The N.W.T. government wants to attract 2,000 more residents over the next five years, to help grow the territory's economy, says the finance minister.

It's one of the highlights of the N.W.T.'s 2014-2015 budget, unveiled this afternoon in Yellowknife.

The population of the N.W.T. has stagnated, with census numbers showing no increase between 2006 and 2011. In 2013, the N.W.T. population estimate showed a loss of 83 people, and a total population of 43,537.

The federal government contributes nearly 75 per cent of the N.W.T.'s operating budget. Transfer payments from the federal government follow the Territorial Financing Formula, with the amount the territory receives dependent on its population — $30,000 per capita.

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger says a committee has been formed to look at ways to increase the population, including addressing factors such as lack of housing that affect the government's ability to fill vacancies in smaller communities, encouraging Northern students to return after they finish post-secondary education, addressing the issue of fly-in/fly-out workers and improving the immigrant nominee program.  

YELLOWKNIFE

N.W.T. Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger is expected to deliver the budget address at about 1:30 p.m. today. (CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody) (Canadian Press)

The budget forecasts $1.6 billion in spending and an anticipated $200 million surplus. 

It's the territory's first budget that accounts for the new money coming in after devolution.  

This year there's approximately $26 million to cover transition costs and $67 million to cover the new responsibilities over land, water and resources.

About $27 million is allocated for the new Department of Lands, which will administrate the new powers over lands and resources being delegated to the territory by the federal government. Money is also being allocated to the departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Industry, Tourism and Investment to handle new responsibilities under devolution.

The new Department of Lands will create 144 new jobs, 93 of them in Yellowknife. About 87 more jobs will be created in ENR and ITI.

Resource revenues are expected to be about $60 million next year, but that money won't be coming in until the end of 2015, at the earliest.

Up to a quarter of it will go to aboriginal governments that signed the devolution deal. The rest will go to paying down the debt, infrastructure and a heritage fund.

Some budget highlights:

  • $1.8M reallocated to expanding junior kindergarten programs to all communities
  • $305,000 for the establishment of a wellness court – a diversion process for clients in justice system with mental health, addictions, and cognitive impairments
  • $515,000 to continue expansion of midwifery program including two full-time midwives for Hay River
  • $22.6M over 3 years to add 169 housing units in smaller NWT communities
  • $1.4M for plan and design of a transmission line linking Whati to Snare hydro

CBC North's Elizabeth McMillan will be live-tweeting the budget address from the legislative assembly at 1:30 p.m.