This is page numbers 1 - 28 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 --.

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Oral Question 768-19(2): Hay River School Bus Service
Oral Questions

Page 8

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You know, I have limited tools at my disposal to remedy this. But some regulatory changes is one of those tools and splitting the Hay River DEA from the South Slave DEC could be done through regulation. So I've asked the department to look into that process, what the costs would be, you know, how we could go about it. So the -- you know, it -- we don't want that -- ideally, we want everyone to work together. I mean, it's a simple solution. This is a -- there isn't a nuclear option, you know, for a very simple problem. But I have started looking into that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 768-19(2): Hay River School Bus Service
Oral Questions

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I think he answered my question number 3 there, that there is a process and he's working through it.

So I'll go to question number 4 here, and, Mr. Speaker, a move such as this would require dividing the current funding between the South Slave Divisional Education Council and the Hay River District Education Authority. So, Mr. Speaker, based on the current South Slave Divisional Education Council budget and the number of student enrolments in Hay River, can the Minister confirm what the split would be and what impact would it have on this -- both the South Slave Divisional Education Council and the Hay River District Education Authority? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 768-19(2): Hay River School Bus Service
Oral Questions

Page 8

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And it would be a lot of work, for one thing. There would have to be consultation with the education authority and obviously the district education council. The district education authority would have to make it very clear that this is what they wanted, and I haven't received that -- you know, there's been no resolution passed by the authority that I'm aware of. But the Hay River DEA comprises of about 42 percent of the student population of the south slave. So -- but probably close to $10 million that goes to the SSDEC would then be removed and allocated to a new DEA, a standalone DEA if that's what happened. There would also be a transfer of funds for administration. So there would be probably around a $400,000 reduction in administration funds to the South Slave EDC. And the way they work their funding, I think this year they're also transferring about half a million dollars from the Hay River DEA's budget to the DEC. So they might be close to about a million dollars less in funding to the DEC. So there's some significant impacts all around. And like I said, it's a simple problem. It's a simple solution. I think that the parties can get together, look at the numbers. If $70,000 doesn't work, well, I'm sure that we can move some numbers around. It doesn't have to be $70,000. Maybe it's 50,000. Maybe you get it down to 30,000. Like, it's not an impossible task. We just need everyone to get around the table and do what's best for the students. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 768-19(2): Hay River School Bus Service
Oral Questions

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Speaker

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

Oral Question 768-19(2): Hay River School Bus Service
Oral Questions

Page 8

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And it might be a hundred thousand. But, Mr. Speaker, it is a simple -- I think it is a -- there's a simple solution to it, and, you know -- but we have to push the fact that students may be without busing, and, you know, as part of, you know, our responsibility to make sure that students have access to an education and to get to school. And, you know, it's -- we can say that if we pay for Hay River, we've got to pay for everybody. But that's not a bad thing either if it's allowing students to go to school. So, you know, what I would encourage the Minister is to push the council and the education authority and meet with them and hopefully they'll come up -- come up with a solution fairly quickly, because this also impacts businesses in Hay River. You know, we'll have a business that provides busing services. They're going to have no work. Their drivers are going to have no work. You know, and it just goes on and on so I think -- and you know, it may be small, but it is important to Hay River. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. No question.

Oral Question 768-19(2): Hay River School Bus Service
Oral Questions

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Speaker

Thank you, taken as a comment. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife North.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

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Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions today are for the Minister of Finance. I want to begin by focusing on the staffing appeals process. And I've read the staffing appeals process guidelines a couple times, and as far as I can tell, they are so narrow that the vast majority of applicants don't even have access to an appeal. So my first question is, what percentage of people who apply on GNWT jobs are eligible for an appeal? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

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Speaker

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Minister responsible for Finance.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

Page 8

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I think I've heard what percentage of people who apply. Mr. Speaker, I can say any employees of the GNWT who apply would certainly be eligible to file an appeal. So there's a hundred percent of someone who's already an employee. Obviously not everyone would necessarily self-disclosed as being an employee at the time that they make an appeal or make an application. Similarly, Mr. Speaker, anyone who is -- has staffing priority under the Affirmative Action Policy also has a right of appeal. And, again, it's not necessarily obvious that everyone would self-identify as being a candidate under the Affirmative Action Policy. So it's difficult to necessarily to say exactly the percentage offer applicants who would necessarily have that right of appeal if they aren't self-identifying as such.

What I can say as well, though, Mr. Speaker, in 2021, 16.5 percent of all applicants who applied on positions with the GNWT's, to our knowledge, were eligible. Again, for -- eligible to appeal. Just knowing that there's some limitation depending on people's self-disclosure. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

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Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So of those 16.5 percent of people who applied for GNWT jobs who were eligible to appeal, when I look and try to figure out exactly what the grounds of an appeal could be or within the process, I have a hard time let alone those people who just didn't get a job, Mr. Speaker. So my question for the Minister of Finance is what information is provided to an unsuccessful candidate who would be eligible for appeal, at 16.5 percent, to help them formulate and understand the grounds of an appeal. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

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Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So, Mr. Speaker, an unsuccessful candidate eligible for appeal is able -- would be provided with the staffing appeals information guide, the staffing appeals brochure, and the staffing appeals application. Mr. Speaker, I wanted to note while I wasn't here back in 2018, at the time then standing committee had provided some recommendations to the Department of Finance to improve those materials, and I understand in some inquiries here that indeed some materials have been made more plain language and there has been an effort to at least -- to improve the nature of the information that's being provided to those eligible to lodge an appeal. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

Page 8

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, and the minister is incorrect -- is correct. In 2018, the Standing Committee on Government Operations recommended that some plain language documents would be provided. And I'm glad to hear that committee recommendation has been followed through with. So thank you to the department for that.

Mr. Speaker, the -- when I was looking for the last major analysis on the GNWT's human resources practices, I had to go back 20 years to Grant Thorne, a law office, and the consultants then found that the appeal process is perceived as not conducive to an independent and fair hearing and it leads to a finding -- and it does not lead to a finding of greater openness, transparency or independence. Mr. Speaker, I tend to agree with that 20-year-old analysis of our staffing appeals process. And to my view, not much has changed.

My question for the Minister of Finance is has the GNWT ever had its process independently reviewed to determine if it is procedurally fair? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

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Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in hearing the Member's statement, I have been trying to go back to just see if, in fact, something has happened. Obviously, I have not been here for a particularly long time. To my best knowledge, I don't know that there's been a recent complete overall or complete review of the process of human resources. Certainly, part of the work that's happening right now with respect to the Indigenous recruitment retention framework as a significant framework that's meant to apply to all departments and be a major part of human resources work, that that doesn't entail and involve a review of the processes of human resources to ensure that some of the -- some of the tension points and pinch points that I know the Member has already raised do not become barriers and are not barriers. So, again -- and although I'm not -- and I will say too, though, that the appeals process does involve staffing review officers who are independent from the human resources team. So, you know, while again simply put, no, there's not been a thorough or complete review in my time or in my recent awareness. There are some efforts underway to continually improve that process, the human resources process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

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Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the 2019-20, the most recent public service annual report, 82 of the 82 appeals that were filed were denied, Mr. Speaker. Previously, the department has used this to say there's no problems with the staffing process; it's working out just fine; all the appeals, you know, are denied. Mr. Speaker, I would say that this is a fundamental problem with the appeals process in -- and people are giving up hope on appealing if there's no hope of actually being successful, regardless of whether an independent officer is reviewing it.

So furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the end of the appeals process is sometimes, you know, the job competition goes out, sometimes it's just even if you are successful, a notation that, you know, perhaps some processes were not followed. I actually am not aware of anyone who is -- after going through a successful appeal, which there were none last year, been offered the job.

So my question for the Minister of Finance, has anyone who has ever appealed a decision actually been after -- actually been offered the job once appealed? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Question 769-19(2): Staffing Appeal Process
Oral Questions

Page 9

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I don't have the complete history of all hiring. I can say in 2017-18, and I suspect the Member has this information already, as it went through to the last committee review. But that it was at around 1 percent and that 2018-19, again, that it was five of 71 where the appeals were upheld. As far whether those individuals go on to get employment or choose to get employment or choose to seek further employment with the government, I can't say. That's not necessarily a stat that would even be possible to garner, again not knowing whether or not the individual themselves may want to self-identify.

But, Mr. Speaker, you know, I certainly don't take the view that just because we've had, you know, no successful appeals means that the process itself is perfect. I've certainly dealt with many questions in the House over the last year and a half about human resources and certainly get a lots of inquiries to my office about the work of human resources. There is a lot going on right now in human resources to ensure that it is modern, to ensure that it is responsive, to ensure that it is contextual to the Northwest Territories and to the fact that we are a 50 percent Indigenous Canadian community in the Northwest Territories. So I appreciate the Member's opening mark -- remarks, acknowledging that there's good people doing work. There are good people doing work. And there are always room for improvement, and we're getting there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.