Nunavut budgets small $23M surplus for 2015-2016
'You can't please everybody. There are certain things I wish there was more of.'
The Nunavut government is forecasting a small surplus in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, its fourth in a row.
Finance Minister Keith Peterson tabled the $1.67-billion budget Wednesday afternoon at the legislative assembly. The budget predicts a $23-million surplus.
- 10 per cent funding increase to Department of Education
- 14 per cent increase to early childhood education
- 35 per cent increase in funding to Mental Health and Addiction services
- establishing a Youth Intervention and Diversion program for young offenders
- developing a new cultural industries strategy to replace the arts and crafts strategy
- 39 per cent increase for sport and recreation administration
Nunavut receives the bulk of its budget from federal transfers, but is predicting own-source revenues of $187 million this year. Peterson credited the territory's growing mining industry for growth in corporate and payroll taxes, and personal income taxes.
This is the fourth balanced budget from Peterson, but where past budgets seemed to be trying to get Nunavut's financial house in order, this one has a slight increase in spending.
The budget emphasized increases to education funding, including $15 million for school operations and teacher development. That includes 43 new positions for learning coaches at every school in the territory to help with literacy programs.
Peterson also announced Nunavut Arctic College will aim to become a degree-granting institution within three years.
The Department of Health will get an increase of $5 million for mental health and addictions programming, and $4 million for community health services.
Peterson told reporters the highlight for him in this budget is the appointment of an ethics officer, which will be announced later during this sitting and should be in place by April 1.
Joe Enook, MLA for Tununiq, said he's mostly satisfied with the budget and that the territorial government is doing the best it can with limited resources.
"You can't please everybody," he said. "There are certain things I wish there was more of. But there are other things I appreciate, especially in the field of health and training."
Enook said he wants to see the government continue to be guided by Sivumut Abluqta, a set of policy goals drawn up by MLAs last year. They include improving education, language skills and health care.