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 work.

Topics

member's statement on Recognizing Hay River Organizations
Member's Statement Onseason's Greetings

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Members' statements. Returns to oral questions. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Acknowledgements. Oral questions. Member for Hay River South.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, these questions will be for the Minister responsible for the NWT Power Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, it is the season for compassion. You know, it's important that we think about the people who are less fortunate; we think about people who are going to lose their jobs. So what I would -- and, Mr. Speaker, I understand the importance of being vaccinated and so do many that are not. I was hoping that we would see 100 percent of GNWT employees being vaccinated, but I knew that would never happen.

So, Mr. Speaker, can the Minister responsible for NTPC advise this Assembly as to what NTPC's vaccine policy is and when it will go into effect. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Minister responsible for Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, electric utilities across Canada, including those operating in the North, have or in the process of instituting mandatory vaccination policies. At this time, Mr. Speaker, NTPC employees and contractors have until January the 7th, 2022, to be compliant with the policy. And after this, employees will be placed on leave without pay, unless there is a significant change in the COVID pandemic situation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one of the issues with NTPC I think, and most employees I guess with the government in the NWT, is, you know, a lot of them have to use air travel. So will the Minister confirm if every NTPC employee is required to travel by air as part of their duties? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, the majority of employees are required to travel for regular duties or travel on occasion for their jobs. For those employees who do not travel regular, they must be required to travel for things like safety training, professional development, site visits, or engagement with customers, and also engagement with communities. Just this week, for example, Mr. Speaker, we had a staff member who, at the direction of the community, was not allowed into the community because of their vaccination status. Obviously, this will cause operational issues for the clean delivery of power in the communities if we're not able to utilize all of our staffing resources. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Minister committed to work with impacted employees to look at accommodation options for those not vaccinated. Can the Minister advise this Assembly if that has happened yet. Thank you.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as it is their right, all employees have had the opportunity to request an accommodation to the policy on the basis of a protected ground under the Human Rights Act. Where requests for accommodations were made, all employees received feedback. NTPC continues to engage with its employees who have concerns about the policy. Exemptions unrelated to protected grounds under the Human Rights Act are not being considered at this time but that may change in the future should the situation change as well. The resources to do individual testing in the communities outside of Yellowknife do not exist, and the corporation does not see that as a viable option.

We also, Mr. Speaker, have to consider the rights and safety of the majority of NTPC employees that are in compliance with the vaccination policy and their feelings on having to work side-by-side with unvaccinated coworkers. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, knowing that this pandemic will morph into an endemic disease, which may well be the new normal, when that will happen is not known. But we know it has to happen at some point. And those employees laid off or terminated due to the vaccine policy may well be qualified for rehire.

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister advise whether or not moving from a pandemic into an endemic situation was considered in developing the vaccine policy for NTPC, and will those put on leave without pay be in a position to get their jobs back at some point? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was not considered. According to the health professionals, including the NWT Chief Public Health Officer, vaccination continues to be the best defence against COVID-19. Vaccination requirements are fluid across Canada as employers adapt to changing circumstances. NTPC is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for its employees, and it will continue to take conservative approach to achieve this goal.

So NTPC continues to review its policy on a regular basis as the COVID-19 evolves. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

oral question 884-19(2): Paid Sick Leave and the Employment Standards Act
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In my Member's statement, I went through the fact that a number of jurisdictions are finally, I think, taking the long overdue step of introducing some paid sick days for workers under their employment standards legislation. My question for the Minister is will he do the same? Thank you.

oral question 884-19(2): Paid Sick Leave and the Employment Standards Act
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Minister responsible for Education, Culture and Employment.

oral question 884-19(2): Paid Sick Leave and the Employment Standards Act
Oral Question 883-19(2): Northwest Territories Power Corporation Vaccination Policy

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I recall yesterday in the House the Member stood up and said we have to make some hard choices. We're facing a budget crunch, and we can't have everything we want.

This is a very -- if the GNWT were to do this, it would be a very expensive program. And if we put it on to private employers, it could be a very expensive program for them. That being said, maybe it is something we want so we do have to look into this.

The Employment Standards Act provides a bare minimum of protection for employees. So there could be employers right now under this act who are providing paid sick days. It is an employees' market right now. You know, it's tough to find staff. And so I think it would be a competitive advantage. So there is that market force.

As I said, maybe this is something we want. And when we review the Employment Standards Act, which is going to happen in the next fiscal year, so not that long from now, this is going to be one of the things we're looking at. Every once in a while, we have to look at our act to make sure we are on par with other jurisdictions and make changes as necessary. So I look forward to that review, and I'm sure I'll get lots of feedback from the Member. Thank you.