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Vacant regional director position in Inuvik on GNWT’s radar: premier

Inuvik-Boot Lake MLA Denny Rodgers is wondering why the Beaufort Delta regional director position in Inuvik has been vacant since summer of 2020. Screenshot courtesy GNWT

Inuvik-Boot Lake MLA Denny Rodgers has a burning question he wants answered. Where’s the regional director?

He raised the issue on the first day of the legislative assembly sitting on Feb. 6, questioning why the Beaufort Delta position has been vacant since summer of 2020.

“This government can only be successful when elected politicians are available to the people we serve,” he said in his member’s statement. “This means we must be present in the community. It means we must listen to the concerns that our communities raise. This means we must act at all times with the best interests of our communities in mind. The people elected us and to the people we must be accountable.

“The same can be said for our senior government staff. Residents need appropriately staffed regional offices where issues can be brought forward and addressed. It is not enough to have willing politicians — the staff must be present in the community. The regional director position in Inuvik has been vacant since the summer of 2020. This position was designed to ensure the government was accountable to the people, the businesses and the communities of the Beaufort Delta.

“The regional director position served a key function. They were a liaison for all government departments and a crucial linchpin between the GNWT and Indigenous governments. The regional director was able to ensure that local Indigenous leadership and Indigenous senior staff had a community member to go to in order to exchange ideas and take action to address important issues that affect us all.”

Rodgers added that the Beaufort Delta is the farthest centre from the NWT capital and has unique needs. He said he’s heard many concerns over the years of government staff positions migrating to Yellowknife and he called on the 20th assembly to reverse the trend.

During question period, Rodgers asked Premier R.J. Simpson why the position hasn’t been filled in nearly four years.

Simpson said it was a previous government decision that he was not privy to, but expressed that he’s supportive of moving government jobs to regional offices.

“As Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, I know I put a lot of jobs in Inuvik so, yes, I’m a big supporter of positions in communities and in the regions,” the premier said, noting he’s also heard Inuvik Twin-Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler raise the same issue.

“It is definitely on my radar and something that I have initiated discussions with the department about,” said Simpson.

When Rodgers pressed for a timeline or a commitment to examine senior leadership positions in the region overall, Simpson declined, noting the assembly had yet to set its priorities for the 20th Legislative Assembly.

Until then, he said he didn’t want to task staff with too much work.

“Once we get those priorities in, then we’re going to have the opportunity to do that work and we will be looking at positions all across the North — funded positions, unfunded positions, vacant positions, filled positions,” Simpson said. “We really want a good overview of the positions that we have and how they’re working and how they’re supporting the regions.”