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Legislative Assembly Briefs
Racial wage disparity?

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 21, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - An MLA is concerned aboriginal government employees are paid close to $15,000 less than their non-aboriginal NWT counterparts.

According to government annual reports, priority 1 hires - indigenous aboriginals - earn, on average, $69,000 while priority 2 - indigenous non-aboriginals - earn, on average, $84,000, said Mackenzie Delta MLA David Krutko during the Wednesday's session at the legislative assembly.

Human Resources Minister Bob McLeod said the government has a job evaluation system to work out employee wages, and it does not factor in ethnicity.

"We don't pay employees based on race," said McLeod, adding it depends mostly on the job the person is working and the level of education needed to get that job.

"When you take P-1, P-2 and you compare salaries, well it's based on the merits and requirements of the job."

McLeod also said the government has "flat-lined" at 31 per cent aboriginal employees in its workforce for more than 10 years, and a new approach must be figured out to get more aboriginal representation in the workforce.

Royalty to come North

Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton will be coming to the Northwest Territories this summer, announced Premier Floyd Roland in the legislative assembly on Wednesday.

"Yesterday, officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage contacted the Government of the Northwest Territories to advise us that the royal couple was specifically interested in visiting our territory while they are in Canada," said Roland.

He said the details of their trip have yet to be worked out, but the GNWT will be working with the Department of Canadian Heritage to plan the July trip.

"The royal visit will receive extensive national and international media coverage," said Roland. "A visit to the NWT this summer will allow us to showcase the best our territory has to offer."

Merge health authorities: MLA

The health minister said she would consider merging the eight territorial health authorities together in an effort to combat tens of millions of dollars of debt. Sandy Lee was responding to a question from Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay in the legislative assembly on Feb. 8, at the time she added she doesn't see how it would help.

There is about $30 million in combined debt among the territory's health boards, according to Ramsay, and

he believes that could be reduced through amalgamation.

"If we continue to bleed red ink in the authorities, why don't we look at amalgamating all of the authorities and bringing them all under one roof so that we can better manage the growing expenditures in health care," said Ramsay.

"It's nice to have control at the community level," he said. "But I think we can have community input, we can have advisory boards at the community level, but the financial management and the financial control of what little health dollars we have has to be managed by one place."

Lee said there's no reason the government wouldn't consider doing that, but said there's no evidence such a change would be the "silver bullet" to reducing those deficits.

"A future legislature may have to look at amalgamating or having one board, but that's a political discussion and it's not a quick fix to deficit reduction," said Lee.

Don't phone and drive

Drivers using their cell phones to speak or text with someone may face penalties if the legislative assembly passes amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act.

"It still has to go through a number of checks and balances here before we'll provide it," said Transportation Minister Michael McLeod. "We would have that ready, if all goes well, at the tail-end of this session or more than likely it would be the May-June session."

Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro asked when the prohibition on distracted driving might be enforced.

"I can't give 100 per cent guarantee that it's going to pass," said McLeod. "We've already had one motion on the floor that didn't get the full support.

In October 2009, McLeod had said that the government wasn't going to look at a cell phone ban because there wasn't cell phone service in 22 of the NWT's 33 communities - he said it was just an issue for Yellowknife.

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