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Departments of transportation and public works to merge?

Premier Bob McLeod says the department of transportation and department of public works and services could be amalgamated under a series of proposed changes to the territorial government.

McLeod confirmed the possible change during a conference call on Friday, in which he was asked about the restructuring of his executive cabinet, which will see several ministers change portfolios.

“As a government, we are always looking to be more efficient and effective,” said McLeod. “If we see opportunities where we can restructure ourselves to be more efficient and to save money at the same time, we are prepared to do that.”

Bob McLeod
Bob McLeod.

One of those considerations involves merging the departments of transportation and public works.

Transportation is currently responsible for public transportation infrastructure across the territory, while public works and services is responsible for asset management, procurement, records management, computer systems and telecommunications, community fuel provision and community water systems.

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Internal emails suggest the merger could form the department of infrastructure.

An email was first sent out to some GNWT workers about the proposed change a few weeks ago but McLeod says the proposal is not yet official. Such a change would likely come during the budget process for 2017/2018.

“Nobody has been told anything because nothing has been decided,” said McLeod.

McLeod says the government is looking at ways to save money, including savings through changes to administrative services and human resources, but stopped short of saying whether jobs will be lost.

“We make every effort to protect them [employees],” said McLeod. “Our expectation is if we make any changes, most or all of them would find other jobs in the government but we don’t expect any significant effects.”

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The premier also announced a cabinet shuffle on Friday, in which several portfolios will change.

Executive councils are composed of the ministers who are elected to office. The commissioner may appoint or remove ministers the executive council on the advice of the premier.

Under the changes, the premier will retain his responsibilities as minister of the executive and minister of intergovernmental affairs and aboriginal relations but will no longer oversee the department of industry, tourism and investment (ITI), which will now be under Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a reduction. It was quite a work load for myself as premier,” said McLeod. “With ITI, there was a lot of conflicting meetings and travel, so this way I feel it will allow me to focus on the work of the premier that’s important to promote the territory.”

In all, the following changes will be official as of 5:00 pm today:

  • The department of municipal and community affairs will now be led by Range Lake MLA Caroline Cochrane who already is responsible for the NWT housing corporation, the status of women and addressing homelessness
  • Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann will take over the department of public works and services from Cochrane and the department of industry, tourism and investment, which was previously under the premier
  • Schumann will stay on as minister of transportation, while passing over the department of environment and natural resources to Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C. McLeod
  • McLeod will also take over human resources from Health Minister Glen Abernethy and remain as deputy premier and minister of finance
  • Health and social services will still be under Abernethy as well as seniors and persons with disabilities while staying on as  government house leader. He’ll also be the minister responsible for the workers’ safety and compensation commission and for the public utilities’ board.
  • Thebacha MLA Louis Sebert takes over the department of lands, while holding on to his role as minister of justice and minister responsible for public engagement and transparency.

The premier also announced today that Jeff Anderson will be retiring as president of the NWT housing corporation. Anderson will be replaced by Tom Williams, who currently serves as deputy minister of municipal and community affairs.

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