Territorial finance minister Robert C. McLeod will unveil his first budget in the NWT legislature Wednesday afternoon.
The territory’s gloomy economic outlook will likely dominate discussion in the chamber over the next five weeks.
Members will review and debate the 2016/2017 budget in much greater detail and raise any potential concerns they may have until the session comes to a close on June 29.
Just last week, 58 people working for the Government of the Northwest Territories were informed their jobs could be in jeopardy in the near future.
Questions surrounding any additional program cuts or department mergers are also expected to be answered in the coming days.
“During this sitting, we will have to decide what we can afford to spend and what we should spend it on,” Premier Bob McLeod told MLAs as he welcomed them to their spring sitting Tuesday.
“We will have to consider the current fiscal situation and the future prospects for economic growth when our revenue sources are limited and our economy is still in poorer shape than it was before the 2008 global recession.
“While this is serious, it is not cause for alarm. It is the kind of situation governments face all the time and simply requires us to make prudent, responsible decisions.
“This is not austerity … this is simply what responsible governments do to make sure they can continue to afford the programs and services the public needs by trimming and redirecting spending to keep it in line with revenues.”
In February, senior finance officials announced the government is projecting marginal surpluses for the next three years followed by consecutive deficits.
To address the projected gap between future revenues and expenditures, the government needs to come up with $150 million in combined revenue and expenditure measures over the next five years.
Finance minister McLeod announced a first step in the form of a two-year salary freeze for some of the government’s top earners starting in 2016-2017.
We’ll provide a full breakdown of the McLeod’s budget presentation Wednesday afternoon.