The Nunavut government is forecasting a tiny deficit of $3.9 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, after four years of surplus budgets.

Finance Minister Keith Peterson tabled the almost-balanced $1.54-billion budget today in the legislature.

"This is a steady as it goes budget," said Peterson.

"I'm recycling my shoes, just a little spit and polish," added Peterson stressing financial prudence in the budget with no major expenditures planned for any department or program.

The territory did come out ahead for the current 2015-16 fiscal year, registering a similarly minuscule surplus of about $16 million.

Overall, little has changed for Nunavut's finances. Revenues are expected to increase by less than one per cent. Overall spending will be within four per cent of last year's total.

Budget highlights include:

  • 1.4 per cent funding increase for the Department of Education 
  • 11 per cent funding increase to the Department of Family Services 
  • 6.3 per cent funding increase to the Department of Health
  • 2.5 per cent increase to the Department of Community and Government Services
  • 4.2 per cent increase in funding to the Department of Justice

Nunavut in the red due to shortfall from federal transfers

About 90 per cent of revenues will come from the federal government, a slightly higher percentage than previously.

The territory says that will total $1.489 billion. That is still $8 million less than Nunavut's Finance Department had expected when it first drafted the budget.

In December the federal government announced that federal transfers to the territories would be cut by $91 million for the 2016/2017 fiscal year. Last week, the government announced it was restoring most of those cuts.

"$8 million short is better than $35 million short," said Peterson, referring to the fact there was the possibility Nunavut would get even less in federal money due to the incorporation of Statistics Canada economic data.

"Through prudent management, we should come back to black by the end of the fiscal year," said Chris D'Arcy, deputy finance minister. 

with files from Canadian Press