POLITICS

N.W.T. budget calls for $74M surplus

05/24/2012 08:23 EDT | Updated 07/24/2012 05:12 EDT

The N.W.T. is forecasting its first surplus in five years in its 2012-2013 budget, Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger announced in the legislative assembly this afternoon.

The budget forecasts a surplus of $74 million after four years of deficits, as part of a two-year strategy to replenish coffers for future infrastructure spending in years three and four of the government’s mandate.

“Our watchword is going to be ‘fiscal discipline,’” Miltenberger told reporters prior to the address.

The budget also forecasts the GNWT’s debt will reach $656 million by March 31, 2013.

It calls for operating expenditures of $1.411 billion, an increase of $51 million (3.7 per cent) over last year. Revenues are forecast to increase to $1.524 billion, an increase of $132 million (9.5 per cent) over 2011-2012.

Highlights of the 2012-2013 budget include:

- $2.9 million for housing programs, including $1 million for improving public housing rent scales, and $1.2 million for a new rent supplement for private rentals. This money is aimed at helping people transition from public housing, by subsidizing full market rents by an average of $500.

- $15.6 million to offset the impact of Northwest Territories Power Corporation upcoming rate increases.

- $100,000 to help residents of Inuvik install wood pellet stoves and boilers and another $100,000 to exploring medium and long-term solutions to the natural gas shortage in the community.

- $1 million for developing a mineral development strategy and an economic development strategy

- $1 million to complete the required planning for the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway

- $9.3 million for negotiating and implementing a final devolution agreement, which includes $2 million for negotiating a devolution and resource revenue sharing agreement, $6.1 million for the costs of initial transition and implementation, and $1.3 million to engage aboriginal governments and fund their participation. The government hopes to have the devolution and resource revenue sharing agreements completed by the end of 2012 and implemented over the following 18 months.