Nunavut Spends: Government threw a $70K 'Nunavut Night in Ottawa' party at conference

The money spent on the Nunavut-themed bash is a part of the larger $572,000 the territorial government spent in total on the conference, for which it has faced questions from Nunavut’s MLAs.

Territory’s artists cashed in $76K in profits at conference, calling it the 'most successful'

One of the organized parties from the 2018 Northern Lights conference. The Nunavut government held a similar party at a cost of $70,000. (Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce)

This is the fourth, and final, part of our series called Nunavut Spends.

The Nunavut government threw a $70,000 Nunavut-themed bash at an Ottawa conference in February, but it was events like the party that also helped the territory's artists earn more than $70,000.

The government hosted "Nunavut Night in Ottawa" during the four-day Northern Lights Conference and Trade Show, as a showcase of Nunavut arts and culture.

The money is a part of the $572,000 the government spent in total on the conference, for which it has faced questions from Nunavut's MLAs.

According to a government briefing note, the event was billed as an opportunity for Nunavut cabinet ministers to mingle with "key participants and their federal counterparts" to promote the territory.

We're not just feeding. We're also promoting the type of foods that we have in Nunavut.- Premier Paul Quassa

More than 340 guests attended, according to the briefing note.

Altogether, the government spent nearly $64,000 on the party — the $6,000 in sales tax is billed back to the federal government —  which featured $15,249 worth of catering.

The food spread featured Nunavut delicacies, with a twist:

  • Caribou slider with spicy Saskatoon berry bacon jam — $2,100
  • Sliced maple cold smoked Arctic char, with buckwheat blinis and pine jelly aioli — $1,680
  • Caribou creton style on crostini — $1,260
  • Beet juice infused turbot shrimp — $1,260
  • Skillet baked bannock with assortments of butters and dips — $756

It also had some southern Canadian options:

  • Finest Canadian cheese board  — $2,450
  • Rideau street dip station — $1,750
  • Sliced fresh fruit — $1,600

"There's tremendous value and exposure that the [Nunavut government] gets from participating in events such as this," said Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa.

"There were probably like 600 participants in that particular room itself. This was more like finger food, et cetera. We were promoting Nunavut foods.

"We're not just feeding, we're also promoting the type of foods that we have in Nunavut to southern markets. I think what we're looking at is what we're getting in return for what we did at Northern Lights."

The party featured live music from several Nunavut performers, and was hosted by CBC North's Madeleine Allakariallak.

Nunavut artists cash in at conference

Nunavut artists cleared $76,076.25 in total sales during the conference, making it their "most successful" Northern Lights conference to date, according to the territorial government.

About 60 artists from the territory attended the conference in February, according to an internal government report.

The territorial government directed $50,000 to the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce to help cover the artists' costs.

Bernice and Justin Clarke, owners of of Uasau soap in Iqaluit, were among dozens of Nunavut artists and vendors who set up shop at the 2018 Northern Lights conference and trade show in Ottawa. Altogether, Nunavut's artisans sold more than $70,000 worth of product, making it one of the most successful Northern Lights trade shows ever. (Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce)

"These were all opportunities for artists, for small businesses, go to a place like Ottawa and be exposed to a lot of potential investors, or a lot of people that would have an interest in what they're doing," said Bernie MacIsaac, the assistant deputy minister for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation.

"This would be an opportunity that a lot of them wouldn't have normally, or they wouldn't have had up here."

Altogether, the conference generated more than $145,000 in total art sales over three days.

Inuit-owned Hinaani Designs was among the Nunavut artisans who saw a 43 per cent boost in sales at this year's Northern Lights conference and trade show (Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce)

43% sales boost from 2016

Nunavut artists alone saw a 43 per cent boost in sales from the 2016 conference, according to the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (NACA).

"The impact is that money is flowing back to families and to communities," said NACA's executive director Janet Brewster. "That has an impact on food security, and just daily life in general." 

While NACA wasn't directly involved with bringing artists to the conference, like in previous years, it still attended this year's conference in a support role.

"[The conference] also gives artists the opportunity to grow their personal experiences, as well as have access to art supplies that they wouldn't have access to up here."

What do you think about Nunavut's spending? Call our talkback line at 1-888-896-3135.


Nick Murray is a CBC reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. A graduate from St. Thomas University's journalism program, he's also covered four Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMurray91.


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