North

MLA calls for budgeting transparency after $125M for infrastructure projects goes unspent

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, is calling for more transparency around infrastructure budgeting and spending after the territory didn't use $125 million in 2021-22.

Rylund Johnson said the public should know what projects are being affected by a budget lapse

Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson in the Legislative Assembly Nov. 23. In June, Johnson called out the territorial government for not spending $125 million in funding for infrastructure projects, and not notifying the public which projects are being affected. (Travis Burke/CBC)

A Yellowknife MLA is calling for more transparency in the territorial government's infrastructure budgeting after $125 million was not used in 2021-22. 

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, brought the subject up in the Legislative Assembly on June 3. 

"Yesterday in this House, the government let $125 million in infrastructure spending lapse, and they didn't think it was important to tell the public which projects they are letting lapse," he said. 

A lapse is when an organization or department needs to return any unspent funds to whatever entity gave it to them. 

Matthew Mallon, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, wrote in an email that $106 million of approved funding in 2021-22 that was unspent has been redirected to future fiscal periods — 2023-24 and beyond — therefore it did not lapse. 

However, $13 million did lapse as it was for projects that did not meet the criteria to be carried over. A further $6 million connected to projects that were completed under budget was also returned. 

No details were provided on which projects were missing out on the funding. 

"Perhaps there is a very important infrastructure project in your community that you were previously told was going ahead, has now disappeared off the books and there is no public record of what those projects are," Johnson said in the Legislature. 

Johnson questioned Dianne Archie, minister of Infrastructure, on the subject of transparency. 

Archie said the reason the territory doesn't publicly announce the construction costs of certain projects is because it can affect the procurement and could result in higher costs to the government. 

The territorial government has eight upcoming infrastructure projects listed on its website. 

  • Mackenzie Valley Highway Project, which has an estimated cost of $700 million.
  • Slave Geological Province Corridor Project, which has an estimated cost of $1.1 billion.
  • Taltson Hydroelectricity Expansion Project, which doesn't have an estimated cost, but an information sheet states the N.W.T. government has secured around $20 million.
  • Prohibition Creek Access Road Project, which has an estimated cost of $20 million. 
  • Mount Gaudet Access Road Project, no estimated total cost has been released.
  • Great Bear River Bridge Project, which has an estimated cost of about $140 million. 
  • Oscar Creek Bridge Relocation Project, no estimated total cost has been released. 
  • Frank Channel Bridge Replacement Project, no cost estimated has been released.

The Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport Improvement Project is the only infrastructure project that is currently being worked on. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke Carroll

Reporter

Luke Carroll is a journalist with CBC News in Yellowknife who has previously worked in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Luke is originally from Brockville, Ont., and moved to Yellowknife in May 2020. He can be reached at luke.carroll@cbc.ca.

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