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Legislative Assembly briefs
Job vacancies abound in GNWT

Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Friday, February 20, 2015

With more than 1,000 jobs open within the government, Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins pressed the minister responsible on what actions were being taken to fill those vacancies.

"According to the minister's numbers the other day that we have 466 jobs that they are presently working on in some form, stage or consideration and again according to the minister's numbers, he said the total number of vacancies on the books is 1,038 jobs," said Hawkins.

"To be clear, that's about 20 per cent of the NWT government's workforce."

Currently, Human Resources Minster Tom Beaulieu said job sites, regional recruiting and putting the call out internally have been the main avenues taken to fill positions.

Hawkins proposed discussions with the public and reaching out for input on how to best fill these vacancies.

"We need citizen feedback because we can't keep doing it the same way we've done it before," said Hawkins.

"Would the minister commit to taking this initiative on?"

With staff in all regions of the territory, Beaulieu said the most effective approach might be reaching out to those people on the ground to gather feedback from within communities.

With job posts and recruitment taking place across the country, trying to entice applicants, Hawkins said this focus on looking within the territory was needed.

"We're willing to spend thousands of dollars for sure on these campaigns, reaching all over Canada and the world but let's get some good genuine feedback from our citizens who live here," said Hawkins.

Long-term care questioned

As well as exemplifying the issues with security at Stanton Territorial Hospital, the well-publicized case of Allisdair Leishman was brought up in house to illustrate the lack of options for extended care in the North.

In 2009, Leishman was under care when he stabbed himself, causing brain damage. Now, Leishman is severely disabled and living in the long-term care ward.

Since then, Health Minister Glen Abernethy said security has been reviewed and increased, though more incidents of violence at the hospital have been reported in the past few months.

"In light of the issues we've heard over the last couple of months, more needs to be done and we're taking action on those as well," said Abernethy.

With security already failing him, Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli said in Leishman's case, the state of extended care is also inadequate.

"The family told me by their own admission the people responsible for the extended care unit at Stanton Hospital don't have adequate resources to fully care for Allisdair," said Nadli.

"The GNWT is good at providing general health care, but its weak in the area of specialized care."

Nadli called the extended care wing "sterile" and lacking in a home-like environment.

Through the Stanton Renewal Project, Abernethy said a new extended care unit is in the plans.

A specialist in Edmonton has prescribed a rehabilitation program for Leishman, Nadli said, but his care at Stanton remains limited.

"Allisdair's family wants to see him living with more dignity and comfort and provided with a full range of rehabilitative services," said Nadli.

"Today I call on the department to respond to these request."

Rental assistance going unused

With nearly two years under its belt, Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro asked for an update on the Transitional Rent Supplement Program only to find that it has not been fully utilized.

"The program was originally designed to help with subsidies for about 150 clients a year," said Robert C. McLeod, minister responsible for the NWT Housing Corp.

"Since the inception of the program, we've had 158 clients go through the program. We currently have 68 clients that are still in the program."

The program offers assistance to people spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent who don't qualify for public housing.

Currently restricted to people living in their own apartments, Bisaro asked whether it could be expanded, allowing more people to take advantage of the subsidy.

McLeod said the program was under review and her suggestion would be considered.

Originally given a budget of more than $1 million, McLeod said the program has approximately $900,000 remaining, and has no official end date.

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