GLOs will improve the Nunavut government from the ground up
“The GLOs will have a close and lasting relationship with the public”
Premier of Nunavut
Nunavummiut were hanging up the phone in frustration, unable to access services from their government. This was one of the strongest messages recorded in Qanukkanniq — the report card delivered by the public on the performance of the Government of Nunavut.
Clearly, small repairs to the existing model of serving communities will not suffice. The public has told us that the current system is broken.
Our government is taking steps to improve services in all official languages, to build a better website and to create a central telephone information desk.
But we must go much further and bring the government closer to the people that it is here to serve. Nunavut was created to give Nunavummiut a stronger relationship with government and more of a say in how its operations are conducted.
Qanukkanniq included a recommendation to re-establish a Government Liaison Officer position in every community. Ultimately, the Government of Nunavut’s Vision for 2030 focuses on high quality of life, self-reliance, and health.
Working together with all Nunavummiut, our government will provide more options for housing and greater opportunities for education and training. In order to achieve those goals, over the coming year we must improve our internal systems and our communications.
For that reason, the Government Liaison Officer positions have become one of the Government of Nunavut’s top priorities in 2010-11 and we are moving quickly towards its implementation.
In the first phase of this initiative, we will be hiring 14 Government Liaison Officers, each working in a community where there are no decentralized government offices. We are starting with these communities as they are the most disconnected from government and have the least access to services.
Each community will gain a new bilingual Government of Nunavut employee who will help them access the information and services they need from a number of different departments and agencies. In some cases, these employees will be able to deliver basic services right in the community.
Government Liaison Officers will also gather feedback from the public on how government is doing and provide valuable input on how we could do better in serving Nunavummiut. These individuals will allow us to continue the active dialogue we started with Nunavummiut through Qanukkanniq.
The public expects and deserves a high level of service and professionalism when dealing with their government. For this reason, it is essential that these community-based positions be Government of Nunavut employees.
There are currently liaison officers working for Inuit organizations and municipalities in many communities. These positions will continue to have an important role, but they do not have the familiarity with the array of Government of Nunavut departments and agencies to be able to deliver our services effectively.
Members of the Legislative Assembly also have constituency assistants in each community but these individuals play a political role. They are there to advise the MLA’s they work for. They come and go with each election. It is not appropriate for them to be involved with the delivery of government services that depend on continuity.
The Government Liaison Officers will have a close and lasting relationship with the public and with the public service.
As public servants, Government Liaison Officers will have quick access to information from various departments. The Government will also be able to mobilize this network of employees so that information reaches all 25 communities more quickly.
These changes come at a time when Nunavut faces a number of challenges. Looking at all of the priorities facing the government, we have concluded that this investment cannot wait. We are determined that it will take place in a way that will maximize the benefits to communities, while minimizing the cost to government.
To avoid duplicating efforts, the Government of Nunavut has started gathering information on what services are already being delivered by other government and municipal employees in each community.
We will be working with hamlets and other agencies to develop a customized job description for each Government Liaison Officer so they can complement the efforts of employees who are already in place.
Qanukkanniq was meant to open a new dialogue between the government and the people of Nunavut. It has continued over the last several months during which time I have met with mayors and representatives of communities.
Recently, I completed a tour of the Kitikmeot region where we held public meetings to hear what communities had to say. One message resounded: “bring back the GLOs now.”
On this issue, the public spoke clearly in a loud voice. All Nunavummiut expect effective services and – at a very minimum – someone to take our calls and answer our questions to the best of their abilities.
We are all aware of the unique challenges that Nunavut faces as a territory within Canada. It takes time to set up effective programs and services, especially in small communities that are separated by such vast distances. In building our capacity, we must ensure that we do not leave any communities behind.
Let us remember that the dream of Nunavut, at its essence, was about building a new government that is closer to the people it serves and reflects our values and priorities. Bringing back the Government Liaison Officer position to every community in Nunavut will help to ensure that happens.