Some N.W.T. residents leasing Commissioner's land and territorial land could see their annual rental fee go up by 40 per cent if the 2017-18 territorial budget is approved as is.
On Thursday in the legislative assembly, Lands Minister Louis Sebert said his department wants to increase the minimum rental fees for both Commissioner's land and territorial land to $840, up 40 per cent from the department's currently stated minimum of $600. (Lease amounts are otherwise calculated as 10 per cent of a property's assessed value.)
Regular MLAs oppose what they see as a "sticker shock" for leaseholders and want the government to instead phase in the increase over three years.
"I am totally against increases because they are too high as it is," said Tom Beaulieu, the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh of the fees, adding that for some residents in small communities, the fee already amounts to "two to four months' salary."
Why the increase?
Sebert says the government wants the minimum rental price for Commissioner's Land (land the territory already controlled before devolution) to be the same as the minimum for territorial land (land the N.W.T. government inherited from the federal government after devolution).
Between the two categories, there are currently 48 different minimum amounts.
"The department is attempting to rationalize the leasing procedures so that the amounts of lease payments on both Commissioner's lands and territorial lands will be the same," said Sebert.
The territorial government also wants to catch up with inflation.
"My understanding is that these rates haven't changed or altered in any way for 20 or 30 years perhaps, so to some degree we are just catching up with inflation and we feel that this was a rational compromise in many ways," said Sebert.
"We acknowledge that it could create difficulties for certain individuals, but we suggest that perhaps those individuals could look to other sources for income."
Seniors in the territory receive a 50-per-cent discount on their land leases.