Thursday, May 13, 2010


I honestly would have thought we'd be hard pressed to find a bigger story in Nunavut this month than the mismanagement of a housing fund that lead to a $60 million cost overrun, but that just goes to show what I know. I don't know if it's as big, but it's certainly as interesting.

So, for those of you outside the territory, an abbreviated time line. Last week Nunatsiaq News does a series of highly critical stories regarding the conditions at the Baffin Correctional Centre. I'd advise reading the stories, as they're pretty interesting, but to sum up, it's badly over crowded and in not great shape.

Then, things get weird this week when CBC breaks the story that Nunavut's fire marshal has been fired. He claims in stories with the CBC, Nunatsiaq and the Globe and Mail that his employment was terminated because last Friday he went to the RCMP to express his concerns about the state of the BCC. He claims that did not make certain people in senior management happy.

Add to all of this, and all of this drama happened during the last few days of his one-year probationary period with the GN. A little longer and, in theory, he would have been past his probationary period. It would have made it more difficult for them to terminate him. Plus, they would have had to give him severance pay. But as he was still in probation stage, they can, and did, cut him loose.

Believe it or not, I am not going to get into whether or not the GN was right to do this and the ethics involved with firing a fire marshal for pointing out problems. I think there will be plenty of people eager to do that. Instead, there's something about this story that bugs me a bit. And it's this - why did Tony Noakes, the fire marshal, go to the police mere days before the end of his probation period and take an action that he surely must have known would have severe repercussions?

That's what doesn't make sense to me. He knew about the problems at BCC for months. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if his predecessor left a note for him reading "You really should go and take a look at the BCC" waiting for him when he arrived on his first day. He could have acted months earlier, if he wanted.

Or, conversely, he could have waited another few weeks or months. Yes, there was the risk the BCC could burn down, but that risk has obviously been there for quite some time. He waits another few weeks, he's no longer on probation. It makes it that much harder for the GN to dismiss him. Plus, if they do, there's compensation they have to deal with.

So this is my theory - and I admittedly have no proof at all of this, it just feels right - that he knew last week he was dead at that job. It could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps he had just clashed with senior management one too many times over safety and other issues. Perhaps he wasn't actually very good at his job. I suspect we'll never get to the truth on that one, although I lean more one way on that theory than the other.

But after months of knowing what the problem is, and days after Nunatsiaq runs those stories on the prison, and days before the end of of his one year probation period/contract he walks over to the RCMP to tell them to investigate knowing what the likely consequences are? No, I think he knew he was done.

And whether that last act was one of conscence, spite or thinking that being fired for revealing fire safety violations looks better than not having your contract renewed for not getting along with your bosses is, again, something we'll never know.

But it just smells weird. I'm open to other theories. Perhaps it doesn't actually matter why he did it, just that he did it and helped shed light on a problem. And it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

But yeah, I think he was done and knew it. What about the rest of you?

Last Five
1. Southtown girls - The Hold Steady*
2. Asshole - Rilo Kiley
3. Vienna - The Fray
4. Rebel rebel - David Bowie
5. Love and some verses - Iron and Wine


Anonymous said...

I heard the story on AIH this evening. I quite agree with you in the fact that something does not smell right. I hope buddy finds work soon. Paul

Anonymous said...

I think a large part of this is the large number of buildings that fail their fire inspections in the territory but never can be closed.

The schools, nursing stations, airports, garages, stores, hamlet buildings, hotels, pretty much anything built before 2007, I cannot think of one that has ever got a clean report.

It would be very frustrating to have a job where what you are supposed to do and what actually can be done are so far apart.

Jason in Igloolik

Ron said...

In his interview on the Iqaluit morning Show he said that he suspected this was coming.

In general terms a letter of dismissal even at the end of a probation period is not an easy thing to get under standard HR procedure. Normally there would be regular meetings and performance appraisals furing the probation period so the employee has a fair idea of how they are performing. Normally at least a month before the end of the probation the employee would be given a final evaluation and then probably have their probation extended with specific direction to "shape up". This would include further direction for training and meetings and an explicit statement that failure would result in dismissal. If that isn't done more than a month ahead of the last day of probation you are stuck with the guy and have to start going through the normal channels of the discipline process.

So he could certainly have seen this coming if the employer followed normal HR policies.

Morena said...

Apparently he had been trying to deal with this internally for quite a while and finally decided to take to the RCMP. Going to the cops isn't the normal 'First Step' in this type of thing.