Homing in on hiring
Budget debate slows as Erasmus peppers Morin with questions

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/97) - Line-by-line review of the 1997-98 budget is proceeding more like the turtle than the hare.

Resting his injured leg on a chair, Premier Don Morin (left) showed growing impatience Thursday and Friday as he fielded a steady stream of questions on the executive, many focusing on who gets hired and how.

The premier, who noted several times he had already answered questions being posed, was faced with particularly dogged questioning from Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus.

But on Friday it was Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco who interjected to suggested time would be saved if Erasmus submitted written questions.

Coming to Erasmus' defence was Baffin Central MLA Tommy Enuaraq. "I'm sure there's some reason behind his questioning," he said. "Many people are not aware of the details of the budget and we have the power here in the house to get those details. If we have to operate at a slow pace, then so be it."

Erasmus said he was making the most of the opportunity budget debate provided.

"I'm not asking these questions lightly.... This is the only place we can get these answers," he said. "During Question Period we only get three or four questions and sometimes we get the runaround."

During both days of debate on the executive budget Erasmus focused on access to government jobs. Thursday he asked Morin if there is a central hiring point for jobs in the city.

Morin said there was not, and that those looking for work would have to apply to individual departments, all located in downtown Yellowknife.

"If they do not have the ability to go from building to building, or department to department, I do not know how interested they are in working," Morin added later.

The premier was responding to Erasmus' suggestion that the lack of a central hiring point was a "huge disadvantage and inconvenience" arising from the elimination of the Department of Personnel.

Erasmus went on to ask about the government's progress on a commitment to provide a list of the names of all government workers making over $60,000. Morin said Finance Minister John Todd oversees the project and could better say when to expect the list.

The Yellowknife MLA criticized government policy of not advertising casual positions as they open. To cut down on advertising costs, said Morin, the government issues a general advertisement for casual workers, then draws from the pool of resumes when the need arises.

"It seems to me managers use this to hire friends and get around affirmative action," responded Erasmus. "The same people are hired again and again for casual positions."

Morin noted casual work is limited to four months and advised Erasmus to bring any specific cases of abuse of the policy to the attention of the appropriate minister.