Record spending in Yukon budget, Fentie tells business crowd

Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie says he will table a $1-billion budget Thursday that will include record spending and a surplus for the seventh year in a row.

Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie says he will table an unprecedented $1-billion budget Thursday that will include record spending and a surplus for the seventh year in a row.

Fentie, who is also the territory's finance minister, revealed some of his budget plans Wednesday to members of Whitehorse's business community at a luncheon sponsored by the Whitehorse and Yukon chambers of commerce.

"For the fiscal year 2009-2010, this government will be tabling a budget of one billion, three million dollars," Fentie said in his speech.

"And it's important to note we will enjoy our seventh consecutive year-end surplus," he added.

'Strategic investments' to stimulate economy

Fentie said there are six main spending targets in the budget: infrastructure, marketing, economic diversification, people and communities, health and social programs, and the environment.

About $56 million will be spent on bridge and highway work. Fentie said the government will also begin a $160-million project to expand the Mayo hydroelectricity plant and link it to the Whitehorse-Aishihik power grid.

"This budget is responsive to the current economic situation by making strategic investments that accomplish two things," Fentie told the luncheon crowd.

"First, in the short term, these targeted investments create local employment and provide spinoff benefits to local retailers, suppliers and many others here in the territory. And second, for the longer term, these investments support our plan to grow, develop and diversify the Yukon economy."

Businessman predicts huge stimulus effect

"It's a huge increase per capita, in real dollar terms, to the Yukon, and clearly the stimulus effect will be and should be quite remarkable by comparison," said Piers McDonald, a Whitehorse businessman and former premier.

"As long as they're well targeted, strategically spent, then [it's] good for all of us," he said.

McDonald added that more spending on the Yukon's communications infrastructure is a smart move that will be essential to the territory's future.

He said he also hopes the Yukon's tourism marketing will pay off this year, as it could be a slow tourism season otherwise.

In the weeks leading up to budget day, Fentie's government has made a number of pre-spending announcements on projects from road work in Dawson City to the building of a new jail and women's correctional centre.