N.W.T. MLAs vow to stick together and vote against budget
'We remain united,' says Kieron Testart, MLA for Kam Lake
Regular MLAs are standing their ground and pledging to vote against cabinet's proposed budget despite new funding for junior kindergarten, community employment support, and seniors' living — all key items for which regular MLAs were fighting.
Kieron Testart, MLA for Kam Lake and deputy chair of the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning — which consists of all 11 regular MLAs — said the new funding doesn't go far enough.
"These are partial commitments towards what we are looking for," Testart said.
"Nothing has changed since yesterday. This is not new information to us."
On Tuesday, the committee held a news conference to outline their concerns with the upcoming budget.
"We remain united and we remain opposed to a budget that is more focused on debt management than growth," Testart said.
Testart said the committee wanted $5 million of additional funding for programs like community employment support, not just the $3 million earmarked in the budget.
There is also concern among the coalition of regular MLAs that cabinet's pledge to fund junior kindergarten will not cover the full bill.
Regular MLAs outnumber cabinet, and would need at least 10 votes to successfully vote down the budget. MLAs can either vote on the budget as a whole, or by department.
But if cabinet can get support from three of the 11 regular MLAs, the budget could pass as is.
"I am going to vote with [the committee]," said Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre.
"We committed to support one another to get the things we need in the budget, not only for Yellowknife, but for the smaller community members as well."
The same goes for Shane Thompson, MLA for Nahendeh.
"I still cannot support the budget in the direction that we are going," Thompson said.
"We are trying to work with the government to make amendments so we can make good choices at the end of the day for our residents."
Michael Nadli, MLA for Dehcho, also confirmed he would vote against the budget as proposed.
Herbert Nakimayak, MLA for Nunakput, and Frederick Blake Jr., MLA for Mackenzie Delta, were both absent from the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning news conference on Tuesday. At the time, Testart said the committee was confident it had unanimous support from all regular MLAs.
CBC News requested comment from both Nakimayak and Blake Jr. directly after the finance minister's budget speech on Wednesday, but no interviews were granted.
Daniel McNeely, MLA for Sahtu, said he needs to closely review the proposed budget documents before stating publicly if he is still against it.
MLAs will have six weeks to debate the numbers and make amendments.