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Yellowknifer editorial: GNWT's mass return to workplaces good omen


The issue: GNWT returns to workplace

We say: welcome news

The out-sized role employees of the GNWT play in the territory's economy was revealed in economic statistics recently released by the federal government.

The report noted that though the territory's GDP is expected to shrink in 2020, it will only contract by about 3.3 per cent, well below the eight-plus per cent drop the Conference Board of Canada expects for the entire nation.Editorial

That's because while every business that comes to mind, excluding essential services, was shut down, losing most or all of their income, laying off most or all of their employees and putting off most or all of their planned spending, the employees of the GNWT continued to receive pay cheques and continued to spend them.

It's also been inferred that because residents would be forced to self-isolate for two weeks if they left the territory, a significant number are instead spending what would have ended up in more southern destinations right here in the NWT.

It will never make up for the more than $203 million the 112,000-plus visitors to the NWT spent in 2017-18. But it's also a plainly visible silver lining around the pandemic cloud we're all still living under.

There are surely some introverts who prefer being able to work from home, and definitely others who got used to the idea of being productive in their pyjamas, but it's a reasonable assumption that most of them are looking forward to a little more normalcy in their lives.

In an open letter to GNWT staff, finance minister Caroline Wawzonek indicated six in 10 GNWT employees are already back at their work site, and that the remaining 40 per cent work in places where it's more complicated to comply with public health orders. Managers will be submitting applications to the chief public health officer and Wawzonek said she expects most employees, excluding some with personal or health issues that would prevent them from returning, to be back at their stations within six weeks.

Being temporarily put out of business and losing jobs, along with not being able to get a haircut for weeks and being prevented from dining in at our favourite restaurants, demonstrates the range of damage caused by Covid-19. But the pandemic has shown again the critical role the GNWT and  its workforce play in our everyday lives.

With the economic damage the pandemic caused ongoing, the territory, the nation and the world still remain very far removed from a complete reckoning of its impact. But good omens have been falling into place since infection rates have dropped and public health orders have been rescinded across Canada. Most of Ontario, which with Quebec has hosted the majority of Canadian infections and deaths, is preparing to enter phase three of their recovery (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Dr. Kandola).

The remobilization of the largest workforce in the territory can join the ranks of these good news headlines as the GNWT resumes a range of critical functions and a whole bunch of normal returns to their and our lives.