After reciting a dozen vacant wildlife conservation positions across Nunavut on Friday, Environment Minister Joe Savikataaq said the limited number of staff houses is a factor in some cases, especially in small communities.
“Our biggest barrier to recruiting officers in the communities is housing. When there is no housing, we generally are not very successful in filling a vacancy for our conservation officers,” he said.
Other departments have been raising similar issues, said John Main, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA.
“I don’t understand why you are not able to secure housing for those conservation officer positions. My understanding is they are the top of the priority list, along with health professionals,” he said. “Are there any solutions to this in terms of the staff housing crunch?”
“I don’t have a ready solution other than building more staff houses,” Savikataaq replied. “We need more staff housing, but we also need more public housing. So, it is always a battle every year. They have to decide how many staff houses and how many public houses, and both of those needs are real, and the needs are way greater than what can be produced, so I don’t have a ready solution. Some of the positions have been vacant for a while … we find that when we advertise positions that are more technical or that you need more education on, it’s hard to get a suitable candidate without providing housing.”
Adam Arreak Lightstone, MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak, said he believes the crux of the issue is the number of years that government workers spend in staff homes.
“We know there are employees who reside in staff housing for decades, and in fact there are a number of employees who retire in staff housing every year,” he said. “Further, the Nunavut Housing Corporation’s income eligibility requirements exclude many employees that are in staff housing that could get out of staff housing, but have the income to sustain homeownership. I know this doesn’t exactly relate to the Department of Environment’s budgets and business plan but I just wanted to put that out there on the record to provide a solution to the minister’s problem.”
Savikataaq said he took Arreak Lightstone’s point, but the comments should be directed at the Nunavut Housing Corporation.
“We’re not in charge of housing,” the environment minister said. “We ask for housing and when we allocate it, the person is entitled to stay in that staff housing until he or she leaves their employment. So the member can take up that fight with the appropriate department.”