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The hot topic of cold weather

Hamlet is right to stay open

It may not be popular to say, but the hamlet of Rankin Inlet is probably right to stay open in cold temperatures and reserve closing for truly dire circumstances.

Unlike the Government of Nunavut, the hamlet closing affects a lot more than a few offices and paid leave days: if the hamlet shuts down, road maintenance, the airport and everything else does too. The GN shutting down is rather unnoticeable, but the hamlet closing essentially closes the whole community.

Yes, cold weather is a challenge in the North. But there are all sorts of environmental challenges everywhere. I might argue that heavy traffic in Toronto is a bigger logistical challenge to getting to work than -40 C in Rankin Inlet, which is not much different from -35 C.

Nunavut is already strained by human resource challenges on good days. Most organizations are struggling to accomplish their goals due to staff availability – caused by many issues, including lack of reliable childcare – and every day an office is closed is another hit to services, programs and progress in the community.

If someone fears going to work in cold weather, they should contact their boss. If their boss is a reasonable person, they will figure out alternative arrangements or work with the employee to ensure both safety and work standards are met.

It is kind of a funny world where 40-year-olds working in heated GN offices can’t go to work because it’s cold, but high school students can staff the local convenience and grocery stores like nothing is wrong. As we saw during the pandemic, those essential workers bear the brunt of making the world turn.

Not many places in the south have their provincial government close during bad weather while other businesses are open. I can’t recall any time living in B.C. or the Yukon when government offices were closed due to bad weather but the roads were open. And if they did close, the employees still worked from home to the extent they could.

Now, all of that does not absolve the GN and hamlet of communication issues during these times, where much improvement could be made. David Kakuktinniq Jr. had a good idea to use an automated point system for weather closures that takes subjectivity out of the equation. The last-minute scramble for parents trying to balance childcare and work during questionable weather is a mess, and we see it all over Facebook on those bad-weather mornings.

But look, I don’t want to work either. I think all of us who had office jobs in the early Covid days still reminisce about being sent home to do nothing for a month, or six or 12. I’m thankful the hamlet stays open to keep the community open, and I’m thankful to the workers who keep the roads clear and allow life to go on – and they deserve to be paid well for it.