This is page numbers 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 know.

Topics

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Speaker

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

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I'm sorry my -- the idea of why we're not providing alternative means of compliance for all employees, I'm -- the simple fact, Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear about the policy.

It is mandatory that all employees by November 30th are being asking to provide proof of compliance of the vaccine. If they have not provided proof of compliance, then the fallback option for them is to submit to regular testing and to PPE as is appropriate to their individual workplace. If they are not willing to comply with that, they will put on leave without pay. And that's the policy. That has been the policy since -- since it was expanded to be all employees.

And Mr. Speaker, just, I do want to say quickly, perhaps some of the confusion that I'm sensing is still out there, this is an idea that started in August, late August, at which time there was no proof of vaccine here in the Northwest Territories yet. That wasn't even on our public radar. We then expanded very quickly from being only an essential services policy to being to -- to apply -- a policy that would apply to all staff. All in the meanwhile, rolling out the policy before even knowing entirely how we'd be able to make it work. It's important because vaccines are important. We want staff to get their vaccines. We want people to be protected. The policy's going to continue to apply, and it's going to continue to evolve as the pandemic has evolved and as our response has involved.

So I'm glad there's questions coming today. I want staff to understand it, and I want the public that we serve to understand it. Thanks, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my Member's statement that costs are a concern. Some people aren't happy that, you know, there's going to be a cost associated and this government would be picking up -- pick it up.

But I would ask the Minister who will be responsible for the costs of these tests and PPE. Will it be the responsibility for this government or the federal government or a combination thereof. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This, Mr. Speaker, too was one of the items when we were said we want a policy and we want something in place, I did not know what the costs might be, and to be frank, I still don't because I don't know how many -- how many individuals would this necessarily apply to.

Fortunately and knowing that, we did go the federal government. We were able to procure tests that we estimate based on, you know, given what the current vaccination rates for the territories is. We're estimating that we have enough tests to last two months. I'm hoping we'll get good news, that, in fact more of the public service are vaccinated than what we'd be anticipating as a cautionary approach, and if that's so, then those tests will last longer.

If the numbers come on November 30th and it suggests that, in fact, we have a high rate of individuals who are going to need these tests, then we're going to run through those tests more quickly, then there's likely to be changes to the policy sooner. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I've asked the Minister -- she mentioned two months. How long do we realistically expect this testing to go on. Is it only two months, or are we actually going to be looking at a longer period of time. Thank you.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we have 24,000 tests. So in terms of knowing how long we have the tests from -- that are procured from the federal government, so at no cost to us, it's 24,000 tests. There's still the cost of distributing them, which is not insignificant. So there are those costs there.

As for how long, we are going to have to go -- I don't know how long COVID will last. But I'm certainly committed to ensuring that our staff are kept safe, that their colleagues are kept safe, and that the public we serve are kept safe. So as long as the mandatory vaccine policies exist elsewhere and to other -- and to other locations, then the public service should expect that they will be under the same policy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Speaker

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

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'd ask the Minister, this testing's process that's going to take place, you know, what is it and what impact will it have on workers getting back to work and restarting the economy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Speaker

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

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. That actually speaks to some of the reasoning and concerns around why, in fact, when the policy was put in place, we were ensuring that there was, unlike -- and I'm quite well-aware that when the federal government came out with their policy eventually, that it is stricter, that there are less -- there's less ability to adapt or mitigate if someone is choosing not to comply, unlike our option for testing and PPE. We want to strike a balance between not being in a situation as some of the other provinces were where they were being asked to roll their policies back for fear of running out of essential workers or frontline workers. That's not a situation we wanted to be in, didn't want to in a situation where perhaps one small community was facing less significant loss of income coming at critical junctures.

So I'm trying very hard to ensure that we strike the balance between maintaining having a workforce that is able, ready, and willing to attend their workplaces, to do so safely, ideally to do so when vaccinated, but for now, at least, until I know those numbers, until we know what we're dealing with, there is right now in the policy the ability to mitigate if they don't want to have proof of vaccine, and for now, we will be supporting by providing those tests to them and providing their PPE and providing -- and ensuring that they know how to use those tests. They'll be using it on their own time. These are the self-administered tests that are being used for the school screening program and then reporting that in to their supervisors.

So you know -- and again, as we know where we're at on November the 30th, I will be looking to -- very immediately to know what we're facing, and we'll be re-evaluating where we're at at that point. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 801-19(2): Vaccination Requirement Policy
Oral Questions

Speaker

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Kam Lake.

Oral Question 802-19(2): Nursing Bonuses
Oral Questions

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Finance. As part of this Assembly's priority, a dedicated Health and Social Services recruitment team was established. How is the GNWT measuring the success of this newly implemented team. Thank you.

Oral Question 802-19(2): Nursing Bonuses
Oral Questions

Speaker

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Minister responsible for Finance.

Oral Question 802-19(2): Nursing Bonuses
Oral Questions

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are all operating under the same mandate so I'm well aware that this initially was set up in order to achieve the mandate item of having additional health care workers recruited. And interestingly, there actually had been some positive successes in that regard notwithstanding the discussions around what is happening with the obstetrics unit.

The vacancy rate for the health recruitment positions actually decreased 1.5 percent, an additional 14 positions, but they are not, of course, being filled necessarily in all the same places at all the same rates.

So on one side, I could say that was a success. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, we are all very alive to what's happening at Stanton. I also have quite a number of constituents we are there. No one's -- we are all alive to what's happening.

So what do we do to measure this going forward, Mr. Speaker? Obviously, there has to be a continued effort between the Department of Health and between the Department of Finance to make sure that we measure the success across all the departments that are existing in the Health and Social Services field. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 802-19(2): Nursing Bonuses
Oral Questions

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I will acknowledge that the Department of Health was waiting Alberta's doors when Alberta started laying off nurses and that is appreciated.

My second question is what are the recruitment and retention initiatives that the Department of Finance has implemented in the recruitment of new nurses. Thank you.