Slow that Nunavut train
Yellowknife MLA objects to Nunavut hiring proposal

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 23/97) - The territorial government will be ignoring its responsibilities to its employees if it allows hiring for Nunavut to proceed this fall, says a Yellowknife MLA.

Jake Ootes, member for Yellowknife Centre, says the shift of jobs from the capital to Nunavut is not supposed to start until the 1998-99 fiscal year. Ootes added critical issues need to be resolved before hiring can start.

"That was the original time frame that was set," said Ootes. "It gives Yellowknife's economy an opportunity to adjust."

Earlier this month, Finance Minister John Todd told a Keewatin Chamber of Commerce audience he would like to see jobs start flowing into regional centres as soon as this fall.

But Ootes pointed out the plan outlined in Footprints 2 -- and acknowledged by the federal government -- is to start staffing with 150 positions in 1998-99 and another 440 the following year.

"I understand that Nunavut has no sympathy for us, but this is my constituency and my home," said Ootes. "We'll take our hits like any other community, but the NWT cabinet has to appreciate that what may be good for Nunavut may be devastating for Yellowknife economically."

One impact of downsizing that's already being felt is a glut of office space. Ootes said a GNWT study shows that when the impact of division is added the gap will grow to 140,000 square feet.

Another issue raised by Todd's comments remains unresolved -- how many employees in the capital will be offered a chance to move with their jobs to Nunavut?

In its response to the Nunavut Implementation Commission's planning report, Footprints 2, the GNWT said headquarters staff "should" be offered positions with the new government.

"That should be 'must,'" said Ootes, later adding, "Any employee good enough to work for the GNWT is good enough to work for Nunavut."

The chairman of the ordinary members caucus also raised the spectre of severance costs.

"Any severance program associated with the loss of hundreds of employees is going to be extremely costly and, to my mind, a waste of taxpayer's money."

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and newly appointed Interim Commissioner Jack Anawak have stated that automatic transfer of GNWT employees will inhibit plans to create a government that reflects and properly serves the people of Nunavut, with its 85 per cent Inuit population.

"Are they going to issue cheques differently? Are they going to run hospitals and accounting systems differently?" asked Ootes. "Give me a break."