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GN reveals overtime pay totals

The GN has revealed that its overtime payments to all staff totalled almost $28.2 million in fiscal 2016-17. The most costly department for overtime pay was, by far, Health at close to $13.4 million. Next came Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC) at $5.9 million and Justice at $2.7 million.

Ninety-one GN workers earned $50,000 to $100,000 in overtime in 2016-17, with 43 of those employed by Health and 40 by Qulliq Energy Corporation. Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

Eleven Department of Health employees received overtime pay in excess of $100,000, as did two from QEC.

Ninety-one GN workers earned $50,000 to $100,000 in overtime, with 43 of those employed by Health and 40 by QEC.

Another 212 civil servants pocketed $25,000 to $50,000 in overtime pay.

In other legislative assembly news...

Decentralization plateaus

As of March 18, there were 4,889 positions within the GN and 2,250, or 46 per cent, of them were based in decentralized communities. Iqaluit had 1,991, or 40.7 per cent, of the government jobs while non-decentralized communities accounted for the remaining 648, or 13.3 per cent of the positions.

Back in December 2004, when the GN made a commitment to decentralize more of its jobs, 46.4 per cent of positions were located in decentralized communities. Back then, the total number of government jobs stood at 3,198.

The territorial government's aim is to have 60 per cent of its positions based in communities outside of Iqaluit.

Resounding calls for action on mental health

Multiple MLAs expressed a dire need for greater mental health support in Nunavut.

Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, spoke of "parents on the verge of

giving up on their sons or daughters, who are hearing voices in their heads." She said there's a struggle among some Inuit, with their ancient culture and old traditions, who are trying to cope in a modern world.

Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak invited Health Minister Pat Angnakak to visit his community, which he says is suffering from "serious crisis and trauma, much of it due to mental health and addictions issues." He also cited the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 2015 final report that called upon the federal government to "ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority." He noted that still hasn't happened, and Akoak asked the government to establish a healing centre to help Nunavummiut "break free from the legacy of the past."

Pangnirtung MLA Margaret Nakashuk acknowledged the GN's response to her community's recent need for emergency intervention by providing crisis counselling and victim support services as suicide and the threat of more suicide looms. However, "a more sustained level of service is now needed," Nakashuk said.

Health Minister Pat Angnakak replied, "I think we can do more, but it’s going to take some time."

Nakashuk asked whether the government can establish a healing centre within the territory.

Angnakak said the GN, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the federal government have had meetings on that matter.

"They’re putting a proposal together for a healing centre in Nunavut. We want to establish a healing centre in Nunavut," Angnakak said. "We are presently working on that, please be aware."

Later in the day, Akoak asked why the GN withdrew its commitment to fund 25 per cent of the $550 million Grays Bay road and port project.

Economic Development Minister Joe Savikataaq replied that Agnico Eagle has built approximately 220 km of roads without government financing and Baffinland Iron Mines has built a road and has plans for a railroad without government funding.

"We have a limited amount of resources. We have so many needs in our territory," Savikataaq said. "For example, the member (Akoak) has said on many occasions that we need treatment centres in his community of Gjoa Haven. All our money comes from one pot. If we spend in here, we have none for there."

Water concerns run deep

Drinking water worries persist in Sanikiluaq, where high sodium levels are present, Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt said on May 24.

Community and Government Services (CGS) Minister Lorne Kusugak replied that a request for proposals is being issued to find the best solution. While CGS has outfitted each willing household with a reverse osmosis machine in the interim, the long-range options may involve a new water source and a new water plant or a reverse osmosis plant, Kusugak suggested.

In the legislative assembly the following day, Cathy Towtongie, MLA for Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet, raised the issue of "seriously discoloured" water from the community's utilidor, which has been the source of complaints from constituents who drink, bathe and cook with it.

Kusugak, who is MLA for Rankin Inlet South, said he's familiar with the problem and gets asked the same thing by his constituents. He noted that it's only a portion of Rankin Inlet that's affected by the murky water.

"Some of the houses have clear water," he said. "I don’t know what is causing the discolouration. It's either mud that gets into the pipe or sand. It mixes with the rest of the water. We use utilidor and we don’t get water delivery. Some units have brownish water. We're asking the residents of Rankin Inlet who notice brownish water to let the water run for a while to get the brownish water out."

Kusugak added that the Department of Health is looking into the water quality, but he hasn't heard any safety issues to date.

Meanwhile, CGS has issued a request for proposals to deal with Rankin Inlet's water infrastructure and water treatment system, which is more than 40 years old. Maintenance costs continue to "spiral upwards," Kusugak acknowledged.

Progress on residential mould removal

Professional mould removal has taken place in 32 of 35 Nunavut Housing Corporation homes classified as needing urgent intervention following 2017 inspections, Housing Minister Lorne Kusugak said on May 29. Those homes are in Baker Lake, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Igloolik, Sanikiluaq, and Kugaaruk.

He said the remaining three units will be completed by September.

Another 31 houses requiring mould removal – in Hall Beach, Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Kimmirut and Arviat – will be included in contracts being advertised this spring, said Kusugak.

In addition, 196 local housing employees in all 25 communities have been trained in mould remediation techniques, he added.

Kusugak urged home occupants to be vigilant for the first signs of mould, as it can be treated with unscented detergent and water during the earliest stages, he said. Consistent use of ventilation units, bathroom exhaust fans and kitchen range hoods will help to improve ventilation and reduce the moisture which aids mould growth, the minister said.

The housing corporation is working with consultants to incorporate improved ventilation and air quality in future home construction, thereby reducing the chances of mould developing, Kusugak added.

Household allowance denied to casual workers

Adam Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, wanted to know why the household allowance for employees who are homeowners or who pay the full cost of market rent has remained at $400 per month since the benefit was introduced in 2009, and why casual workers – who comprise more than 1,300 people – are excluded from the allowance.

Finance Minister David Akeeagok confirmed that the allowance has been static over the past nine years, although he didn't say why. As for casual employees, the government has been trying to convert many of them into permanent staff and has been succeeding at a rate of about 100 employees each year, according to Akeeagok on May 25.

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