Tensions within the QCI Chamber of Commerce came to the surface as its directors met in Port Clements Wednesday (January 17).
The Chamber has been spearheading an initiative to attend two tourism trade shows this spring, but the way a couple of directors went about organizing the show participation didn’t sit well with another director, Andrew Merrilees.
“I have some very serious issues,” Mr. Merrilees told the board, “this trade show idea has had no board input. There has been no discussion. There has been no budget. It is clearly outside the mandate of the Chamber. We should not be marketing the islands. We are doing a horrible job and it is starting to show. We need to get moving forward. We need to develop a strategic plan”.
Mr. Merrilees, who is also president of the Haida Gwaii Tourism Association, said that although he supports the trade show idea at this point, it had been put forward by two directors, not the Chamber itslef, and “things are getting done behind people’s backs”. “That has got to stop,” he said.
Chamber president Jean Traplin said the Chamber is not perfect, but it is working.
“This Chamber is only existing because people stepped forward when it was going defunct,” she said, “I am 65 years old. I know we didn’t run this according to all the rules (of how) boards are run. But don’t forget, it is still a viable operation. Do we need to improve things? You bet. But don’t come down on us for not doing it right.”
Director Urs Thomas said that it was the trade shows’ deadlines that prompted the action, “We were running out of time,” he said.
The Chamber is now committed to attend trade shows in Abbotsford and Edmonton, with the $1,500 booth expense split with the Haida Gwaii Tourism Association and the Haida Heritage Centre.
The interchange prompted a discussion of the Chamber and its role.
Chamber vice-president Gloria O’Brien spoke in favour of the Chamber taking a more activist role lobbying government.
“The problem with small business, when we have these political issues going on, we have to have lobby group. We have to have somebody to lobby (for us)Â….We would appreciate it if we had a lobby group for small business. Who defends us? Not the politicians”.
“This is an opportunity for the Chamber to say ‘we are open for business” said president Jean Traplin, “It’s not just about tourism. We don’t just want to promote tourism. We can say ‘we are open for business'”.
By the end of the meeting, Chamber directors had decided to put aside the question of focus and strategic planning, and leave them for the new board of directors, which will be elected at its annual general meeting, coming up in the next month or so.
They also decided to apply to the regional district for $1,500 to buy some advertising banners for use at the upcoming trade shows.
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