More than two-thirds of the $86 million budget for the new Covid-19 Coordinating Secretariat will go towards staff compensation and isolation centre costs.

Wages and benefits for the 150-employee Secretariat will come to $36.1 million for the 2020-2023 period of the new organization, according to figures provided by Department of Finance spokesperson Todd Sasaki on Tuesday.

Premier Caroline Cochrane announced on Sept. 3 the formation of the secretariat, aimed at centralizing the NWT’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

RELATED REPORTING: GNWT plans 150-employee Covid-19 Secretariat to centralize pandemic response

The $86-million budget for the Covid-19 Coordinating Secretariat covers a period from 2020-2023.
GNWT data

Isolation centre costs are the second highest expense in the budget at $35.8 million over three years.

Other expenses in the budget include: $3.1 million for border compliance, $2.5 million for office space, $2 million for logistics, $1.9 million for compliance and enforcement, $1.3 million for personal protective equipment, nearly $1 million for ProtectNWT and $689,000 for the NWT 8-1-1 health call line.

The highest expense period for the compliance and enforcement costs is slated for 2020-2021, which over a period of eight months, due to one-time start-up costs such as computers, cellphones, safety equipment, and vehicle expenditures, said Sasaki.

Office space expenses are similarly highest in the initial period, at $1,762,000 and are less for the following periods because of “initial fit-up costs” such as furniture and equipment as well as minor upgrades.

Almost half of the total budget – $40.5 million – is slated for 2021-2022 due to that being a full year, with the 2020-2021 budget coming to $31.7 million and the 2022-2023 expenditures at approximately $14 million.

Federal funds will cover some of the costs of the secretartiat, including $23.4 million in phase one Covid-19 funding.

“The GNWT continues to finalize funding through the Safe Restart Agreement and, along with the Government of Nunavut and Yukon Government, continues to negotiate with the federal government for a second Northern bundle of funding to specifically support the territories,” Sasaki said.

The funding for 2020-21 will be included in the supplementary appropriation in October, to be voted on by MLAs after members return to the legislative assembly on Oct. 15.

Jobs to be posted

All of the 150 positions in the secretariat are new, Sasaki said, and some have already been established and filled.

When the pandemic arrived in the NWT in March, the government temporarily redeployed some employees to ensure services related to containing Covid were ongoing.

“While some redeployment assignments are still in place, the GNWT will look to formally staff positions. This will ensure consistent and reliable skill-sets are obtained for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Redeployed staff might be given an opportunity to transition to the secretariat but wouldn’t have to stay with the new agency and could return to their original positions.

The new jobs and their compensation packages will be posted on the GNWT Department of Finance website in the coming weeks and into October, with start dates varying according to the timelines for the job competitions.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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