City administration recently told council it needed an additional 13 full-time positions to function properly. There are currently 230 full-time staff. Wages and benefits in 2018 are expected to eat up approximately $27 million out of $76 million in total spending by the city. We asked mayoral and council candidates where they stand on increasing city hall staff. Answers will be posted as we receive them.
Niels Konge, city council candidate
Status quo, but reorganizing to deliver our services more efficiently. Especially in permitting.
Robin Williams, city council candidate
Once elected, this council will be immediately diving into a budget vote. With multiple years of low taxation increases administration will most likely be asking council for increases to staffing and ultimately an increase in property tax. I will have to look at this at a department by department level. Do I believe we need better enforcement in planning and lands, yes. Would I like to see more life guards at the pool as to not have more cancellations in classes, yes. But these are specific examples. A broad statement on staffing would be ill informed as each department has its own needs.
William Gomes, city council candidate
So far, no one has raised this issue during my door to door meeting with the citizens of Yellowknife. In my position as a new candidate, I do not have any information to express my opinion; therefore, no comments on this.
Bob Stewart, mayoral candidate
I would be able to better assess that once I have some time monitoring all of the operations.
Cynthia Mufandaedza, city council candidate
The staffing would have to be based on a recommendation by the SAO. I think retaining the current staff and providing constant training and staff development would allow the city to maximize its greatest asset, human capital.
Julian Morse, city council candidate
Status quo for the most part. I support increases where a need is identified -- such as additional firefighters in 2017 and '18. I would support restructuring to better align our resources with council priorities. I feel our economic development dept. is under-resourced; we need more staff working on strategic economic development initiatives -- however we may be able to achieve this by reallocating existing resources.
Rommel Silverio, city council candidate
I think that there should be a continuous review of staffing needs at the city hall to function in a way that is effective and efficient. For me, I go for status quo and reorganization if needed.
Jerald Sibbeston, mayoral candidate
Every dollar spent by the city was taken from a taxpayer. I will not forget that ever. I live frugally, built all my own signs and repaired them all, keep my costs down and make it by. I will bring that same frugality to city finances. We have been adding staff at a breakneck pace. We have averaged an incredible increase in staffing of 6.6 new full-time positions a year over the last few years. If you look back further, you will see a similar trend. We have lost control. I want to take that back and over the next nine or 12 years stop hiring and promote from within. This should help stop the city from needing to increase taxes or user fees. I intend on increasing our productivity as a city through boosting and taking more responsibility for promoting the tourism industry through creating a tourism department that will promote our amazing city.
Expanding the Frame Lake to Niven Drive bypass road and seeking to gain development approval from the Capital Area Commission to develop the area in between Frame lake and Jackfish Lake as mixed development area, including lakeside parkland will also be a top priority to improve rental affordability. If we make Yellowknife a cheaper tax jurisdiction over time we will grow, so will our tourism economy and our population and tax base. We have nowhere else to grow and that is the only land to grow into. It can be done aesthetically.
Mark Bogan, city council candidate
I have received great service at City Hall for over 30 years. My plan includes more jobs for our young adults by increasing public and recreational services for our children, youth and families.
Edwin Castillo, city council candidate
To me it’s not a matter of staff size, but ensuring the administration, services and programs are provided in the most efficient and effective way. We need to look at the budget to ensure we are being fair and fiscally responsible in respect of the staff salaries and wages. However, we are in an era of trying to do more with less or what is available it may be necessary to downsize; but, I would rather look at leveraging our capacity through sharing, reorganization and re-allocation of resources as opposed to cuts or out-sourcing.
Adrian Bell, mayoral candidate
City Hall has grown faster than Yellowknife’s population for quite some time. It’s not sustainable. We need to maintain status quo staffing levels, but re-allocate a couple of positions to match our strategic priorities. For example, we need to strengthen our economic development division, but this doesn’t mean we need an extra position at City Hall.
John Dalton, city council candidate
Without having more information it would not be fair to give an answer to that question. We all hear comments, but are they fair? The budget will give me the information for me to make an informed decision.
Stacie Smith, city council candidate
I have had many interactions with the city in my years of coaching as well as facilitating city events but without knowing the day to day operations and seeing it firsthand I cannot form a valid opinion on the staffing. As a business owner, I have worked with my own staff on what works best to ensure we are providing a product in a timely manner while creating impeccable designs. It was discovered during our busy season that by decreasing our staffing to the essentials, it improved customer satisfaction and staff efficiency as there was less confusion about each staff member's duties.
Shauna Morgan, city council candidate
To debate the overall number of staff positions, or to take a stance that is pro- or anti-staff, misses the point. Council needs to ensure we have the appropriate number of staff required to adequately deliver the services and programming we commit to provide, based on public input. If we build facilities, commit to meet new standards, or embark on new projects without adequate staff, then we are setting ourselves up to disappoint and frustrate the public, to create backlogs, and to burn out our existing staff.
To put things in perspective, the GNWT employs close to 6,000 people; whereas the City of Yellowknife employs approximately 230 people to serve close to half the population of the NWT. Throughout my time on council I have not seen a wasteful bureaucracy, but rather a very hard-working team of staff providing tangible services that support residents’ day-to-day lives—from ambulances to road repair to swimming lessons to library services to waste collection to celebrations/festivals; the list goes on. This is one of the many reasons I find it so rewarding to work with the city, it makes a real difference that people notice in their day-to-day lives.
Dane Mason, city council candidate
The environment the city operates in changes consistently, and so will city staff needs. The best way to deal with this is through only adding staff where it makes sense on a return on investment or social return on investment basis, and establishing hiring freezes on certain types of positions that become less relevant over time. Cross-training is a useful practice as well, in itself and as a way to ensure we can retain staff but reallocate their efforts to where the best gain is. Not up for laying anyone off.
One change I’d like to see is the creation of a new economic development division, instead of lumping it in with the communications function, where it is currently housed.
Rebecca Alty, mayoral candidate
To be able to answer this question we need something to base our decision on which is why I think that we need to develop service standard levels for city services. Once standards are established, the city can evaluate whether staff resources are being properly deployed to meet the standards. For example, if council deems that a service is a high priority to the community, then we’ll need to evaluate to make sure it’s sufficiently staffed. On the flip-side, if we identify an area as a lower priority, we need to evaluate whether we have over-staffed that area. If that’s the case, it’s an opportunity to re-allocate resources.
Chris Gillander, city council candidate
Although cutting staff may seem like the quick and easy way to save money in the budget, employing Yellowknifers benefits the whole economy in Yellowknife. Money flows through them as they spend within the community, benefiting our small business sector. Instead of cutting jobs, we should instead change any job descriptions that cause excessive overlap to better fit the needs of Yellowknifers.
Terry Testart, city council candidate
I believe that there has to be a review of staff numbers related to budget and adjust accordingly.
Josh Campbell, city council candidate
With the economy in troubled waters, the diamond mines nearing the last years of production, our capital city is in for tough times. We are facing an $11 million dollar shortage in funds from the GNWT. Until the territorial government and partners from MACA come to the table with some of those much needed funds, I would support a hiring freeze at City Hall. We need to minimize our spending, and get back to the basics: dogs, ditches and dumps.
Steve Payne, city council candidate
I don’t support increasing city staff. I would only support cutting positions if it were through employee attrition.