was released too quietly.

The report, which covers the period from April 1 to June 30, was posted on the government's website last week with no announcement of the posting. It lists which cabinet minister met with which person, business or group and when they met — but few other details.

In the majority of cases only the name of the group or business meeting with a minister is listed and not the individuals speaking on its behalf. 

Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny in the N.W.T. legislative assembly. Dolynny says just listing company names in the report doesn't give an idea whether the minister actually met with someone from the company or a third-party lobbyist paid to advocate for that company. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The report is in response to calls from regular MLAs for a lobbyist registry, but also lists ministers' attendance at public events and conferences. 

"They get points for doing something but at first blush, it sort of feels empty or hollow," says Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins.

"It's sort of missing the detail that people want ... who they're meeting specifically and what they're talking about."

'Disappointed' with lack of detail

Daryl Dolynny, the MLA for Yellowknife's Range Lake constituency, led the call for the government to launch a lobbyist registry but the idea was nixed by cabinet for this term.

Dolynny says only listing company names in the report doesn't give an idea whether the minister actually met with someone from the company or a third-party lobbyist paid to advocate for that company.

"I'm still a bit disappointed," Dolynny says of the report.

"The whole aspect of a lobbyist registry is full disclosure. If you look at the provinces, the way they're designed, it's to give an idea of who's meeting who, who represents which company, and a little bit about what's been discussed during that meeting."

Dave Ramsay, minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, had monthly meetings with a mystery company listed in the report as Northwest Investments Capital Enterprises. That company name is not in the territory's corporate registry, and no information about it could be found online. (CBC )

Though Premier Bob McLeod said in March that the report would be released in July, both Dolynny and Hawkins say they weren't told the report had been posted online last week.

"Maybe they're sliding this under the door and hoping nobody would notice?" says Hawkins.

Roya Grinsted, a government spokesperson, says that "like other reports, i.e. ministerial travel, there's no announcement."

Industry minister meets with mystery company

The report lists a number of meetings with oil and gas and diamond mining companies — to be expected in a territory where resource extraction plays such a large role — but some meetings might raise questions due to the lack of context and detail.

During each month covered by the report, Dave Ramsay, the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, met with a company listed as Northwest Investments Capital Enterprises (NICE). That company name is not in the territory's corporate registry, and no information about it could be found online.

Husky Energy, which recently withdrew its application to drill for silica sand near Behchoko, met with Ramsay on May 11. The company says the meeting was just normal practice.

"In every jurisdiction where we operate we periodically meet with government officials to discuss our business activities," says a Husky spokesperson.

On June 2, Michael Miltenberger, the minister of Environment and Natural Resources, met with Dominion Diamond Corporation. Dominion's expansion of the Ekati diamond mine is currently under environmental assessment, and Miltenberger will ultimately sign off — or not — on that assessment.

Robert Bouchard, the MLA for Hay River North, voted in favour of the lobbyist registry but says he's satisfied with the report. 

"I don't think it's as big an issue in our consensus government versus party politics," he says.

If a lobbyist registry is eventually created, it should also include meetings between regular MLAs and outside groups, he adds.  

McLeod has said reports will be published every quarter.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.