Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Legislative Reports

Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Legislative Reports

Article excerpt

Northwest Territories

The Fifth Session of the Thirteenth Legislative Assembly reconvened on January 21 for the start of the 1998-99 Budget Session.

In releasing what has been called the final budget for the Government of the Northwest Territories on January 22, Finance Minister John Todd spoke of opportunities, Division, a $2 million surplus, and forging a future filled with promise. "It (the budget) is both responsible and compassionate - striking the right balance between responding to needs and seizing opportunities," Mr. Todd told Members of the Legislative Assembly in his Budget Address.

He said the Government has worked hard to balance its budget and that he expects a small surplus from the 1997-98 fiscal year. That surplus will be used to bring down the accumulated deficit of $41 million (at the end of 1996-97).

In presenting the Government's blueprint for spending, Mr. Todd announced several new programs and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the two new territories created by Division on April 1, 1999 get off on a secure financial footing. One of the new initiatives announced in the budget is implementation of the Public-Private Partnerships program. This program has the potential to increase the Government's annual $140 million investment in public infrastructure by up to $100 million in each of the next two years.

Mr. Todd also announced the government's intention to apply an additional $40-$50 million over the next two years under the Accelerated Home Ownership Program Delivery to help address the North's housing shortage. He also announced plans to introduce the Northwest Territories Investment Tax Credit. This credit is intended to encourage the private sector to market shares of NWT businesses to northern taxpayers and encourage northern investors to purchase shares in up-and-coming northern businesses.

However, the budget did not just focus on developing and stabilizing the economy. It also put new dollars into social programs. Mr. Todd introduced the NWT Child Benefit aimed at putting more money into the hands of low income families.

The Government intends to enhance the Income Support Food Allowance by making $1 million available to adjust the rates paid for food allowances within the Income Support program. Mr. Todd reminded Members that Division is little more than a year away and said the budget "will create the foundation on which to build two viable, financially sound territories".

Within days of the budget's release, Members began their department by department review of the Main Estimates. The review is expected to continue through the end of February.

Prior to the Budget session, Members held a special one sitting on December 2, 1997 to discuss national unity and in particular the Report of the Special Committee on National Unity. The House unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Calgary Framework Agreement with special attention to Northern and aboriginal issues. The Special Committee on National Unity coordinated the process for consulting with Northerners that included questionnaires, constituency meetings, an interactive Web Site and electronic responses.

Committees spent much of November and the first part of December reviewing draft departmental budgets and business plans prior to their presentation in the Legislative Assembly as part of the 1998-99 Budget Address and Main Estimates review process. The Standing Committee on Government Operations also held public hearings on Bill 1: Power Corporation Act and Bill 2: An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act. Both Bills deal with plans for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation following division of the NWT. The Bills propose a corporation that is shared by the new Nunavut and Western Territory governments. Another round of hearings is planned before the Committee will be reporting back to the House.

Progress towards the creation of two new territories continues with many decisions left to be made. …

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