Question re: Deputy minister staffing - April 26, 2016

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. In the last 18 months, there have been an unprecedented number of deputy ministers leaving this government for a variety of reasons. Two more were added to the list just weeks before this Sitting began. That brings the total number to at least 10 who have left since 2014. Some have quit, some have been fired and some have retired. This turnover comes with a cost to the taxpayer.

How much money has been paid out to cover severance packages for the 10 deputy ministers who have left this government since July 2014?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: When it comes to matters of human resource and those types of issues we don’t usually comment and provide the information that members are talking about. When it comes to severance packages and the amount that employees get upon leaving employment with the Yukon government, that’s not typically disclosed and we don’t comment on human resource matters as such.

Mr. Silver: They don’t comment, but they should. When the Premier hires deputy ministers and then fires them, there’s a cost to the taxpayer — hundreds of thousands of dollars each time that this happens. It is very unfortunate that this government keeps having to do this and it is even worse when it refuses to tell the public what this major turnover at the highest level of public service is costing the taxpayers.

In April of last year, the Premier shuffled deputy ministers and announced, “These appointments are an opportunity to fine-tune the senior management team to help us fulfill the mandate of the government over the next 18 months.” He says that we’re all done moving people around and that should provide some stability moving forward. Unfortunately, this has not been the case and the revolving door continues to spin. It doesn’t inspire much confidence in the leader of the government when there’s turnover at a senior level of staff.

Why has this government been unable to keep senior staff in place and why is it so eager to fire its deputy ministers?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: As all of those in the public service know, deputy ministers serve at the privilege of the Premier and from time to time they come and go as needed. That’s a part of the position and it’s well-understood by deputy ministers.

With regard to the compensation or the severance packages that any public servant receives upon leaving employ with the Yukoner Government, it’s not a matter we disclose and that’s something we decided and been consistent with over the years. That’s the same practice as was taken by the previous Liberal government. The same practices were taken by the previous NDP governments and is consistent around the country. We don’t comment on human resource issues as such.

Mr. Silver: I respectfully disagree with the last statement. It’s not necessarily the number one practice across the country. There have been at least 10 deputies depart in the last 18 months; most others have remained and changed departments. In January of last year, the Premier was forced to shuffle his Cabinet to address problems there and had to fire his chief of staff as well. Since then the deputy chief of staff has also quit. There has been a tremendous amount of turnover that has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — if not millions of dollars — in severance packages. It all adds up to a lack of leadership. Last spring, the Premier said the fine-tuning was completed, but there have been two major shuffles since then.

Can the Premier tell Yukoners  how many of the last 10 deputies who left the government in the last 18 months have at least received a severance package? Can we at least get that information?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to human resources issues in the Yukon government, we don’t comment on those types of matters. That is consistent with any branch or any department of government — whether it’s deputy ministers, ADMs or any other employee of government. We don’t disclose those types of information. That has been the policy we have had over the last 14 or so years and of course that is consistent with the previous policies of both Liberal and NDP governments. That is the way it has been for a number of years, Mr. Speaker, and that’s the way it is today. We won’t be commenting on those types of issues in the Legislature or outside of the Legislature, and that’s just the way it is.