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2020-21 Budget released; GNWT remains cautiously optimistic

Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek released the GNWT’s 2020-21 Budget, the first budget of the 19th Legislative Assembly. Revised estimates project a 2019‑20 deficit of $70 million, an amount far worse than was initially projected. However, the 2020-21 surplus is forecast to be $203 million.

Total revenues of $2.19 billion are expected in 2020-21, along with total expenditures of $1.98 billion, which include departmental spending, infrastructure contributions, and other items.

Wawzonek states that Budget 2020 represents the first step in the GNWT’s plan to advance the 22 priorities identified by the 19th Assembly.

“We see today’s budget as a cautious and optimistic step forward to renew our commitment to program evaluation and better planning so that we can deliver essential programs and services more effectively. We are committed to an approach that ensures we are getting value for money while building relationships with other governments and stakeholders towards a prosperous and sustainable Northwest Territories.”

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Budget 2020 proposes a spending increase of $94 million compared to Budget 2019. This includes $61 million for program enhancements, of which $39 million reflects collective bargaining increases for departments and health authorities, and $6 million for the continued implementation of initiatives from the 18th Assembly. Another $40 million in new spending is supported by $29 million of federal transfers.

The territories debt will rise because capital investment is funded from the surplus and borrowing. The debt is expected to exceed the federally imposed borrowing limit of $1.3 billion by 2021-22. The GNWT reassures that the debt level remains affordable.

There are no new taxes in Budget 2020. As previously announced, the federal carbon tax will increase to $30 per tonne from $20 on July 1st. Revenue from carbon pricing will continue to be recycled to NWT residents and businesses.

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