MLA: Decentralization could hurt, rather than help, GNWT

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The MLA for Frame Lake says she “can’t condone” the current implementation of the territory’s decentralization policy.

The 17th Legislative Assembly has made it a priority of theirs to move government positions outside of Yellowknife and into smaller communities.

But Wendy Bisaro is concerned that long-term employees are being placed into jobs they don’t want and families are being thrust into turmoil.

Last week, Industry Minister David Ramsay announced that three more government jobs had been decentralized. Two of them have incumbents.

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“Decentralization is nothing more than a numbers game for the government,” Bisaro said. “The current model calls for decentralization at all cost but there are costs associated with it both financial and personal.

“How many families have been uprooted since we started this initiative? How many are still in the public service? How many have left the NWT?

“For the sake of adhering to a policy we are willing to lose experienced, competent, long-term employees.”

Bisaro says she’d like to see more research done to determine if the current strategy is actually working.

She’d also feel better knowing that employees are leaving the capital to fill vacant or new positions as opposed to positions that are already filled.

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Bisaro added: “It seems to be acceptable to make a position more expensive through decentralization yet in the same breathe the government states that our financial situation isn’t sustainable.

“The government’s population strategy looks to increase our population but the current callous application of this policy will see people leaving the North.”

Responding to Bisaro, Premier Bob McLeod argued that the policy is being implemented carefully and methodically.

“I’m pleased to say that we have decentralized 150 jobs to the regions and communities. We also have a retention policy in place so that any employees who are affected by decentralization are given higher priority so that they can stay in their community of choice.

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“We’re not moving whole departments from Yellowknife to smaller isolated communities. We’re taking a strategic, measured approach.”

McLeod says the government has committed $21-million over three years to build additional housing and office spaces in remote communities to support workers who move there.

“We need to diversify the economy, share the wealth and because we are invested in the Northwest Territories, we are committed to creating positions in our smaller communities.”

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