After weeks of back and forth, N.W.T. Legislative Assembly passes budget

Northwest Territories MLAs passed the territorial budget on Thursday, after weeks of debating and often pushing back against its contents.

The $2.2 billion budget passed unanimously Thursday, with an additional $13 million added onto it.

It includes an additional $3.5 million for increased compensation for early childhood instructors, and $3 million for maintenance and repair of public housing.

The budget also initially proposed $48.4 million in cuts, some of which were reinstated. That includes $1 million for the Small Community Employment Program, $500,000 to support transition activities for Aurora College, $331,000 to reinstate midwifery positions, $1.5 million for the Community Access Program and funding to continue the operations of the Fort Smith Correctional Centre.

Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Denny Rodgers called discussions around the budget "a balance."

Denny Rodgers, MLA for Inuvik-Boot Lake, asked the leaders of the NTPC how natural gas in the Beaufort Delta could impact the rates in those communities.
Denny Rodgers, MLA for Inuvik Boot Lake, was pleased the budget passed but still wants to see more housing money for his riding. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)

"To say it's been a bit of a grind these last couple weeks I believe is a bit of an understatement," Rodgers told the assembly on Thursday.

He also made light of some of the more tense discussions around the budget.

"I was going to say something cheeky about the Minister of Finance, but she works way too hard for me to do that and I'm not going to lie, I'm a little bit scared of her as well, after the past three weeks," he said.

Rodgers said he's pleased the budget passed, but he'll continue to advocate for more housing money for his constituency.

Monfwi MLA Jane Weyallon Armstrong commended cabinet ministers for making changes to the budget.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong praised cabinet ministers for their work on the budget. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)
Jane Weyallon Armstrong praised cabinet ministers for their work on the budget. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)

"I know not everyone is going to agree," Weyallon Armstrong said.

She also said she felt that when MLAs made requests for items in the budget, they were listened to.

Despite that, Weyallon Armstrong said this budget "will not close the municipal funding gap."

"If we cut funds for communities, we are creating pressure to displace people from the communities and have them migrate to Yellowknife or other larger regional centres," she said.

N.W.T. Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the budget was a collective effort.

"It's not only about a cash transaction here, it's really about government and how we can be a consensus government," Wawzonek said.

The additional $13.3 million in spending for 2024-25 will be included in a supplementary appropriation during the October sitting.