Financial Leaders Meet for the first time in Nunvaut

By Cam Martin

The group of seven (G7) leaders met this month in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This meeting is very unique as it is the first international leaders meeting to be held in the Nunavut capital.

Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq stresses that this meeting with have serious discussions and decision making about the state of the world economy. Yet, in spite of assurances that this meeting will address important issues to the fledgling territory, some financial observers say that the conference carried little weight because of its different approach from past meetings. Federal officials have said the Iqaluit G7 gathering is informal, and leaders did not issue the communiqué that is traditionally prepared at the end of such meetings. Some argue that the group of seven meetings are meant to be informal, whereas the G20 leaders are now formulating global economic policies. Aglukkaq stresses that the meeting is, “a huge undertaking” and that these “working conferences are ones that are very important.”

One of the unexpected difficulties of having a international meeting in such a unique setting as Iqaluit is that there was a lack of room for all the representatives and their entourages. Unfortunately, some of the non governmental agencies have said that they were discouraged from coming to the conferences as many of the city’s hotels were completely booked months ahead of time. “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. Aglukkaq said nobody was 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.

One of the topics that activists wanted to be a top priority at this conference is poverty. Dennis Howlett, national coordinator of the group Make Poverty History Canada, says G7 countries should discuss bringing in a global tax on banks for transactions involving stocks, bonds and foreign exchange. He says the money collected could help poor, developing nations. There is the feeling that although Canada struggles with poverty, we are more fortunate than many developing nations and we should take responsibility for the current financial crisis.

Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and his group is called on the G7 nations to consider a international financial transaction tax. The proposed international levy on banks has already been discussed at recent G7 and G20 as a way to offset the cost of bank bailouts. Although these topics were addressed, the G7 felt no pressure to issue a statement as they have done away with the communiqué issued at the end of the conference.

In addition to the serious discussions regarding global policy, the G7 leaders were treated to a display of traditional Inuit food and dancing, games and even a snowmobile parade. This meeting and its setting was important for Nunavut as it places the First Nations culture of northern Canada in the forefront of global policy, assuring our place in international politics.