The territory’s Business Development and Investment Corporation (BDIC) says its critics may have a “hidden agenda”.

The BDIC defended its operations during 10th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday.

At the same time, its chief executive voiced an ambition to bring more financial services to northern communities in future.

The BDIC exists to support businesses across the NWT – acting as a lender of last resort and offering other financial services, particularly in remote communities where access to banking is difficult.

But the NWT Chamber of Commerce recently claimed the BDIC had too many staff and spent too much money on too few successful projects, compared to what might be expected of a commercial bank.

In full: The BDIC’s responses to reviews of its program (bottom of page)

Mike Bradshaw, executive director of the chamber, told the CBC he believed the BDIC employed an ‘astronomical’ number of people.

Bradshaw implied that the BDIC would never exist with as many staff, or spend as much money, if it were a commercial entity and not supported by the NWT government.

However, the chair of the BDIC’s board, Darrell Beaulieu, hit back on Wednesday.

During an interview with Moose FM, Beaulieu handed over a document which rebuts what he claims is “recent misinformation in the media”.

The document sets out the BDIC’s achievements in nine bullet points, ending with the question: “Is there a hidden agenda?”

Asked what the document meant by that, Beaulieu told Moose FM: “You never know. That’s why we asked the question.

“With the media (reports, quoting Bradshaw), we saw that they weren’t quite factual. Why would comments be made not based on facts? That’s the question. Why?”

A presentation delivered to attendees at Wednesday’s 10th anniversary celebration suggested the BDIC employs 15 full-time members of staff.

‘People want these services’

Beaulieu said the results they have achieved are “amazing, for the small group of people there”.

His document points to $70 million in financial assistance given to NWT businesses over the past decade, the creation of more than 600 jobs, and support for more than 100 cottage craft producers last year.

Beaulieu did, however, acknowledge that the BDIC would listen to all criticism and was working to implement the recommendations of previous reviews.

“It’s always good to listen to people, whether it comes from the media, other businesses, individuals or the government. It’s important that we all take heed to some of the advice and see if we can create something positive out of that,” he said.

“I think it’s important to put out the facts as they are. Anybody can find a problem, you know? But it’s these guys that have to find the solutions and I think we’ve got a good staff here.”

Pawan Chugh

Pawan Chugh.

Pawan Chugh is the BDIC’s chief executive. He told Moose FM the corporation was in a healthy financial position and looking to expand the services it offers in small communities.

“Our audits are very clean now – we get audited by the auditor general’s office – and that’s a big change,” said Chugh.

“My dream is to see the BDIC serving all 33 communities not just by loans, but with other financial services. People want to save but have no place to deposit the money. This way, they get a facility in the community. I want to start with a pilot project and then develop it across the Northwest Territories.

“We won’t be doing banking ourselves but we are looking for partnerships with some financial institutions, where the banks are reluctant to go, so that we can go and provide these services. People want these services in their communities and we want to deliver on that.”

Chugh is also hoping to see success from new initiatives like partnering with cruise companies.

Quark Expeditions, which runs Arctic cruises, has started to stock goods from the NWT in an arrangement facilitated by the BDIC.

“That’s an initiative which has started reaping fruits for us now,” said Chugh.

“The orders that come from ships are huge – they are big ships with 5,000, 10,000 people on them, and they love Aboriginal products.

“We just delivered our first order, which was over $15,000, and I’m very sure more orders will follow. We are very excited to see it grow.”