Nunavut Finance Minister tables balanced $1.9B budget

Nunavut's finance minister used his budget speech to ask the federal government for more money to fund infrastructure projects.

Final Operations and Maintenance budget before territorial election

Nunavut Finance Minister Keith Peterson delivered his 2017-2018 budget address today in the legislature. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

Nunavut's finance minister used his budget speech to ask the federal government for more money to fund infrastructure projects.

The Nunavut government is forecasting a balanced $1.9 billion budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, with a planned surplus of around $2 million.

About 90 per cent of funding for the budget comes from federal government transfers. The Territorial Financing Formula will provide Nunavut with over $1.5 billion for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

"We will find our own way. But we are not there today. Our economy is not yet large enough to support the range of public services Nunavummiut deserve," Peterson said in the address.

He said Ottawa should fund transportation projects in the Arctic to unlock Nunavut's ability to develop its resources and support itself.

Peterson's budget address called for federal support of the Grays Bay road and port project, that would link to a proposed all-season road from Yellowknife to N.W.T.'s diamond mines, and a road from Churchill, Man., to Arviat, Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet.

Considering the reduction of Canada Health Transfers, Peterson said he is "happy" to present a balanced budget.

Last year, the government tabled its first budget with a projected deficit after four years of surplus budgets. The projected deficit was $3.9 million and as that year comes to a close on March 31 that deficit is expected to be closer to $11 million.

The budget outlines the government's spending priorities for fiscal year 2017-2018. It's the last operations and maintenance budget before the territorial election in October.

New money to Health, Education

The Department of Health will receive $353 million, which is an increase of $12 million over last year. Of that $12 million in new money, $6.6 million will go to permanently funding the Quality of Life Secretariat, which will operate mobile trauma response units, support community and wellness organizations, the Embrace Life Council and help fund a 24-hour crisis hotline; and $2.5 million will go to expanding mental health offerings in communities.

Nearly $3 million in new funding will go to Nunavut Arctic College to fund its social worker and early childhood education programs, with $1.6 million of the $3 million earmarked for a new law program partnership with the University of Saskatchewan.

In addition, the budget has allocated $850,000 in new money to improve support services accommodating students with special needs in public classrooms.

Other budget highlights include:

  • $1.8 million for nine new RCMP constable positions. Cape Dorset, Pangnirtung, Baker Lake, Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Gjoa Haven will get one additional constable each, while Iqaluit will see three new positions.
  • $2.5 million in one-time only funding to deal with a backlog of requests from communities to build more access roads and improve dust control.
  • $1.6 million in new investments in public health nursing and a nursing mentorship program

with files from Sara Frizzell and Canadian Press