N.W.T. wants flexibility with devolution royalties

MLAs are questioning how the Northwest Territories plans to spend $70 million in annual resource royalties after devolution.

Government wants resource royalties spent on infrastructure and paying debt

MLAs are questioning how the Northwest Territories plans to spend annual resource royalties after devolution.

The territory will receive approximately $70 million a year in royalties.

The Department of Finance is holding consultations across the N.W.T. 

Last June, regular MLAs passed a motion spelling out how they wanted to see the royalties spent. 

They asked for the royalties to be divided in quarters: on infrastructure, paying down debt, future big ticket items and the heritage fund — a savings fund for future governments. 

The current government says it will spend the money on those items, but that's not how it will be divided.

In a document tabled in the legislative assembly, the government says it needs more flexibility. It wants to pay down debt and deal with billions of dollars worth of infrastructure needs in the territory. 

MLA Wendy Bisaro says saving 25 per cent is a better long-term investment.

"Lofty as that goal is, does any government ever attain those two objectives? I doubt it, " said Wendy Bisaro, MLA for Frame Lake.

The government's plan is to put 5 per cent into the heritage fund until those priorities are dealt with. Bisaro says saving 25 per cent is a better long-term investment.

"It should be so stated in legislation, not in regulations, which are easily changed by government without any discussion with or input from the public."

A report on where residents think the money should go is expected this winter.

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