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Deliberations for Budget 2021 are underway and administration is proposing to eliminate the emergency management position that was recently vacated by Doug Gillard.

Between October 2018 and September 2020, Gillard had been moved into the newly-created position from his decades-long tenure as Municipal Enforcement Division (MED) manager.

The city has refused to comment on Gillard’s departure.

The proposed 2021 budget reveals that the responsibilities attached to the emergency management role – overseeing the emergency dispatch supervisor and six emergency dispatchers – are proposed to be re-added to the duties of the fire chief.

Budget 2021 shows the emergency management manager position eliminated and its responsibilities designated to the fire chief.
image sourced from the City of Yellowknife Draft Budget 2021

The city says the proposal is a cost-cutting measure due to financial pressures incurred from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Emergency preparedness/management remains a core function of municipal governments and this function continues to be managed within the public safety department,” stated Alison Harrower, spokesperson for the city in an email on Nov. 16. “The manager of emergency preparedness position is not included in Budget 2021. In the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19, administration is looking at ways to reduce the impact on taxes for residents, as was illustrated through the proposed tax increase presented earlier this month.”

Budget 2020, passed last year, shows the emergency management manager position overseeing an emergency dispatch supervisor and six emergency dispatchers.
image sourced from the City of Yellowknife Budget 2020

In a Sept. 17 email, Harrower had first confirmed that the emergency management manager position was vacant after NNSL Media pointed out that neither Gillard’s name nor the job title appeared in the staff directory.

She added that the emergency management manager position – “a core function” of municipal government – helps manage emergencies like forest fires, winter power outages and even pandemics.

“They also help us manage during unexpected scenarios like the Covid-19 pandemic,” Harrower stated.

Asked about the possible discrepancy of needing to manage Covid-19 while also cutting that “core position” due to costs involving the pandemic, Harrower said that cuts can be made while safety is prioritized.

While the city is looking at ways to reduce the impact on taxes for residents, the top priorities remain public and staff safety and continued essential service delivery, she stated.

“The city assures residents that the core function of emergency preparedness/management is and will continue to be managed within the public safety department,” said Harrower.

A council meeting was scheduled on Monday night to hear public feedback regarding the budget but no one showed up and the event was quickly adjourned.

Council will review the budget and enter deliberations starting Nov. 30.

The document is expected to be passed early next month.

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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