This is page numbers 2951 - 2988 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was public.

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Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2963

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for Finance.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2963

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And Mr. Speaker, this is one of those occasions where there's of course more than one department working together and in collaboration. So it's in cooperation with the Premier's office but also, of course, the Department of Infrastructure responsible for airports that we're putting some information together in this arena. At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, airports, airport management, airport control, that is the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. And many of discussions have indeed been had to ensure that where there is an emergency need, in the nature of medical need, that individuals will have leeway and will be able to access medical services. But in so far as otherwise, at that point, Mr. Speaker, the choice of the federal government was to put in place a mandate that was fairly strict, that is quite strict indeed, and if in fact it is a job requirement of someone who is a member of the GNWT's public service that they need to travel, then their job requirements would now no longer line up with what is available to them.

It is unfortunate. There has been, I think, a fairly long period of time within which hopefully folks have had an opportunity to consider their options, consider their choices, but at this point, unless the federal government makes a change to their arrangements, I'm not in a position to force them to do that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2963

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, our airports, marine transportation services, and ferry services and correction services all have a connection to federal legislation. While the federal government is requiring some federal employees to be vaccinated and allowing accommodation for others, I ask the Minister what impact will this have on GNWT staff and contractors in areas that are subject to federal legislation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2963

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the GNWT very specifically ensured that our policy did allow accommodations so that individuals had the opportunity to be accommodated should they choose not to provide proof of vaccination. To the extent, however, that an GNWT employee is under a federally regulated field then they are subject to the jurisdiction of the federally regulated field and to the federal regulations and as such they would have to comply with those laws just as much as anybody else would. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2964

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, after yesterday's questions and answers on COVID vaccine and accommodation, it's still not clear to me what departments or divisions would require employees to be vaccinated or which ones allow for accommodation.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister which departments or divisions will require employees to be fully vaccinated prior to coming to work or, if not required to be vaccinated, which department or divisions have accommodation provisions. Thank you.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2964

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, all GNWT public servants are going to be subject to the mandatory vaccination policy that we have in place. They are being asked, everyone is being asked to provide their proof of vaccination by November 30th. If an individual does not provide proof of vaccination by that point, then they will be subject to the option of PPE and testing. Or if they still wish to not avail themselves of that accommodation, they can take leave without pay.

Now, there are some divisions or rather entities that I know people are sometimes not clear about, Mr. Speaker, so for example, MTS, the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority and NTPC are not members covered by this policy. They are not under the GNWT's public service. Similarly YK1, YCS staff are not. But other than that, I would think there's the other sort of typical or usual expectations of who is a public servant would apply. But certainly if anyone is not clear if the policy does in fact apply to them, they should be speaking to a supervisor to confirm if they are indeed a GNWT public servant because they do have seven days now in which now to provide their proof of vaccination. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2964

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Hay River South.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2964

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this is a stressful time for, you know, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees, knowing that, you know, they may not have a job come December 1st. So, you know, we don't want to be losing long-term employers, long-term Northerners, putting them out on the street, you know, possibly seeing them lose their homes, not being able to put food on the table.

So I'd ask the Minister if she would commit to sitting down with her federal counterparts and coming up with a solution to save jobs in the North. We may not be able to save all of the jobs but if we can save some jobs through accommodation, you know, it would be better than nothing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2964

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I know there are some voices that are very loud about their belief about not being vaccinated or not informing the government, essentially, of their choices around vaccines.

The policy and the approach of the government has always, from the early days of the pandemic, been one about education, trying to provide information, trying to educate people about the best way to keep themselves safe, to keep members of the public safe, members of their community safe, and vaccination is a critical element in that.

So quite simply, Mr. Speaker, I would expect that I certainly can speak, and I do speak regularly with the CPHO. I anticipate, given that the federal government's regulations are even stricter that they too view vaccines as being an essential part of keeping their people safe as well as keeping the public safe that they serve.

So I am hopeful that over the next seven days, we see a high uptake in terms of the number of proof of vaccines that come in. I am hopeful that if people continue to have uncertainties or questions that they will speak to their health care provider. They don't need to come to the government, they don't need to look to the government for that information, they can go and speak to someone they trust in the health care profession. They should be getting that information from those professionals who can hopefully answer their questions, provide them the assurances they need, and it is certainly my hope that we will not be losing a great deal of jobs here in the Northwest Territories over that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 785-19(2): COVID Accommodations
Oral Questions

Page 2964

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Great Slave.

Oral Question 786-19(2): Obstetrical Care
Oral Questions

November 23rd, 2021

Page 2964

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding nursing.

My first question is why was the labor and delivery announcement made now as opposed to sooner so people could plan. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 786-19(2): Obstetrical Care
Oral Questions

Page 2964

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Oral Question 786-19(2): Obstetrical Care
Oral Questions

Page 2964

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I found out about this issue on Friday, and it was announced yesterday. What happened was we had a block of unfilled shifts on the obstetrics ward and we tried a number of ways to fill those shifts, but finally we could only get it down to 46 vacant shifts and at that point we had to make a decision about what to do with people with births going forward from December 10th. Thank you.

Oral Question 786-19(2): Obstetrical Care
Oral Questions

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Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my heart goes out to all of those that do have to travel to Edmonton for their birth. My next question is what has the department done to try and mitigate the labor and delivery reduction in services. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 786-19(2): Obstetrical Care
Oral Questions

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Specifically to mitigate this, we have this program of transferring expectant mothers and their partners to Alberta to deliver safely in Edmonton or in another Alberta location. So our aim first and foremost is to provide a safe delivery for patients. This is an area in which it's hard to predict the amount of staffing that is required because it's an on-demand service. And I understand from nurses that births bunch up and so you might have a very busy couple of days and then a couple of days without as much traffic.

What we do know is that there are 80 to 90 people who would have given birth at Stanton between December 10th and February 21st and another 25 to 30 from Kitikmeot. So the volume was simply too great for the number of staff that we had and so we have arranged this alternative to go to Edmonton.

But let me say, it is not ideal. I recognize that this is a hardship on families, but I am hoping that they will support our rationale that a safe delivery is the kind of delivery that they want and unfortunately that is not possible here between December 10th and February 21st. Thank you.