Michael Miltenberger is leading a second European tour in as many years to sell space and time on the fibre optic cable now working its way down the Mackenzie Valley and promotion of Inuvik’s satellite station facility as a cool place to locate a dish.
“As the MVFL moves towards scheduled completion in mid-2016, the next step is to start securing agreements with international clients looking to take advantage of this new state-of-the-art communications link,” Miltenberger said before embarking on the five-day junket.
The junket will take Miltenberger to meetings in Norway, Sweden, Italy and Germany, in a fin de siècle trot to the public trough for an entourage that includes Premier Bob McLeod, Robert C. McLeod, and Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins.
“There are opportunities for the Northwest Territories in the global marketplace,” said Premier McLeod. “Promoting the MVFL and Inuvik’s potential as a centre for high-tech business is another way to bring international business to our territory.”
Mike Aumond, deputy finance minister, Peter Clarkson, regional director for the Beaufort Delta, and Stuart Salter of Salter Global Consulting, will all experience a sense of déjà vu. They were with Miltenberger on the 2013 tour, which was billed as a fact-finding mission.
According to a report on the 2013 tour, the delegation unearthed a wealth of startling information:
Kiruna is the location of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, which attracts scientists from around the world to study polar atmospherics physics, solar system physics and space technology.
The long-term consistency of the satellite and space-based activities in Kiruna provides a stable economic base that complements the variability in the mining sector in northern Sweden.
The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and the German Space Agency (DLR) have operational satellite antennas at the Inuvik Satellite Space Facility (ISSF), and both organisations were extremely supportive of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link (MVFL) project which they indicated was the key enabling technology to permit expansion of the ISSF. Both SSC and DLR indicated that they would plan to commit further antenna and satellite data processing facilities at ISSF once the fibre link was operational.
Intel like that doesn’t come cheap. OpenNWT, a website that offers easy access to government documents, shows that a roundup of MLA travel expenses indicated that Miltenberger spent a mere $12,887.94 on the 2013 tour and reported nothing at all for Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny, who accompanied Miltenberger’s first European space tour.
Yet the real cost of the 2013 junket was $138,945. That detail was contained in a report Miltenberger tabled in the legislature.
Said Dolynny in reply to an email query about the trip’s cost: “It was my understanding that the entire delegation was being financed via the ministers office. It’s really too bad these numbers are not transparent, as they should be.”
According to government officials who remained behind, there was no cost estimate for this year’s tour, but it’s a safe bet that the bill will be as large as the last one. It’s fairly certain that the government will soon announce a sales agreement with one or more of the countries visited. The only questions that will remain are how much, and could the deal have been done for less than 2 x $138,945?