There’s mixed reaction to the N.W.T.’s proposed 2018-19 budget tabled Thursday in the legislative assembly.
While some people are pleased to see investments in things like mental health resources and education, others are wondering how the territorial government will raise declining revenues in the future.
“We have to develop new streams of revenue,” said Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green on Friday. “At this point, we are earning more from tobacco sales than mining, oil and gas royalties.”
Thursday’s proposed budget projects $1.749 billion in revenues in the next fiscal year, while spending $1.713 billion.
That leaves an operating surplus of $23 million — the lowest in seven years. After accounting for capital investments, the government is expected to be left with a cash surplus of just $2 million.
Green said the territorial government isn’t expecting the legalization of cannabis later this year, or carbon pricing, to bring a big boost to the N.W.T.’s finances.
“So we have to figure out how to increase our revenues through the resources we have now,” she said.
“So adding another tax bracket for personal tax, increasing corporate income tax, increasing royalty rates. We need to start that conversation.”
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly agrees.
For years, he’s been talking about the importance of economic diversification, and he says it’s time the government starts looking seriously at other ways it can make money, outside of mining.
“All you have to do is look at the budget address itself,” said O’Reilly. “There’s four paragraphs on mining and one paragraph on economic diversification. I think that shows that the sort of inherent emphasis or focus of our cabinet is largely to promote mining.”
O’Reilly said the slump in revenues this…